Intervention

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New Vedic Colony Army (NVCA) Eastern Region Command Post
Gamma District
15th Day of the NVCA intervention

Things were not going well. Field Marshal Shekhar Narang almost chuckled to himself at the understatement of it. The bunker rocked slightly as artillery or an airstrike struck in the distance. On the big wall screen, the Field Marshal noticed black enemy icon appear suddenly, another air or space drop. Shekhar took a deep breath, the situation continued to deteriate and he could not afford to sit idle like this.

"Major Rostami." He called to one of his aids "Assemble everyone and get me a briefing."

"Yes sir." The major hurried off, and a few minutes later, his top staff and advisors filed in. He'd heard that the enemy used far less staff than this, replacing most staff functions rapid, precise machinery, even if the enemies way was effective, he preferred human company, there speed shamed him though. They'd obviously been waiting for him to give the word while he'd sat here, self pitying. Perhaps he was getting too old, he looked over at Major General Charmchi, his direct subordinate. Her hair still had black in it, and despite the defeats of the last week, she still seemed to have energy. He envied her, and hoped that soon he could turn things over to her.

"Alright, give me your report." Shekhar said after a moment.

The rest looked at Charmchi, who stood and then said "Sir, the situation is desperate. We're updating the central plot as best we can, but enemy electronic warfare and strikes on our command centres is making this unreliable. However it appears the enemy is advancing all along the front."

He wondered how Charmchi hid the doubts she must have so well, then scolded himself pull yourself together and concentrate man. He'd been a soldier most of his life, he couldn't fail in his duty now.

Charmchi continued "Enemy airborne forces are landing around Riftco, and the reserve units defending it report they will not be able to hold. The Thirty-Third Mechanized Division remains surrounded, and we have lost all contact with the Tenth Armoured."

"General Chandhri's counter attack?" Chandhri commanded the army level armoured reserves, some of the elite units of the New Vedic army. If they'd failed...

Charmchi shook her head "His forces have taken too much damage from enemy air and artillery attacks. They were unable to carry through their attack." She frowned "It appears General Chandhri has been killed by an enemy special forces strike against his headquarters."

Shekhar nodded bleakly, Chandan Chandhir had been a good friend. Charmchi was waiting for him to speak. If he didn't say it, she would, it was the only option now. "General Charmchi, you will oversee execution of Plan Seven for the call up and deployment of our reserves." Shekhar could feel the mood shift, they knew what this meant "It is obvious the enemy's forces are too powerful for us to deal with at this point, order all forces to hold as best they can. Major Rostami, bring me the secure phone. I need to talk to the president."

Gamma District
Near the River Ubar

Iseul and her partner, Chendu climbed stealthily up the massive bulk of the Yggdrasil tree, firmly gripping each handhold on its gnarled bark. The massive tree, bigger than a skyscrapper would make a perfect sniping position. Even better, there were four others nearby, so the enemy was unlikely to be able to guard all of them.

The pair had been climbing for over an hour, and it was hard work, especially loaded down with 35mm hypercoils and MSA Probes. They were almost to the height they wanted though. Iseul pulled herself up onto a branch, her flexible stealth suit and its rather less body hugging ghillie overlayer blending in with the green then stopped at a growl from above. Looking up she found herself face to face with a great mass of writhing leaf green tentacles and mouths. The tree found hissed angrily at her, and then prepared to leap. Iseul's hand was faster though, her fist connecting solidly with the vunerable detection organ in its nose. The hound yowled and jumped away.

"I hate those things." Iseul muttered as she pulled herself up onto the branch and began to unfold her rifle.

"You're so mean. It's only protecting its territory." Chendu set up the pod, never raising her profile off the branch leaned down "Grey-Six, this is Mara-Three-Two-Four, come back."

"Three-Two-Four, send."

"in place over."

"Copy, assess target and then report, over and out." Chendu and Iseul were already gazing down at the large bridge which would be their target. It stood with a small, abandoned looking village on one side, a few solitary farm buildings on the other. Between, the River Ubar was large and fast flowing, swollen by the recent rain and mud that turned it the colour of blood. In the village, troops and vehicles were moving, enemy troops and vehicles.

Iseul had certainly seen a lot of blood since she'd come here. Indeed her pathfinder team had been one of the first Lunar Treaty Organization (LTO) forces to land, seven days after the New Vedic Central Colonial government had so brutally intervened in the rebellion in the independent Gamma province, assisting local government in a brutal crackdown.

LTO had decided this would not stand, and the LTO's intervention forces were rolling up the colonial advance, despite hard fighting by the NVCA and their local allies. Iseul supposed the colonists were reasonably skilled, but without the technology, augmentation or operational skill of the LTO, their resistance had proved limited.

The two snipers spent the next fifteen minutes checking the bridge area thoroughly with their own sensors, as well as those of the drones previously introduced into the area before Chendu keyed the radio again to send a spot report, the enemy were dug in along about two kilometres of the river bank, their defence centred around the bridge and the buildings around it.

"Solid Copy on all Three-Two-Four. Do you have any further remarks over?"

"No further remarks at this time over and out."

"Mara Three-Two-Four, switch to fire direction mode and then provide over watch for Cerberus as they take the crossing over and out."

"Solid copy, over and out." Chendu looked down at the village "I wouldn't like to be those guys."

"No." Iseul leaned down on her rifle, taking aim at one of the infantry groups.

Vosmo Hamlet

Private Ravi Mullur prayed to god. He was in a sandbagged fighting position in one of Vosmo Hamlets more solid buildings, a Christian church. He was just about alone in his unit for being Christian and hoped god wouldn't be offended that they from positions in his house. Probably the supreme being would not mind, the enemy, he had heard, were atheists. Of course, a lot of things were said about the enemy, including that they were devils.

Having seen the streams of units retreating across the bridge, Ravi wasn't so sure they weren't. It seemed appalling to the patriotic young constrict how quickly the LTO invasion had turned their initial successes around and smashed many of the NVCA's finest units.

Now perhaps it was the Third's turn. Ravi checked his RPG again and prayed to god. And then suddenly the world fell in on him. There was a massive flash over from one side where the command post was, followed by screaming, shouting and some wild gunfire. Ravi saw something silver race over and a massive explosion mushroom of flame grew in the harm across the river, debris going everywhere.

Streaks of light fell, orbital fire pulverizing the settlement. There was a thunderclap sound and a wave of dust smashed through the church, Ravi hugged the ground, then looked up. He wasn't dead. His ears were ringing though. He looked around, seeing his sergeant shouting, then sound returned "Cease fire! Cease fire!"

"Medic! I need a medic over here!"

And then the next volley of artillery fell and Ravi fell into his hole and covered his head, whimpering in fear.

New Vedic Colony Central District
New Vedic Colonial Air Force Base D-59.

D-59 was as ugly an prosaic as its name suggested. It appeared to be a set of roads near a large closed cast mine, its entrance tunnel oddly massive. The base was in the middle of nowhere, and crews who had to live in its cramped, underground barracks and prefab mining camp looking surroundings, with view only of endless forest often complained.

Flying was always Treshna's escape from the drab base, night training flights being flown even from this secret facility in peace time, but this flight she felt almost desperate to remain. She'd never thought when she'd joined the air force that this could possibly happen.

Do your Duty Treshna thought as she ran through the final part of the preflight checklist "Arrow One to tower, all systems green."

"You are cleared to take off Arrow three, god be with you." The Tower operator sounded almost as nervous as Treshna. Nobody had really expected to do this for real. The aircraft pulled skyward, lifting into the sky and headed north. Treshna kept the altitude low as Maya, her copilot watched the instruments.

Behind them, the bomber's two sensor and weapon system operators, Behram and Pallab nervously watched the aircraft's various passive detectors. Lighting up their air search radar now would have been suicidal. Few words were exchanged, only short, jargon packed, technical exchanges for several minutes, then Behram finally spoke up.

"Are we really doing this?"

"It might save our nation." Maya said after a pause.

"But they might..." Behram shook his head "You're right, either we do this, or they'll enslave us all again."

Treshna hadn't trusted herself to say anything, but she felt better hearing it. "An hour till jump, any eyes on the enemy back there?"

"Nothing yet...oh shit!" Pallab's voice was startled as a streak of crimson lightning fell in the distance, followed by a massive explosion. "I think that was one of the squadron, maybe Arrow Three ahead of us?" The squadron had split up into individual aircraft for this mission, someone had to get through.

"Let's take the alternate route." Treshna raised the main radio switch and clicked it three times to alert base they were taking the other route towards the pole "Keep a sharp sky watch. Who knows what could be up there."

They flew quietly after that, occasionally seeing the contrails of other aircraft higher above, or the evidence of air battles fought high over them. "Our comrades are sacrificing their lives for this mission." Maya said "We have to succeed."

"We will." Treshna looked out at the forest canyons around the bomber, banking hard into the next canyon. Behind her the radar warning system began to give out a tone. "Talk to me boys!"

"It looks like an enemy drone, no spike yet, I can't tell if they're on us." Behram's voice rose when he was stressed.

"Arm defensive missiles." Treshna ordered, hoping like hell they wouldn't have to use them. There was no way they could get away from a fight with an enemy fighter.

"Five minutes to jump stations." Maya reported. Treshna took a deep breath, eyes searching the sky now, looking for anything above. The clock slowly counted down. The trees around them now were snow caped, and had begun to thin out.

And then Treshna saw it, a black dot far above, turning towards them. Without thinking she opened the throttle and zoomed away at full speed. "She's locked us!" Behram yelled.

"Ten seconds to jump."

"Missile in the air!" Pallab released countermeasures as the missile shot in. "Come on come on com..." the aircraft's jump engine kicked and they were over a different pole, this one warm and oceanic. It kicked again and they were over ice.

"Welcome to earth." Behram muttered.

"Any sign of that bandit?" Treshna asked.

"No, but I can see several of our squadron on the IR sensors. In bad news, we're being pinged by satellite based radar." Pallab took a deep breath "I'm not sure we can get out of here again skipper."

Trensha checked the clock "We're only about five minutes off our launch coordinates. Let's see them try to stop us." She dived the aircraft down heading rapidly away from the jump point, and hoping the massive gush of radio waves it would produce had disrupted the enemy sensors. It was a faint hope, but they'd come this far.

Maybe they'd get through.

Iseul

Iseul's body cost as much as a fighter aircraft. Her systems were somewhere between mechanical and biological, linked perfectly with the rifle she was now behind. Her mind was also purpose built, one of the LTO's warrior elite, always a small fraction (partly because of fear), but the best. It had always struck Iseul as rather profligate. Even with how good she was, how precise, surely the amount of destruction that could be wrought by far cheaper systems made up for it. The village below had just been reduced to ruins, orbital fire, airstrikes and artillery shattering most of the buildings, and ruining several of the enemy vehicles they'd identified in under a minute. The barrage was continuing, debris gushing up as round dropped and exploded.

The counter argument of course was Iseul was far more precise, a scalpel not a hammer and there was, she supposed some merit in that. Still, it was awe inspiring to see how much destruction could be done in so short a time.

"Mara Three-Two-Four this is Cerberus, come back."

"Cerberus: Send."

"Mara Three-Two-Four, Cerberus is beginning its attack at this time. Provide overwatch." Cerberus was a heavily mechanized unit, mostly light armoured vehicles and tanks, with fairly few infantry. Drones, power armour and the over watching sniper team would make up for that lack.

"Copy." The artillery whirlwind began to lift and Iseul picked her first target. Below a dozen huge LTO tanks crested the hill, leading dozens of lighter APCs, together with supporting drones and battle suits. A flight of VTOLs swept over, ripping into the enemy defensive line with rockets and particle beams. Iseul leaned into her rifle as Chendu called out her first target.

Ravi

Ravi could barely see the advancing enemy, their active camouflage reducing them to flickers ahead. Someone could obviously see them though as a missile launched out from one of the positions in the miraculously still standing church spire. The missile hadn't got half way to the target before there was a hypersonic crack and it ran into the ground. Ravi heard a scream and saw half of one of the ATGM gunners fall down and land with a splat.

"Use your optics Mullur!" Ravi's sergeant called and hurriedly obeyed, yanking down his enhanced optics, and viewing the battlefield in a combination of thermal vision and magnification. He could just about make out the enemy tanks and armoured vehicles pushing towards the town, weapons spitting fire. "Stay the fuck down and don't fire until they get closer, we won't hit them at this range!" The sergeant yelled, her voice breaking slightly. Ravi prayed to god.

One of the big type-100 battle tanks nosed out from its position down the street, unmanned turret sweeping around and fired off a round. Ravi saw it bounce high of one of the incoming enemy battle tanks and then return fire blew it to pieces. A VTOL hurtled over and blasted apart the building behind them in a sheet of flame.

The enemy were dropping smoke to cover themselves as they got into range, the hot gas washing out Ravi's thermals. It didn't seem to affect the enemy though, who were hitting them accurately still. Ravi saw an enemy APC push out of the smoke, the gun in its forward turret spitting out tracers and then it disgorges a mass of infantry in heavy, robotic looking armour. "Enemy by the bridge! Engage! Engage now!" roared the sergeant, and Ravi pulled himself up, steadied his aim and fired his RPG at them, ducking down without seeing if it hit to load a new round.

There was a sudden hypervelocity noise and Ravi saw the air ripple along his squad's line, bullets penetrating the stone as if it wasn't there. He dropped his RPG and ran.

Iseul

Man shaped targets popped into Iseul's view and she dropped them almost as quickly. Her gun snapped back and forth, machine fast as Chendu dialled her in on new targets one after another. She finished off the enemy in the church, then saw an officer trying to organize a last defence, dropped him, then hit the gunner in one of the remaining IFVs through the turret. The rest of the crew bailed out and she shot them down.

Friendly infantry, drones and battle suits were spreading out through the village now, weapons hammering at last pockets of enemy resistance. It had been pretty much the same kind of fight that Iseul had been fighting all seven days of this war. She wondered ideally where she'd go next.

Ravi

Ravi ran and crawled, got up and stumbled, ran forward and into the house which had served as his baracks for the last few days. He could hear the weird gunfire of enemy weapons getting closer. Ravi stayed low, hoping the angel of death that had got his comrades wouldn't get him too.

He crawled forward, not knowing what the hell he was going to do, then heard the crackle of a radio. "S-t-mber this is Mike. Does anyone c--y?"

"Mike this is September One-One-Four-Four!" Ravi grabbed the radio "This position is overrun. Everyone's dead... I can see enemy infantry and tanks moving on all sides of my position." Ravi was suddenly filled with shame. He'd run, they'd killed his comrades and he'd run. "F-fire mission." He looked up at the map above him and read off the coordinates of the town.

"That's your position Son." the words came through in a momentary clear patch.

"I'm dead anyway! Just send the fire mission!"

"God bless you Soldier."

The world went white.

Iseul

Iseul yelled and her eyes went into automatic blackout as a massive fireball rose above Vosma Hamlet. The entire town and the LFO unit that had been attacking through it were consumed instantly by the nuclear fireball. Iseul held onto the tree for dear life as the shockwave hit, the massive tree instantly stripped of leaves, branches shaken incredibly, then burning, blowing out the fires the thermal flash had started.

There was a loud crack and Iseul was falling, grabbing for the trunk, trying to slow herself as the entire tree collapsed, shattering.

The ground rushed up, slowed by Iseul's efforts then she hit, legs first, trying to take the impact properly. There were a series of snaps as the hardened bone failed to absorb the full force and snapped cleanly. Iseul crumpled, vision a mass of damage warnings.

She could feel Chendu's beacon nearby and began to crawl over to her, ignoring her shattered legs for now and concentrating on her arms for mobility. Her partner's body was shattered, impaled by a massive lump of burned tree, though her head seemed intact, perhaps that could be saved. Iseul was aware it was only her combat conditioning that was keeping her from falling apart right now. She looked up, feeling oddly unemotional and activated her rescue beacon.

It seemed that they'd made her well at least, Iseul propped herself up, then began to work on doing what she could for Chendu's remains. Accessing the command channel she saw reports of nuclear strikes on the supporting air bases, and even interplanetary strikes on bases for FTL craft supporting the attack.

Around a hundred warheads in all. Less than ten megatons of total yield.

Iseul leaned back as another distant mushroom bought the number up to precisely one hundred bombs.

It seemed perhaps she was truly over expensive after all.