On Schedule

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2184: New Mercia

It had begun to snow again, the air warming enough that moisture could evaporate and then freeze as it got higher, letting a continual curtain of white flakes fall. The snow wasn't thick enough to really cut down visibility with modern equipment, but never the less the vehicles ahead had their lights on guiding the civilians with them. The troops wore white and blue mostly, some due to camo, some due to being white painted UN vehicles or blue topped armour. They were surrounding a dozen prefab buildings, a small mining outpost by the look of it, from which they were helping a dazed crowd of cold looking civilians.

"Mara-Five this is Juno three-one-two over." The two Harawayan observers lay in a fold in the ground two miles from the station. One held a bulky multi mode imager that looked like a 21st century thermal sight. The other was linked into it but aiming down her payload rifle.

"Five: send it" came the crisp response.

" Uh... stand by for update." The first observer pressed a button on her site, sending a picture back to base, then began to give her report "Line Sierra: Approximately two companies mechanized infantry and a dozen trucks. Line Alpha, set up in defensive positions, appear to be rendering aid to civilians, Line Lima, Grid 63-72-91, Warmborne Station, they appear to be occupying the entire village. Line Uniform, UN and EU forces, markings suggest Warsaw Brigade 3rd Legion mechanised brigade and Indonesian Infantry Brigade 13. Line Tango: 13:15 local time, Line Echo: hardsuits, payload rifles and squad support rail guns, Sabre and Lambda APCs and aircushion trucks, one UAV in the air, orbiting."

"Copy on all Three-one-two. Do you have any further remarks over?"

"No remarks at this time, over and out"

Mara-Five, AKA Colonel Rebecca North signed off the radio and looked at the rest of the battalion staff around her "Well. That's it then. Two companies of enemy troops along our line of march. Opinions?" The Harawayan mechanised battalion Rebecca commanded was only hours away from participating in the long awaited ZCM intervention on New Mercia, and she didn't intend to miss out.

Major Miki Asada, Rebecca's second frowned "We could try going around them, but it's snowing again, if there's a sudden thaw we can kiss good bye to tank support and if they detect us they'll be hell to pay."

Captain August Ransom, the commander of the battalions attached tank company coughed "Well sir, I why don't we just attack? If we push one of the jammers forward we can block their communications, and with any luck the Yurps will just blame it on this shitty weather. My tanks can roll right through that village and barely slow down if we soften it up with some air and artillery first."

Rebecca frowned. It seemed like the only plan that would allow them to stay on schedule, even if it would affect some civilians "Alright August, liaise with Alice for infantry support. Be ready to launch your attack within half an hour."

"I won't let you down sir." June nodded and then vanished. The other officers vanished one after another as their augmented reality turned off

Miki frowned "Lot of civilians are going to get caught up in this" she observed after a moment, voice carefully devoid of emotion.

"It's war." Rebecca shrugged.

The attack begun with as 22nd century combat so often does, with a robot. The Jammer UAV was not a very smart robot, but it was autonomous, pushing a score of kilometres beyond the village then filling the spectrum with electromagnetic noise, blocking communication. The first human involvement was a pair of New Mercian built, Harawayan piloted Tiger Shark ground attack aircraft. They came in low, hugging the tundra. The wind was the main worry here, as there were no power lines or trees. The ride was bumpy, the aircrafts terrain following systems holding them nap of the earth as they sped in.

Still twenty kilometres out they climbed to five hundred meters and released their bombs. The leader locked the UAV up and launched an a missile at it, then both released there bombs. The UAV's operator had time to fiddle with his control package and wonder what had gone wrong before a dozen thermobaric bombs slammed into the settlement and a massive blast knocked him senseless. The pulse of heat set buildings afire and burned people beyond recognition, others were picked up by the blast and thrown like ragdolls into the air.

A moment later the artillery began to land, firecracker charges bursting everywhere, some finding combat troops, others going for the much more attractive unguarded heat signatures of civilians. One of the forward observers winced as she saw a girl run screaming out of the shell bursts, both her arms amputated at the shoulder. Her partner just tightened over her rifle.

August swung her head constantly, quartering the land around her as the heavy silhouettes of the her companies Amazon series tanks moved through the snow. The tanks were a version of the New Mercian Victor class, big, heavily armoured beasts that moved on massive lift fans. August's called her tank Juliet after an old sweetheart. She was nervous, the AR visor made the tank a transparent wireframe around her, ephemeral, not solid enough to be safe.

The tanks bravo gave an insistent tone as they reached the first firing point. Rail guns were raised skywards, automatic tracking programs already loaded "Halt here" August told her driver. The gun adjusted, swinging freely on its low profile mount. There was a boom as shells passed over, and then the tanks fired, their faster rounds launched seconds after the whirlwind artillery preparation passed over them. August looked at the minimap and saw the village covered in smoke on the UAV feed, dozens of fires glowing hot on the thermals.

The hover tanks roared forward, pushing up the ridge then driving around the corners to avoid skylining themselves. The village came into sight, the small good luck charm above August's consol shaking with the vibration of the tanks fans. An ATGM flashed out, and antimissile lasers took it cleanly, another followed to similar lack of effect a dozen rail guns thundered in response. "Enemy weapons are Hornet-2 ATGMs. Setting countermeasures to mode D" the tanks bravo informed her. August's senses seemed preternaturally alert now, and she swept her eyes back and forth, looking for targets amidst the haze ahead.

"All Hunter Victors, push forward to Phase Line Pelican" the tanks formed line as they pushed forward, fire methodically reducing the village to ruin. Infantry carriers ran along behind, but August didn't see the need for much infantry, resistance ahead had already been shattered by the air and artillery, now her tanks would finish the job. Buildings collapsed under the tanks rounds, walls destroyed by canister of flattened by HE. Lighter coaxial payload guns and anti-aircraft rail guns fired in all directions, hosing down any structure where the enemy troops could be hiding. Lighter rounds bounced off the tanks shells as they bore in. "Threat warning" there was a boom as the close in defence strip fired, a spray of shrapnel taking the missile as it came in. The EU trooper who'd fired it gazed at the tank momentarily and then darted into the house next to it. August's gunner hit it with the tanks payload gun and the building came apart, prefabricated walls shattering under the big explosive shells.

August's tank pushed down the street, ramming an already ruined kitchen vehicle out of the way as it pushed forward past the burning buildings on all sides. High explosive shells dug into the remaining houses, sending dust and flame high into the sky. The village was a wreck, there was barely a building still standing now. It amazed August just how much damage her vehicles could do. The tanks rolled on, turning and coming to rest as they completed their sweep, the infantry behind them, now deploying in skirmish line, their power assisted armour allowing them to keep up with the armour.

"Enemy infantry in the open ahead!" reported Augusts wingman. August looked and saw enemy troops jumping out of their holes up ahead, some in EU chameleon gear, others in UN White. Were they attacking? Surrendering? August couldn't find it in herself to care.

"Coax!" She called, and the gun traversed. Bodies dropped, others flung themselves down. The tanks ran through them, then the infantry came up behind, shooting anyone who had escaped the tanks. The company rolled on, pushing out of the village into the blowing snow.

"Hunter-Five to Mara-Five over" August breathed out and lay back in her chair.

"Mara-Five: send."

"Objective neutralised, moving up to phase line flamingo." The company would now move forward and screen the mechanised infantry's movement as they passed the destroyed village.

"Roger. Good job. Over and out."

The tanks rumbled on their way, leaving the snow falling on the burning village in their wake.