Taurian Invasion 30: The Right Plan


We moved out at dusk. Fifty men and women in armor clambered off the flatbeds, formed into our squads and moved toward our first checkpoint. This battlefield had about ten times the number of trees than the last, but that still didn’t add up to any real cover. The Australian scouts had found another wash that would allow us to sneak inside the Taurian perimeter and we were planning on heading in as soon as it got dark enough, but we never got the chance.

“Sapper One to base! We took a bad bounce and one of the bloody things spotted us and is in pursuit!”

“Acknowledged.”

“Giant Killer Leader to Sapper One. You’ll never outrun a Centaur in a gully and you’d be and easy target on the plain. What are your weapons?”

“We have M-16s with armor piercing rounds and a .50 cal on an armored Humvee and some grenades.”

“Stop running, deploy your men and kill the Taur as soon as it comes into sight. Your squad is more than a match for a single Centaur as long as you don’t have your back to it.”

“Understood sir.”

“Giant Killers, let’s go, flat out!” We all broke into a sprint at the top speed of our heavy units.

“Sapper One to Giant Killer. We got the bloody sausage, but I have two casualties.”

“Gather your casualties and get back to base ASAP! There are already fifty Taurians heading for your location, and you don’t want to be there when they arrive.”

“Understood, heading for base.”

“Any air units over the battlefield report in.”

“This is Chinook Two. We are in position over the battlefield and we have twelve loads of Chaff ready to drop.”

“Excellent, but I need you eyes right now. There should be a mob of Taurians heading out from the headquarters building. I need you to track their progress and report their location when I ask.”

“Roger that.”

We had a few minutes of running before we reached the site of the skirmish, which gave me too much time to think. I had just given my first order that had sent someone to their death. I wanted desperately to call up the Australian scouts and have the squad leader deny what I already knew in my gut, but I knew that I didn’t have that luxury at that time. I knew that the decision had been the right one, but I was still felt sick because of it.

My thoughts raced like this until we reached the gully. I saw the dead Centaur first, and looked around to find where the Scouts had fought from. I shouldn’t have done that. The blood soaked ground wasn’t particularly gory … and then I saw the arm that had been left behind.

That jolted me to my senses. I couldn’t keep worrying about how I personally was feeling about what had happened. I had to let all of that go and deal with what was about to happen or a lot more people would end up dead. I filled my mind with coming up with a plan to deal with what had gone wrong. The helicopter pilot confirmed that the Taurian force was still at least ten minutes away, so I had time to confuse the enemy.

“Sniper, head east and take out the next ten sentries, Rusty, head west and take out the next eight. I want a hole in their line big enough to take an army through. Once you’re finished, join us at Redoubt One.”

“We still sticking to the plan?”

“Yes, but we’re going to have to make up a few things as we go along. Chinook Two, do you have any Taurian mobs in sight?”

“I have one group with two of the larger monsters headed directly toward your location.”

“Would you indicate their location on the tactical maps.”

“Sorry, sir. This is an old bird and she doesn’t have the equipment to connect to the tactical net.”

“Crud! Give me an estimate of the distance between our forces instead.”

“About 6 kilometers and closing fast.”

“Thank you, Giant Killers, follow me!” We made a sharp turn to the right to keep some distance between us and the Taurs. The light was fading fast, but I didn’t want to chance them spotting us in the twilight. The plan called for us to be in position by the time it was fully dark. Despite the premature contact, the main elements of the plan were still intact. We moved into position and began constructing Redoubt One.

By the time the trenches were complete, Sniper and Rusty had returned, and all of the supporting Australian forces were in position. We would have a couple of hours of almost complete darkness before the moon rose, and I intended to make the most of them. The alien mob that had gone out earlier had stopped at the site of the earlier skirmish and waited there for a few minutes before heading back to their base. The only other activity was units sent to replace the sentries that Sniper and Rusty’s squads had killed and those sent to retrieve their comrade’s bodies.

Leon and Laura’s squads now moved forward to establish reconnaissance positions near the base, while the rest of us set up Redoubts Two and Three. Everything was set and now it was time to kill some Taurians. “Wombat Three, are you ready?”

They had been shadowing the first mob of Bio Soldiers “We have an active paint on the ugly buggers and are ready for some payback!”

“Hornet One and Two you are cleared for your runs.”

“Copy that, we have active tracking and are going in.” Laser guided cluster bombs are nothing new, and I have seen plenty of bombing footage on TV over the years, but seeing it first hand was much more impressive. I was in an armored battlesuit, four miles from where four anti-armor cluster bombs hit and I could still feel it through my feet.

“That got most of them. There are a few of them still moving, should we clean them out?”

“Negative, Wombat Three. There are still more of them where they came from and I don’t want any of them moving in your direction. Leon, what’s the activity like at the base?”

“No mobs are forming as of yet, but I have a rush of bio-soldiers exiting the … Crap, we have a Titan, I repeat, we have a Titan.”

“Alright, Tusker Battery, you are released to kill any large or giant bio-soldiers that you have a clear shot at.”

“Aw, we can’t kill any of the little ones?”

“Can it Tusker-P … actually that’s a good idea as long as you make sure your primary targets are gone and you have an ammo reserve.”

“Will do!”

“Allen, the Titan and three Cyclops just fell.”

“Great Leon, wait two minutes and set off the first noisemaker.” The noisemakers were a new touch which had been suggested by Beth. They were basically just a string of firecrackers that could be set off by remote. She asked why we should risk personnel or even equipment when they could just be reacting to the noise and muzzle flashes. (It turns out that bio-soldiers are stone-deaf but they could still see the flashes, so they worked fine anyway.) We would eventually add this to the Chaff packs as well to add to the confusion.

“Wow, I would hate to have been that patch of weeds. A mob is moving out to investigate.”

“You know the plan Leon; lead them to the slaughter.” Leon lit off one noisemaker after another while shadowing the Taurian mob silently. He led them on this particular wild goose chase until I could see the Taurs in the distance. “I have them.”

“They’re all yours, boss.”

I set off several more noisemakers to draw them on until the entire mob was right in front of the main force. “Launch Chaff.” The Chaff packs bursting made a lot of noise, but very little light, and the Centaurs didn’t react to them. I kept my eyes glued on the mob and when the first piece of Chaff fluttered across my vision I gave the order to fire. I was kind of surprised when Fluffy reported that I had downed three of them. With forty of us and 53 of them, that doesn’t leave much room for doubles, let alone triples, but sometimes you just get lucky. “Good job, everyone. Let’s head for Redoubt Two.”

“Maury’s down.”…and sometimes you get unlucky.

“Take who you need and get him back to base.” Fluffy’s display told me that the whole squad had left. That’s not what I intended to happen, but I was not going to question one of my squad leader’s judgment on the battlefield. That was a significant drop in firepower, but if all went well, we wouldn’t miss it much. On the other hand, relying on things to go your way in battle was a good way to die.

“Allen this is Laura. Three groups are forming and are moving out. All three seem to be about 200 strong and include a Cyclops with a rider.” Well, the Taurians were changing things a bit, but it wouldn’t be enough. “The northern group is approaching Kill Zone One.”

“When they are in it, give the order to fire.”

“Uh, OK. All batteries, they are starting to enter Kill Zone One. The will be completely inside in five, four, three, two, one. All batteries FIRE!” I could see the flashes, although the artillery itself was over the horizon. The flight time seemed so long that I started wondering if they had missed or if the Taurians would escape the kill zone.

Then a little patch of the Australian outback turned into hell. It almost didn’t seem real. The lights and the sound were out of sync, like a bad movie, but the effect was real enough. “That got them! There are maybe two dozen who are still moving.”

“Pick off any stragglers and follow the rest. Only engage if you are confident you can take them down.”

“Yes sir!”

“Leon, are you in position?”

“Just about, and the mob is getting pretty close.”

“All batteries, prepare to fire on Kill Zone Two.”

“Crap! They’re off course, too far north.”

“You know how to draw them in. Don’t give the order until they’re in and you’re clear.”

“Chinook One, I need a Chaff drop between my position and the Taurs. I just took out their rider.”

“Acknowledged. Dropping Chaff now.” Leon needed to enter the kill zone in order to draw the aliens into it, and although it was just lines on the display until the artillery fired, it still felt like I had ordered him into a minefield.

“Wombat Two to Giant Killer Leader, they are pulling their pickets.”

“Acknowledged. Wombat Three, are the remaining units at your location pulling back?”

“Yes sir.”

“You have permission to engage any stragglers that you see fit.”

“Yes sir!”

I was watching Fluffy’s display as Leon zigzagged across the plains. He was expertly herding them toward the kill zone while trimming their numbers with precision fire. I heard him give the order to fire and I remember thinking that he was still awfully close to the kill zone when the night was lit up for the third time. I heard a scream over the radio, “Leon!…” I had to stop for a second to get control of myself, “Situation report. Are you OK?”

“I’m still with you. A stray round hit right by us. Jessie took a hard hit and the rest of us got peppered by shrapnel.”

“Pull your squad back to base and give me an assessment from there.”

“On my way.” There was relief in his tone that told me that I had made the right decision, but that left me two squads down. Besides that, Leon’s squad was the one who specialized in capturing the headquarters building itself, which could cause problems later, but that consideration could wait until all the bio-soldiers were dead. The immediate problem was that there was no longer anyone to monitor the remains of the second group of Centaurs.

“Sniper, take your squad and see how much is left of the mob from Kill Zone Two.”

“You got it Boss. Can I engage the goat sucking things?”

“Feel free to pick off any stragglers. Engagement is up to your discretion. Take them if you think you can.”

“Got down right. We’ll keep these things occupied.”

I was down to 30 battlesuits in my main force, which should be enough to do the job if nothing else went wrong. It helped that the third mob of aliens was potentially the easiest to deal with. The central group had always made a bee line toward the last place that our main force had been spotted. This left them extremely vulnerable to a preset kill zone. Sure enough, this group ran straight into Kill Zone Three without needing any encouragement from us.

The resulting firestorm was both terrifying and beautiful to see this close up. I was watching it with the spectrum shifted toward infra-red by our helmet displays. Fountains of earth and fire went up in strange colors as the ground shook beneath our feet and the pressure waves rolled over us. The effect was hypnotic in its own way as the sensory overload left you dazed in the abrupt silence that followed. I might have stood there staring with my mouth open for a while if I hadn’t seen several Centaurs still moving in the kill zone.

“Let’s finish this group off and go clean up the stragglers.” Within ten minutes we were setting up our positions around the Taurian base itself. The noisemakers really made wiping out the sentry ring a breeze. Unfortunately, Leon’s group was out of action. All of their suits had been damaged by that artillery shell, although only one of them had been seriously injured. The scout squads from the Australian battlesuit companies had arrived, but they were supposed to be learning about how to take a headquarters building, not doing it themselves. Sniper and I had a conference and we finally decided that Laura and her squad would storm the headquarters building.

It turned out to be a good thing, as there were still a group of Gargoyles in the entryway. Unfortunately for the Gargoyles, everyone in our company had gone through a hundred “assault the alien headquarters building” simulations. A few smoke bombs and a lot of ammo later, there were twelve dead Gargoyles and two battlesuits out of the fight (one of ours and one Australian.)

An Australian lieutenant tazer packed the pilot and the others threw grenades that exploded into fire retardant foam (which had been delivered for our scouts specifically for this purpose), which put a real damper on the self destruct mechanism. We had captured our first intact Taurian base! The only bad part for me was that Leon should have gotten the honor, but that’s the fortunes of war.

Our victory celebration that night was a big one. The only thing that I think kept it from completely getting out of control was when we heard that Maury had been lost. He had taken a pair of head shots from the initial volley from the first group of Centaurs. Unlike when we lost Zach, Maury hadn’t done anything wrong. He had just had plain old bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t know why, but that made it easier for me to deal with.

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