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Battering Ram

Posted by SouthPaw, Apr 23 2008, 09:47 AM in FanFic

Battering Ram

Hobbs tightened the chinstrap of her helmet and checked the safety catch on her assault rifle for the tenth time. The Federation were scientists with no great military history or tradition to inform their commanders and soldiers. They had been forced to learn the lessons of war quickly and harshly since re-establishing contact with the surviving human factions.

All new marine recruits were told the story of ‘Laker’s Run’. Laker was a fresh-faced grunt who, on his first station capture run, had strapped himself into the HTT with his rifle loaded and the safety off. The run had been perfect; catching the enemy totally off-guard the pilot had dropped the Supremacy station’s shields with hardly a scratch on the HTT’s paintwork. As the pilot put the bird down inside the station, and the marines all unstrapped and rose from their seats for the assault, Laker had dropped his rifle. When it hit the metal grating on the floor of the HTT it discharged a full clip; forty armour piercing rounds had ricocheted in the close confines of the HTT troop compartment like a swarm of angry drones; killing or seriously injuring the whole platoon before they could even get off the ramp. Laker was the only guy who had the dubious luck of emerging without a scratch. He was the first Federation soldier to be sentenced to the airlock for dereliction of duty but he wasn’t the last.

So Hobbs checked her safety, and she checked it again just in case it had changed in the last twenty seconds. Her mind was racing - mostly training ground instructions drilled into her brain to help cope with the stress of this situation - but she couldn’t help recall the conversation she had with her brother when she had first come home from the marine recruitment office.
“The Federation are scientists, our family are scientists. What do we need with warriors?” her brother had said.
“Who do you think defends your freedom to loaf about in that Research Station lab?” Hobbs had replied. Her brother had merely shaken his head and muttered that Hobbs probably wouldn’t live long enough to regret her decision. It turned out that Hobbs and her brother had both been wrong. When the Research Station in Mons was destroyed by the Iron Coalition, Hobbs’ brother had needed the absent Federation war machine to protect him. For her part, Hobbs had certainly lived long enough to regret her decision – the fear clenching her stomach like a vice was testament to that. Her brother was dead, and Hobbs thought she was in line to join him in the very near future.

Hobbs considered the rest of her platoon, crammed into their HTT on the way to enemy-held space. Like the rest of the Federation infantry forces, the majority were convicts given the choice between the Marine Corps and hard labour, or in the more extreme cases death. Most of the Federation’s convicted criminals chose the chance to see action. The lure of being paid to wield an assault rifle was stronger than being compelled to wield a grav-hammer. The Federation even offered the promise of a complete pardon to criminals completing their tenth station capture mission. It was only when the new recruits were pressed that they discovered that very few Federation marines lived to see their tenth capture. In fact volunteers were allowed to retire from the Corps after just five successful missions and the number of these veterans was few. One of the instructors on Hobbs’ basic course, Armless Anderson, was once such vet. He had lost his left arm on his fifth mission, catching a Gigacorp grenade in mid-air and throwing it back at his attacker. Whenever the new recruits would quiz Anderson about his injury he would just laugh and say “You should see the other guy!”

Hobbs smiled in spite of the situation.

The HTT cabin lights blinked out and were replaced with a dim red glow indicating that the ship had switched to silent running. Hobbs realised that the ship must be approaching the aleph that would jump them into hostile territory. The pilot would be shutting down all non-essential systems in order to decrease the chances of detection by hostile sensor probes. An unexpected HTT was a successful HTT. Hobbs knew all-too-well that whilst the pilot’s eject pod might keep him alive if the worst should happen, the marines had no such escape or survival systems. A hush fell over the marines in the troop compartment; even the bang or scrape of gunmetal against the hull may alert the enemy to their presence.

The red light cast eerie shadows around the cabin, the faces of her platoon looked just as petrified as Hobbs felt. She knew that out there somewhere were the HTT’s escort, the interceptor and scout pilots that would keep them alive and get them into the target station in one piece. With the absence of sensor screens or a cockpit viewport, Hobbs had to just trust that they were out there. Like all marines she felt vulnerable, liable to a swift death before she had even had chance to leave the HTT and fire a shot in anger.

After what seemed like an eternity, the red light in the cabin began to pulse. The HTT was in position and awaiting clearance to begin the run. Hobbs muttered a quiet prayer of thanks - frowned upon by the majority of the Federation’s population – that they had made it this far without being discovered. She began the routine of checking her equipment and webbing; her ammo pouches were full of spare clips and securely fastened and her smoke and frag grenades were all clipped in with the pins unhindered. To her right Rodriguez ran diagnostics on the ARMs - assault remote machines developed by the federation to be first off the ramp - they were essentially light gatts on tracks that could be operated from onboard the HTT. The Federation ARM operator, or ‘armie’ as most marines called them, drives the bot off the ramp into the target station’s docking bay spraying rounds to keep any defenders’ heads down whilst the marines disembark. Rodriguez was a solid armie; this was his third capture mission and the ARM’s gun cameras gave him fifteen confirmed kills already. He felt Hobbs’ gaze upon him, looking up from his remote control panel he gave Hobbs a little reassuring wink.

The platoon had not been told much about the target, other than that it was an enemy outpost in a strategically unimportant sector. It should be lightly defended, a cake walk of a first mission according to the company commander. Good-old predictable IC; always building their outposts to the same design. Hobbs was glad of the mock-up IC docking bay back at her training camp, she would know exactly where to go and what to do when the crap started to fly.

The red light stopped pulsing. Hobbs paused her webbing check and looked up at the bulb, now solidly lit. They had begun their run.

The HTT accelerated dramatically, pressing Hobbes down into her bucket seat. The pilot flipped and rolled the ship, making a sharp turn – presumably around a rock behind which they had been hiding. Hobbs gulped; more than one Federation HTT had been lost by ramming rocks due to pilot error or a nudge from over-zealous escorts. Once out from behind the rock Hobbs knew that they would surely be seen by the target station’s sensors.

Sure enough the HTT began to shake, buffeted by the booster exhaust of the interceptors flying as escort hurtling past to engage hostiles that were now aware of their presence. Hobbs began to count, they had been warned not to do this during basic training but she couldn’t help herself. The run would be three, maybe 4k. At full speed the HTT would be in missile range in under a minute, and they would be inside shortly after that. Or dead.

Fourteen, fifteen… The first scratchy rattles of the HTT’s shields deflecting incoming particles could be heard in the troop compartment, beads of sweat broke out on Hobbs’ brow and the straps holding her in her seat felt like they were suffocating her.

Twenty, twenty one… The HTT loaded the EMP missiles needed to drop the station’s shields; the marines cast glances at each other. They were close now. The platoon sergeant Hutton began to bark orders but was silenced when something struck the HTT a tremendous blow. The troop compartment light went out and there was a scream as the HTT lurched to port and lost all forward momentum. For a split second until the light came back on Hobbs thought she was dead, and was surprised and glad that it had been so painless. As the ringing in her ears subsided and her eyes regained focus she became aware of shouting and cursing. One of the platoon lay on the floor of the HTT, his head bent at an unnatural angle, obviously dead. The shouting was from Hutton.
“Goddamn ram! Secure your harness… Hobbs! Check your ****ing harness. Hobbs!”
Rodriguez leant across and ran his hands over the straps of her harness, tugging at them hard as Hobbs looked around her, dazed.
“She’s good sir” Hobbs wasn’t sure if everyone was shouting over the din of particles pinging from the hull, or whether her hearing was just shot to hell. She was vaguely aware of the sensation of movement as the transport began to make headway again.
“Armie… Fire ‘em up! We’re almost…” The noise of objects striking the hull was suddenly silenced
“…in.” Hutton completed his order.

As one, the troops unbuckled from their harnesses and rose from their seats. With a hiss, the stern ramp dropped and the ARMs rolled into action. Rodriguez was fixated on his control panel, simultaneously controlling two ARMs as they wheeled into the docking bay with guns blazing. “This one’s pretty hot sir!” he yelled above the rattle of small arms and the whine of ricochets deflecting from the steel ramp of the HTT.
“Go, go, go!” commanded Hutton, ushering the marines out into the station.

Hobbs sensed immediately that the resistance in the docking bay was stronger than it should have been; stronger than they were told it would be. Either someone knew they were coming, or this station was a little more strategically important than command was aware of. As she ran down the ramp, it was already wet with the blood of two guys who had fallen, and a third man was hit right in front of her, the exit wound spattering dark material across her face and chest. Without thinking she plunged on, diving off the ramp and landing in a roll that carried her behind a stack of metal cargo crates.

The Marines who made it off the ramp and into cover were pinned down by small arms fire from what looked like a series of hastily prepared positions along a gantry that ran the length of the docking bay. Hobbs remembered from her training on the mock-up bay that the only ways out of the bay and into the heart of the station were via the gantry and a service elevator. The IC troops would have killed the elevator as soon as the HTT made it into the bay so that left the gantry, and that was only accessible via a ladder.

Hobbs braved a glance over the crates, the ladder was directly in the line of fire of the defenders and any of the marines attempting to climb it would be defenceless and easily picked-off. She was sure of one thing, the marines couldn’t stay in the docking bay much longer; they would soon be flanked and then the makeshift cover they had managed to find would be of no use to those who had survived that long.

Hobbs looked around for Hutton. He would know what to do, he had been through this before… All around her the marines were huddled behind crates, lifters and the other detritus that litters an operational docking bay. Most were firing blind, trying in vain to hit the IC troops ranged above them. Hutton was nowhere to be seen.
“Sarge! Sarge!” She called out, hoping should could be heard above the din.
“Sarge is down…” Came a reply, shouted in between bursts of fire. Hobbs’ mind raced; with Hutton out of action, command would fall to Patel, but nothing was happening and they had been pinned in the bay for several minutes. Where the hell was Patel?

As Hobbs peered over the crates, she felt rather than saw a body thud to a halt beside her. It was Rodriguez the armie, his drones must have spent their ammo and he had joined the platoon for the assault.
“Hutton is down. Where is Patel, why aren’t we moving?” Hobbs barked at him.
“Patel is hit, over by that lifter trying to stuff his guts back in…” Rodriguez panted.
Hobbs paused, she knew what was coming before Rodriguez could continue.
“It’s you Hobbs. You are senior.” She knew it was true, but didn’t want to admit it.
“But you, you’ve seen more action…”
“Your family is senior. It’s you Hobbs.” Her mind raced; what the hell were they going to do? News was getting round the platoon and the marines were beginning to look to her for guidance and orders. They were worried, as she was, that if they didn’t do something soon none of them would get out of the docking bay alive. But to attack the defenders using the ladder was equally suicidal.

She gathered herself and looked around, judging the strength of the platoon and trying to remember her training. They had taken pretty heavy losses, but she thought they had enough left in them to take the station. If they could get out of the bay and to the command centre there was a chance. She thought that there was a way, but it was pretty risky.
“Comms! Get me comms here!” She yelled at the top of her lungs, twisting round to try and locate the platoon communications man. Rodriguez laid a hand on her shoulder and pointed back at the HTT ramp. The comms man lay sprawled at the base of the ramp in a pool of blood.
“Goddamn!” Hobbs spat, and looked at Rodriguez. He nodded, switching the magazine in his rifle.

Hobbs braced herself, and then sprang towards the ramp and the comms unit hanging from the shoulder straps of the unfortunate comms man. Behind her she heard Rodriguez firing three-round bursts, trying to cover her. She reached the body at a run and snatched the comms handset. She fell into a roll that carried her beneath the ramp directly under the body of the comms man, giving her some limited cover.
The comms handset was sticky with blood, and she tried not to look up into the lifeless eyes of its owner. She needed to broadcast to the escort interceptors and was praying that when the comms man was hit, the system escaped unscathed.

Hobbs held her breath and pushed the broadcast button. “Little Bird to Bad Dog, Little Bird to Bad Dog are you reading me? Over.” There was an uncomfortable period of silence from the handset, punctuated by the metallic clang of rounds hitting the ramp above her. The handset could be broken, or all of the escort could have perished in the dogfight to get them inside…
“Bad Dog, Bad Dog, reading you plenty clear. Over.” Hobbs let out her breath in a long sigh, now there was a chance…
“Little Bird to Bad Dog, I need a tin-opener. Repeat, request immediate tin-opener. Over.”
“Bad Dog, roger that. Things are bad huh? Tin-opener on station in fifteen seconds. Keep your heads down little buddies. Over.”
That was it. Fifteen seconds and the mission would either be on the path to success or most of the marines would be dead. She took a deep breath and screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Tin-opener! Duck and cover!” As one, the marines stopped firing and stared back in the direction of the ramp and the commands seemingly coming from the corpse of the platoon comms man.

Hobbs rolled over and covered her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her uniform. Above and behind her the docking bay was filled with the roar of boosters as a Federation Heavy Interceptor entered the bay and established a relative hover above the HTT. Tin-opener was a last ditch procedure that called in close fire-support in the form of an escort ship to neutralise resistance in the docking bay. The massive close range firepower of a Heavy Interceptor could vaporise defenders and punch a hole right through the docking bay bulkheads into the station interior. The reason the Federation considered its implementation only in desperate circumstances is that tin-opener had proven almost as hazardous to marines participating in the assault as for the defenders of the station itself. Mini-guns are far from precision weapons and stray rounds and ricochets claimed a number of friendly fatalities, in addition to that was the potential for accidental striking of stores of ammo or missiles to result in secondary detonation, lastly, the exhaust of the interceptor’s boosters contained a number of noxious and highly toxic gases that could suffocate or poison anyone without adequate breathing gear.

The Heavy Interceptor hovered above her, oozing menace, small arms fire plinking harmlessly against its reinforced armour. Hobbs rolled out from under the ramp and painted the gantry with her handheld laser designator. The interceptor waggled its stubby wings in acknowledgement and opened fire, pivoting to spray the area she had highlighted. The triple mini guns hammered furiously above her. The noise was deafening and sounded to Hobbs like demons drilling straight out of Hell.

Hot shell casings rained down around her, glowing slightly and training wisps of smoke from the propellant. She scrambled back to the metal crates where Rodriguez was face-down, his hands over his ears and breathing into his armpit trying to avoid inhaling the stinking mix of exhaust fumes and propellant gas.

Four seconds and it was over. The guns fell silent and the interceptor edged out of the bay before he choked everyone in it. Hobbs rose to her knees, coughing. There was silence from the gantry. She peered over the crates and saw why. The defensive positions, the troops behind them, and a good portion of the gantry itself were simply gone. In their place was a twisted nightmare of scorched metal and shattered bulkheads, shrouded in smoke. This was it, she thought, they were in.

Hobbs felt a wave of relief and jubilation sweep through her as rose to her feet and shouted at the top of her lungs at the huddled remains of her platoon.
“Marines! Follow me!”
Bounding across the bay, scrambling up the remnants of the gantry and through a hole in the bulkhead into the station innards beyond – Hobbs’ only thought was to get to the control centre, and have her revenge.


  SouthPaw, Apr 23 2008, 09:51 AM

Answers to questions you didn't know you had:

a) Yes, it has been longer than I thought too! I have been pretty busy and used my spare time to fly, and other stuff..

b) I have a bunch of ideas buzzing around for more

c) I only decided Hobbs was female half way through and had to go back and re-write some of it

d) See you in-game

e) Enjoy!

  Death3D, Apr 23 2008, 11:47 PM

You come up with great concepts every time.

I have to read it a second time but gotta say I'm a little confused as to who's who the first time through, besides the central action.

  Sgt.Pepper, Apr 24 2008, 08:01 AM

What confusion? The characters are clearly distinguished and properly named. No trouble there for me.

Yet again, you prove you can expand on the Alleg background and game mechanics, without remaining confined in the game rules. If you consider the previous texts as good, this one is brilliant! Everything is coherent and is part of the same universe, things flow into each other, and the narrative does its job. I especially appreciate the work you've done on defining the Federation and how it operates - great stuff!

I had a revelation when I was reading this: the Allegiance universe is incredibly unsophisticated, even with the presence of the "scientific" Ga'Taraan. Clearing landing bays with remote-controlled bots and hovering Hvy Ints? Assault troops with no individual comm-links and no spacesuit? Even Starship Troopers is more elegant than that. And this the flavour of Allegiance: it IS SciFi, in a special, almost crude kind of way - without going into the extremes of Post-Apo. In this SciFi universe, half the technology is unusable because of budget cuts, and the other half uses old and reliable tech. I'll be considering my games differently from now on. smile.gif

  ImmortalZ, Apr 25 2008, 12:52 PM

Nicely written.

Looking forward to more!

Check it out folks, PK has a FanFic man! mrgreen.gif

  unclerob_, Apr 25 2008, 05:08 PM

Love your work! In my mental picture I did have the marines wearing Starship Troopers' armour tongue.gif

And Pepper, we're a long way from Star Trek! I mean, our replicator only make cookies mrgreen.gif

  Sgt.Pepper, Apr 26 2008, 07:46 AM

That was until it broke down because of overuse. I TOLD you to watch your diet!

  SouthPaw, Apr 29 2008, 06:54 AM

It is interesting that the depiction of the future in what little Alleg canon there is is so rooted in the now. The technology of using particle weapons, guided missiles, booster fuel etc. is all very current. Indeed to an extent it is about to become out-moded in the next couple of decades.

It's often the case that Sci-fi gets the pace of technological change wrong. Look at the stuff from the 1950's suggesting that by 1980 everyone would be cruising around in a hover car...

Personally I like it. It gives good usable boundaries in which to create fiction, and somehow seems more real.

  Sgt.Pepper, May 3 2008, 08:23 AM

Absolutely SouthPaw. Alleg SciFi is far more credible than any other I've ran into, even so-called hard science.

As for wrong predictions, the best ones are about the year 2000 as seen in the 1900s. laugh.gif Electricity is the new magic!

  kramari, May 31 2008, 09:19 AM


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