The Hokum - Chapter 6.25

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The Hokum - Chapter 6.25

Postby Zume on Mon 26 Dec 2016 19:58

From overhead the maze of piled up rows of rock, plasticrete blocks, gravel and metal bars that surrounded the plasticrete plant in Copper Medic could be mistaken for an abstract piece of artwork. That illusion was broken as the mine-clearance rockets from Hokum Bear tanks and Mongoose armored vehicles roared from their launching rails. At a predetermined point those rockets trailed ribbons comprised of an explosive compound that detonated two meters about the plasticrete-covered roads, producing an overpressure that triggered the pressure sensitive detonators of those mines buried underneath. The explosions left the roads cratered, but that didn’t matter to Pendex, driver of the Mongoose called Loaded Vice. Long hours of drill on such ruined roads made traversing them second nature – one less thing to distract him from the task at hand.

Furdex, Vice’s commander, kept an eye on a monitor while another took in the feed from the Mongoose Hard Boiled. So far there was no response from the Comensal, reinforcing Furdux’s suspicion that whatever response was in store was going to wait after the Weasel crew was recovered. A final delivery of precision-guided mine clearance ordnance, fired from orbiting Eagle Eye drones, exploded around the Weasel, detonating a few more mines. There was no indication of enemy action, which just made Furdux all that anxious. Just as Loaded Vice entered the central area Furdux spoke into his mic. “Pendex,” he barked, “T-Stop next to them!”

“Confirmed!” Pendex had both front hands on the steering grips as his back left hand gripped the emergency hand brake. He pulled it and turned to the left, sweating as there was a better than half a chance of the vehicle flipping over onto its side. The maneuver was rarely practiced in the peacetime Hokum army for exactly that reason, and far as Pendex knew this was the first time it was tried in this war. Brakes and tires squealed hideously, but the vehicle performed as expected, coming to a stop parallel to the Weasel with a scant meter to spare.

“Licus, open the belly hatch and get them in here!”

“Damn straight!” The sensors and comm tech undid her seat webbing and got on the hull floor, manually lifting the hatch. Both Weasel crewmembers had gotten out of their stricken vehicle and crawled under the Vice. They had to be pulled up into the cramped interior for their legs were broken in the mine blast.

On his monitor Furdex saw several drones knocked out by proximity-fused bopper gun rounds. They were fired by Comensal that had hidden themselves in the low hills outside of Copper Medic. Those drones not hit had zoomed in, relaying images of the attackers picking up more bopper guns and taking aim on fresh targets. Low orbit satellites provided the necessary backup for visuals, but were unable to provide fire support so long as any Hokum were within Copper Medic proper. However, that didn’t apply to outside to the yet-to-be-built city. Kinetic projectiles, fired from orbit, impacted the firing sites. What Comensal that were there were now dead or were incapacitated.

A fresh buzzer informed Furdex of a new problem. As expected there were multiple breaches in the roads around the plasticrete plant and even some from the ends of gravel piles. Comensal vehicles began to surface, the first being Archers. Their 30mm gun turrets and vertical launch cells belched rounds and missiles against the drones still over Copper Medic. Immediate after them came Technicals – pickups and other work utility vehicles with platforms on their backs equipped with pipe guns, rockets, or multiple bopper guns on rotating mounts. Two were destroyed by missiles fired from drones that escaped the initial anti-air salvos. But further air support was about to become problematic.

There were multiple small explosions throughout Copper Medic. Now uncovered almost one hundred smudge pots began belching black smoke. The Comensal ensured that coverage was complete, regardless of wind direction, and the smoke was hot and was laced with metallic particles, confounding infrared sensors, lasers and radio signals. However, that coverage required minutes, and Furdex barked his orders. Loaded Vice lurched forward, eliciting yelps of pain from the two wounded Weasel crewmembers.

Pendex drove down a lane flanked by pasticrete blocks and beams. It wasn’t the same route that the Vice took going into Copper Medic in case the Comensal were ready for that possibility. Instead a final salvo of mine-clearance rockets from the supporting Bears, Mongooses and Weasels exploded over several routes, though coverage would be incomplete in any event. Two Technicals were caught in the blasts and exploded as their bopper gun and pipe gun rounds ignited. One Technical lurched over a berm of metal beams right in front of the Vice only to be perforated by 30mm rail gun rounds from one of the distant supporting Mongooses. The improvised vehicle swerved and turned onto its side, letting Spuran the gunner to plant a 50mm mortar round into its open bed, wrecking the bopper guns it had on a pedestal mount and killing the operator.

“Seismics!” Licus barked. “Mutliple underground sources ahead of us! Ground breaching imminent!”

Furdex watched as his monitor bloomed with five fresh contact markers. What the few drones left and sat-imaging could infer was that two more technicals, an Assassin or Archer, and two mobiles had emerged. A mobile was a tracked armored vehicle, either a personnel carrier or engineering vehicle. If the former then it would have a pop-up laser turret, or if the latter it would be improvised weapons. Pendex had the same feed Furdex got and turned down another route to minimize contact with the new vehicles. One technical was obliterated as a 90mm explosive shell fired from a Bear made contact, but for the rest the obscuring smoke made accurate distant shooting impossible.

Only the turret of the Loaded Vice was visible above the lanes, as was the turret of closest mobile. It fired its infrared-tuned laser at the Vice, destroying the two-cell missile pack on the left side. Instead of rotating the turret and exposing the 30mm gun to possible damage Spuran replied with the 7mm railgun. The mobile’s turret was perforated and rendered useless. That vehicle sped up, and in Pendex’s mind he saw it as attempt to get ahead and block the Vice or perhaps even ram it. He turned and went down another lane and in doing so went to a place that wasn’t treated to anti-mine clearance. For that a mine exploded under the Vice, damaging the left-center tire.

Taunting fate an Assassin IFV went up a plasticrete pile and took a bead on the Hokum vehicle. Its first shot glanced off Vice’s turret. A second shot missed the 30mm gun and blew the wrecked left side missile pack clean off. For that Spuran fired a three second burst set at maximum power. Many of the rounds ricocheted off the Assassin’s sloped front, but one hit the gun barrel itself just as the Comensal gunner fired his third round. The resulting explosion rendered the barrel into a shattered nub. Two more rounds penned the lower plate, killing or injuring the driver for the vehicle lurched forward and sloped down to the ground, letting Spuran fire off a two-second burst. With its roof penetrated multiple times there was something that reacted very badly inside for an explosion occurred followed by a gout of flame issuing from the 30mm tribarrel turret.

The two enemy technicals had also went on top of the piles to get a shot at the Vice while said vehicle engaged the Assassin. One technical had a 15mm quadbarrel pipe gun, firing hundreds of shells into Vice’s right side. The 7mm gun reacted instantly, firing a stream of shells into the flightpath. Even with point-defense strips enough of those shells got through, destroying or causing the reactive armor boxes to detonate, leaving the whole right side vulnerable to bopper gun rounds.

Seeing that the other technical had line of sight Pendex swerved down another lane to cover the exposed right. This however brought the Vice head to head with the other mobile, some 50 meters in front. With Spuran engaged with the technicals the 7mm and 30mm guns couldn’t be brought to bear in time. From reflex born from training Pendex engaged the controls for the front mounted 50mm mortar with his back pair of hands. The laser on the mobile fired, scouring and melting the explosive armor blocks on the bow and knocking out both armored headlights and a point-defense strip. In turn the mortar rounds that hit were the few anti-vehicle type carried on the Vice. Shaped-charged explosives sent molten copper into the mobile’s interior, finding and exploding the capacitor for the laser. The mobile came to an abrupt halt as smoke poured from the top. What satisfaction Pendex felt was instantly dismissed as another mine damaged both front tires, with the left front one getting the worst of it.

Both technicals were destroyed by ‘spray and pray’ fire from the distant supporting Mongooses. That left the mobile with the wrecked turret, somewhere in the increasingly dense smoke. “Pendex, get us back on the cleared path!”, Furdex barked as he tried to make sense what his platoon leader was saying over the radio link. “Hard Boiled is saying Bear 2 is relocating based on new seismic readings. Licus, what you have?”

“Crawlerbots are picking up a new source, Sarge. It’s different from the others but the computer can’t exactly nail it down.”

“Oh, damn, it’s him again!” Spuran yelped even as he kept his face in the viewfinder. “The mobile with the wrecked turret is coming up behind us! Traversing!”

Switching the view on his monitor Furdex saw the muddy image of the tracked APC racing up from behind as the Vice made its turn. He recalled a time back in his youth when a truck lost control on an icy street going downhill, smashing several cars in the process. It was same sick sense of fascination of watching unavoidable tragedy that came up at that moment. “More speed, Pendex!”

“Tell that to the tires, Sarge! There’s not that much left to grab ground.”

Spuran had the turret turned to the back and the 30mm railgun depressed as far as it could. A stream of shells ripped through the top half of the mobile but clearly didn’t hit the driver or powerplant for the vehicle rammed right into the back of the Vice and exploded. The Hokum vehicle bucked forward and upward, coming back down hard and not doing any favors for its damaged tires. Just then a trio of Comensal appeared in front of the Vice, wielding bopper guns and drawing a bead on the damaged vehicle. Pendex still has back right hand on the control for the 50mm mortar. The computer had already cycled in an anti-personnel round and Pendex fired, nailing the trio and thanking the five gods for their favor.

“Sarge, the computer has identified the sound! It’s a ground-effect tank!” Licus updated Furdex’s monitor. “A breach just opened up in the lane to our right!”

“Crap! Pendex, back us up and take the first left!”

“Tires are barely grabbing ground, Sarge! It’ll be close!”

The Axis tank had reached the surface, partially shrouded in smoke but its gun barrel (instead of the usual laser emitter) was all too clear for Spuran. Vice’s turret, still visible above the row of plasticrete blocks, had just begun to turn when the tank fired. Whether by luck or by design the shell tore off half the barrel of the 30mm railgun, the shock also warping the mounting in the turret itself. For Spuran it was like having one’s favorite arm chopped off, but he switched to the missile pack on the turret’s right side. With an optical lock he let loose with one missile only to see it shredded by the tank’s point defense strips.

“Five Hells! Behind us!” Pendex yelled. He had switched to rear view on a monitor as the other sensors on the back of the Vice had been knocked out. It was the mobile he thought he killed with the mortar rounds. With smoke still pouring from the roof the mobile with a clearly alive driver had raced down the lanes and was now blocking the path.

Furdex sweated hard. With radio and laser link communications still being erratic he had no way of knowing if Hard Boiled or any other vehicle had a bead on the tank. “Ram and push him out of the way!” That may have been the sound of desperation, given the state of Loaded Vice’s tires and suspension, but it was the only option given the circumstances. With a foot made of lead Pendex pressed the accelerator to the firewall. The Vice move backwards and collided with the mobile. The shock of the impact was too much for the Comensal driver for the mobile’s treads were stilled. Despite the damage there was progress, the mobile being pushed back for the brakes weren’t applied, but it wasn’t going to be enough.

Spuran lined up his shot for his remaining missile, going for an optical lock on the gun barrel of the Comensal tank. He hoped he hadn’t offended the five gods recently as the only chance was to damage the 140mm gun so that it wouldn’t fire at them. It was even more urgent for the turret had rotated to face the one on the Vice, and any hit would kill Spuran and Furdex…

There was a bright flash on the left side of the tank’s turret. An instant later there was an explosion that lifted that turret five meters into the air, coming back down hard enough to break the armored skirts of the tank’s lift effect chamber. It was a round fired from Bear 2, and the 90mm shell had ricocheted into the hull, hitting an ammo bin. Pendex still had his foot on the accelerator, and once the mobile was pushed clear the Loaded Vice went down another lane, leaving behind the tank still burning and cooking off its stored shells. For good measure Spuran fired the 7mm railgun into the hulk of the mobile for a full six seconds.

Hard Boiled to Loaded Vice,” came the voice of platoon leader Piton Corsun over Furdex’s headset. “Since you’re moving I’ll take that as a sign you’re still alive. Follow the route I’m sending and head to the evac site. A shuttle will take you back to Camp Lazlo.”

Loaded Vice to Hard Boiled, acknowledged.”

Pendex coaxed the cripple vehicle down the lanes while Spuran kept ready at the controls for the 7mm. There were a few more attempts by clumps of Comensal to engage the Vice but the smoke from the smudge pots hindered them just as badly as it did for Spuran. Licus engaged a sonic defense, broadcasting from mini speakers along the Vice’s hull a sound at a particular frequency that irritated Comensal hearing to such an extent that they became poor shots. Once clear of the area Pendex was on hard surface roads and went as fast as the vehicle allowed him. The Bears had been firing HE rounds behind the Vice to further discourage the defenders from following.

Six kilometers away a shuttle made a hot landing, deploying its loading ramp just as Pendex made it to the landing site. The shuttle lifted just as the security clamps engaged the Vice, the ramp retracted and hatch secured as the craft headed for the upper atmosphere. Medics pulled the two Weasel crewmembers followed by the crew. Pendex was surprised to find all of his fingers of his four hands were stiff and curved to match the controls they had be gripped too. Spuran had to put on sunglasses for his eyes blinked excessively in even the dim lighting of shuttle cabin. All were dehydrated and shook from cold for the extended firing of the rail guns had overwhelmed the environmental system of the vehicle. They wrapped themselves in blankets even as they went through every bottle of water offered to them.

An hour later the shuttle landed at Camp Lazlo. Furdex refused to have the waiting motor pool gang tow the Loaded Vice to the repair bay. Instead the crew got back in and drove it themselves at a slow pace. Furdex and Spuran had raised their seats so that their heads were poking above their respective hatches in the turret. Pendex has his driver’s hatch open and seat raised so that he could see the road ahead without using video screens. Licus sat on the hull behind Pendex’s hatch, acting as a second set of eyes. Having heard what happened via the grape vine soldiers had lined up along the route. There was no hooting or cheering from these onlookers. Instead they touched the battle-scared hull of the Loaded Vice as it went by. It was a gesture rooted in ancient Hokum military history when cavalry mounts were patted by infantry after a victory.

Loaded Vice pulled into its assigned spot in the repair bay, greeted by the chief mechanic assigned to it. The grizzled veteran walked around the vehicle, placing chocks around each tire, and gauged the damage confronting him. Then he looked up at Furdex. “Sargeant,” he said, “I hope you’ve at least exchanged insurance information.”



Image
Hokum ISN Imperial Wave Class Small Carrier http://www.novacw.com/Hokum%20ISN%20Imperial%20Wave%20Class%20Small%20Carrier.jpg
Art by Adam Kop http://adamkop.deviantart.com/

For their escort to battle carriers the Hokum used catamaran hulls The tech level 10 refit had one point defense mount upgraded to a capital mount, usually placed on the starboard hull.
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Zume
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