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Re: [GZG] [GZG Fiction] Operation Heavy Hand

From: <Beth.Fulton@c...>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 23:41:07 +1100
Subject: Re: [GZG] [GZG Fiction] Operation Heavy Hand

Operation Heavy Hand

After months of patrolling the desolation west of Marin, an armoured
thrust into enemy territory has marked a triumphant end to this phase of
the operations. Knowing we have cleared and secured the line down to
within 30km of Severns certainly makes the austerity of the past few
months seem much more tolerable. While the bitter cold had became the
norm, I for one had never got used to the sand storms. None but the
worst stung you like sand blown on Earth. It was more the irritation of
sand that pervaded everything. There was no item of clothing, no meal,
no possession that was not eventually infiltrated by the fine red grit.
So it was a fine relief to find out that it had all been toward a good

It was a fierce fight and we suffered fairly heavy losses. Thankfully we
inflicted even more. The push began in the early hours of the 17th of
November, with the 2/34 joining two other mechanised infantry battalions
as the left flank and forward screen for two NAC armoured divisions.
They pushed southwest from Marin in an attempt to sweep into the eastern
edge of Severn. Simultaneously, jump troops landed on the west of the
peninsular to hold key ground, which the 2/34 was to eventually secure.

The evening of the 16th were made camp early and were given the
heartiest of meals I can remember for my time on Mars, the cook even
giving us a ration of liquor each. Our living conditions were still as
primitive as ever, but the usual horseplay was in scarce supply. Most
were sitting in small groups talking or recording messages to loved
ones. There was a sombre mood, the sobriety of the company striking me
quite strongly given its stark contrast to their usual state. We all
sensed this might really be it.

Rurik was perhaps the only exception to the quiet, rumbling away in a
long series of what I assumed were Russian folk songs and ballads. They
always sounded so doleful that they seemed to quite fit the bill

“…But ee am not sad, and not deprrressed, my fate sayms comforting
to may. All ze good zings God gave us in our lifetime ee have
sacrrrificed for zese arrrdent ayes.”

Then he slipped into Russian, the purring baritone lulling me part way
to sleep. My brain snapped me back awake however when my faltering
Russian caught up with the lyrics of one song.

“Tý poidi, maya karovushka, damoi, tý poidi, maya buryonushka,

“Go home, my dear cow?!” I rolled onto my back, casting him a
querulous look in the dim light.

“Vhat? Zey nayd comfoot. May leetle vnook find zis very comfooting.”

Shaking my head with a smile I lay back down and must have drifted
quickly off to sleep, as next thing I new I was getting a boot in the
backside and told to pack up and head out.

Beginning from our final camp site on Cabot Plain the 2/34 pushed from
the midpoint of the neck of the peninsular down towards the cliffs of
Auchinleck, overlooking the Plain of Ballachulish that extends back
northeast of the rim of the primary urban zones of the Severns crater.
This apparent wasteland was the heartland of the Krak’s northern
defences. While the NAC used armoured might and the element of surprise
to storm down the highway, we were once again bouncing our way across
the sand and rocky outcrops of the Martian countryside.

At least it seemed the Krak had thought it so unappealing as a route of
contact that there were few mines and the only major hurdles were
trenches, berms and other engineering works. Iron George was kind enough
to let me share his comm unit’s direct feed off nav-AI sensors on the
lead tanks under General Troughton. The picture over there was a
completely different story. The roads and tracks seemed peppered with
cutaways, block walls and mines. The images were a little grainy and
jumpy (thanks to the Krak jamming) and the haze made the images all soft
edges so even after only a short while your temples ached with
concentration. It was informative though and impressive, in a gut
twisting way.

Perhaps the most striking image that has stayed with me involved one of
the enormous sabre heavy battle tanks. The NAC didn’t have many of
these on Mars, relying more heavily on their Phalanx and Paladin for any
heavy armour operations. For this operation they had thrown in the
heaviest components of the NAC Martian strike force, a regiment of 120
tonne Sabres. These behemoths aren’t as large as the legendary
Leviathan ‘monster’ tanks Lord Shrewsbury used to hold the Krak out
of the Pitkellony industrial complex on Cumannaí, but they are still a
mighty sight. The turret flat and taking up much of the top of the body
of the tank, a huge 140mm cannon its main weapon, augmented by missiles
and small mount lasers. Its front slopes down and encasing armour covers
the 4 tracks. It even has auxiliary grav thrusters to help when it has
low traction, is captured by terrain or needs to have a track
rethreaded. These beasts are breathtaking, the flat top of the turret
standing more than twice the height of a tall man and with the body
running 12m long and over 8 wide.

The feeder mount must have been on the second or third line of tanks,
probably on a Phalanx or Hoplite, the ride was too jumpy to be one of
the K77 half tracks. It had been slowly sweeping back and forth across
the width of its swivel and I could see a line of large sabres to the
front with columns of smaller tanks to the left and right. The ground
was the usual mix of rubble-like rock and fine sand that kicked up in
great sprays if a tire dipped in too deep. There was the occasional
flare of out-going shell or missile fire and twice the whole thing
became an impenetrable mass of what I think was smoke and gas. I can
only guess that some nearby vehicle had taken a direct hit. There were
small nav markers that flashed up as they passed key points, but there
was no sound. Not that I needed any, my head already pounded and I had
the cacophony of my own transport for ambience.

I’d been watching the feed for about 45 minutes and my forehead was
beginning throb from trying to squint the jumping and indistinct imagery
clear. Suddenly one of the Sabre’s heaved into the air. It broke
apart, armour torn apart, parts flying off to all points of the compass,
tracks sling shooting away, turret cartwheeling through the air before
embedding itself into the road ahead. Thick black toned smoke billowed,
as if some giant hand was covering the burning hulk with a shroud. I had
been reading of William Dampier and the other ancient buccaneers only
days before and the idea of this being some metallic caricature of one
of the giant chelonian, flipped over and gutted on the sands of some
Caribbean Isle stuck in my head. As the feed mount swivelled further
around the scene I realised the Sabre hadn’t been the only casualty,
though there was little left of the smaller vehicles, which looked as if
they’d been shredded in some great mechanical hopper and spewed out
across the road, amongst craters and other great gouges in the dirt. The
silence of it all making the cataclysmic scene seem simultaneously more
surreal and terrible. I found out later that they had hit the edge of a
minefield stocked with a new form of devastatingly effective
anti-vehicle mine. It took the engineers three and a half hours to clear
enough of a path through it for the advance to continue without leaving
any gapping holes; all the while under harassing fire.

While we were avoiding the explosives strewn along the main approaches,
the fighting was still brutal, with snipers also making our progress
costly.  As soon as we were within striking distance of their foremost
positions the Krak opened fire on us. It started slow and sporadic, but
as we pushed closer still it built up to what was probably the most
furious barrage I’ve ever experienced. It felt is if I was on a school
yard topsy-turvy the ground shuddered and skidded and the sound was
deafening, even through the cancelling channels of the headsets.

A few hours later, just as we cleared the far side of a shallow ravine,
there was even a Krak infantry assault. They attacked along a slight
diagonal, to hit our forward scouts. They were in such an enraged state
their momentum bore on through our frontal fire, but they died or were
pushed back by the enfilading artillery, machine guns and weapon mounts.
The mechs covering our advance found the remnants of 70 Krak corpses
scattered amongst the boulders and scree. From that and a vid-based head
count of the attack we gauged their losses in their futile charge as
fairly heavy.

Boyed but still cautious Brigadier Henninger, who had been given command
of this sector of the attack, sent a small reconnaissance party headed
by four half tracks and 2 Hunter MMRAV tank-killers, supported by 3
phalanx (or desert beetles as they were affectionately known by the
troops) carrying a squad each of the 2/34 in full power armoured
regalia. I was allowed to squeeze into the last of the three, wedged in
between two of the op stations.

When we were within 10 clicks of Auchinleck two of the half-tracks
dropped a trio each of recon drones, while the third deployed 2
autocannon equipped support bots. These took a little while to move
forward, but Iron George had no choice as none of the sparrowhawk
surveillance flights he’d called for had materialised (they were
likely tasked to the main thrust in the east).

The images they sent back certainly made me swallow hard, at least at
first. Across the arid ochre wasteland so typical of these parts of Mars
swarmed a Kra’Vak army of what initially seemed momentous proportions.
As the comms crew took over the vision and drilled down with consummate
skill I realised what initially seemed a staggering opposition was
actually more a phantom of a force than a real army.

They were sitting in desolate terrain, with rocky patches interspersed
with fields of sand, meagre clumps of knotweed, stone-breakers,
gentians, whitlow-grasses and Martian desert thorn bushes. On their
seaward side the rock-bound cliffs of the eastern end of the Auchinleck
ridgeline penned them in. Landward a rock plain stretched east until it
hit the foot of the Harding Range. Behind them you could just pick out
the lights and structures of Severns.

After a moment’s reflection, the scuffs and trails on the ground
clearly showed where the main body had moved east, with another large
group having pulled back to Severns. What was left was largely a
wrecker’s yard of cannibalised and abandoned hulks. Maybe the Krak
were as exhausted, if not more, than we had dared hope. I took a deep
breath to calm myself, as I couldn’t let the rush drag me on into
fancifully supposition. There were still troops down there. It was a
much smaller force than it had at first appeared (given all the old
vehicle bodies), more comparable in size to our own, though no doubt
still battle worthy.

The Krak infantry were moving about behind a complex of stonewalls,
likely constructed because the mosaic of hard rock and fine sand of the
barren terrain offered little to no cover. About now we got a report
from the push in the east that the ground there was "literally crawling"
with enemy tanks and that there would be no possibility of extra troops
coming from that sector. Soon after the Brigadier sent Iron George the
word to commit the 2/34.

Iron George lead a feint down the face of Auchinleck. Some of the power
armour made short jumps straight down the cliff, while the APCs and 8
Hoplites slid down the switchbacks onto the plain. This got the Krak’s
attention and the 2/34 was soon under heavy fire. As the Krak swung
their functional vehicles into place the Brigadier sent the main body of
his force forward so they just cleared the ridge and had them pour a
terrific volume of fire down on the Krak. It was hard to see much from
where I was, crammed into a phalanx that was being jostled by incoming
fire, but from what I did catch it was a blazing sight. Big Paladin
tanks and Hunter and Striker MMRAVs had all rolled forward and were
painting the sky with fire. On top of that came MAK and HEF from the
field guns, gouging great craters and sending plumes of dust and smoke
in great vertical fountains.

With all my senses tingling, trying to keep up with everything going on,
a wave of new icons appeared at the edge of the TAC map displayed on the
lower left of my specs. Bombers. Big ESU Sikorsky bombers.

I held my breath as I watched them slide rapidly across the map.

“Bombs hot. Impact in 22 seconds.”

I may have imagined it, but it seemed that across the battlefield all
our vehicles slowed, not wanting to end up on the wrong side of the drop
zone’s horizon. This was going to be danger close.

I caught my breath as the counter on my specs clicked down to zero. An
incandescent wall of light sliced across the plain, right through the
Krak, swallowing them up. A string of apocalyptically effulgent pillars
shot out of the earth as if the attack had come from below not above.
Molten rock and shrapnel rained back down across the open ground. Even
the sharp edge of the shock wave was clear enough to watch it roll out
across the landscape.

Everything in the immediate area of impact had been vapourised.
Vehicles, Kra’Vak, stonewalls, the very surface of the plain. The
whistles, cheers and bawdy exclamations proved just how awesome the 2/34
had found the ESU’s display of airpower.

“Fuuuck! Where the hell have they been hiding those puppies?!” one
of the troopers in the rear of the Phalanx called out.

“Keeping them for the next take over” was the cynical comeback

“Well they’re here for us now, so lets just settle down and
concentrate.” The cool clipped tones of Sgt Eileen Gunn cut through
the conversation, calming it before old biases could boil up. “
We’ve been tasked with securing the platforms across that sand trap,
in five-three-mike-delta-victor-seven-nina-eight-one-nina-zero. Make

I couldn’t pick the target out by eye, though with it picked out on my
specs I could see the edges of the platforms, dusted with fine red grit.
A bridge across a river of sand, if we could secure them intact it would
make our attack on Severns all the easier.

As we sped down the last of the incline at the foot of Auchinleck and
plunged across the plain a string of Krak traffic scurried back across
the platforms. Other Krak stayed to try and hold us off and the craters
of the earlier strikes meant we were rattled to our bones as we jounced
our way forward. I hit my shoulder hard against a bulkhead as a result
of a particularly jarring contact and a dull ache spread down my arm and
up my neck.

We lost one tyre to an IAVR hit, but that barely slowed us down. I was
marvelling at the skill of the driver, pushing through such heavy fire
with a single-minded determination, when I heard a familiar voice.

“Rayght siyn vay arreeve. udAchi!”

Rurik. My grin nearly split my face.

Then the rear flap dropped and we were pounding down and out into the
cold and dust and noise of a firefight. I was last down, but could see
the press of bodies ahead of me eager to get away and into cover. There
were flurries of fire to left and right. Five of us, myself included,
stayed by the tires for cover while the other five dashed forward to
duck behind masonry, scraps of vehicles or to drop into craters. Once
they were in position then we moved clear of the vehicle, scurrying bent
low into cover.

The small Krak force directly to our front was trying to organise a
defence based around a large solid shot Krak machine gun. Cooper
curtailed their plans by dropping a cluster of three grenades right on
the gun, knocking it out. Cathy lead a five mean team to the left, while
Nic and his team split right. Catching the remaining Krak between them
we were soon clear to push forward.

Cath dropped to one knee behind a stonewall and motioned for the two
teams to be ready to move separately out and across the platforms.
Cathy’s team to go first while Nic’s covered. She then pointed
directly at me at tapped the top of her head, the sign for me to get
over to her.

Keeping low I scrabbled quickly over to her.


“We’re likely to get cut up pretty bad through this. Do the best you
can, but nothing silly, as we’re not going to get any extra support.
They’re locked up pretty good south of Marin, we’re in this by
ourselves. Roger?”


With two quick shakes of her bent arm Cathy sent us all racing straight
into hell. Running hard we sprinted for the platforms, we couldn’t let
any Krak demolition squads blow it before we got it.

My lungs were already aching and we had what seemed an impossibly long
stretch to go. Small arms fire cracked past us and kicked up shards of
pebble and gritty sand. Nic’s team slid in by the sides of the
platforms; lying flat they covered Cathy’s team as they ran for the
far side. As I pounded past Chris I realised he was wiggling between
shots, trying to make a small depression and provide a sliver more

As we hit the bridge at full pelt the low clanging of our footfalls
distinguished it from the rocky ground behind us. The ricochets made for
a dizzying racket, ZWING, CLANG, THUD. The next 200m felt like 200
miles. Stretched out before us with no cover.  Sweat was trickling down
my nose and back, raising goosebumps where it was exposed to the chill

When we’d made it about a quarter of the way across the whole thing
shook, Cathy skidded onto her left side as her feet slipped out from
under her; Keoni stumbled forward but managed to keep his feet; Ase also
smoothly bounced back up, going part way into a crouch, but pushing
smoothly back up off his left hand; Grace meanwhile disappeared, arms
wind milling, off the edge; and as I sprawled face first, palms out in
front I saw Riley land on his arse, firing as he went down and killing 3
Krak who had leapt from cover with more explosives to set. In seconds
Cathy and Riley were back on their feet and chasing after Keoni, his
mammoth Polynesian form in full charge. I half crawled, half stumbled to
the edge of the platform to see if Grace was intact.

“Get going Jock, you’re too exposed! I’ll go ahead down here”
she yelled as I knelt and looked over the edge.

If it had been anyone of size, like Keoni, I would have doubted the
veracity of her claim, but her lithe little ex-ballerina body was
quickly skipping across the sand, leaping from one rocky pinnacle to the

A round striking by my fingers, the vibrating metal stinging them where
I gripped the edge, was sufficient motivation I didn’t need to be told
again. Pushing up and off I also headed for the far side of the
platform. The explosion had buckled one edge, bending it up perhaps
15cm, but miraculously any damage was slight.

Keoni was stopped about three quarters along, on the opposite side, but
about as far down as where the first charge had gone off. The lower half
of his huge form was recumbent while his front half hung off the bridge
pulling at wires and tearing at explosives with his hands. He was
completely exposed to any Krak fire, which seemed to be coming thick and
fast. How no one had been hit was beyond me.

Grace came up from below to help Keoni. Cathy, Riley and Ase continuing
on and dropping in beside the far edges of the platform to provide
covering fire against some Krak hunkered down on the other side of a
small rock ridge about 100m further on. Looking quickly between
Cathy’s firing positions and Grace and Keoni I made my decision.
Breathing hard I dropped in behind Ase. That way I was with them if they
were hit, but could still see what Keoni and Grace were up to. Grace was
gingerly detaching detonators before Keoni jerked away the body of the
charges and hurled them away into the fine sand. It didn’t look
particularly safe, but perhaps spoke to the heady pace of the fire and
the critical value of the objective.

As the last arced out across the sand Keoni pushed back and up, but
instead of making his feet spun landing on his back.

Leaping back onto the bridge I dashed back to him. A Krak slug grazed
the back of my helmet pushing it down hard onto the bridge of my nose.
Eyes watering I pushed it back and reached for Keoni’s shoulder, which
he was clutching with his opposite hand – the hand of his wounded arm
still gripping his rifle.

“Ugh, just a scratch Jock. It smarts, but isn’t bad. Lets get out of
here” he said twisting on to his hands and knees. Still concerned I
followed him forward and off the left side where he took up position
with Cathy.

“Jock I’m fine” Keoni rumbled realising I’d followed him and was
attempting the impossible of craning to see his shoulder while keeping
my head down to avoid being shot.

“Let him patch it Keoni, better sorted than distracting you” Cathy

He slithered back down a little, not that there was much of a slope to
the depression. A couple of minutes and a stim-pack later he was back
with Cathy, keeping the Krak pinned down. While the Krak were tied down
enough to prevent any rapid counter attacks, neither side was making
rapid headway.

More worryingly the intensity of incoming fire was growing thicker. We
were obviously being targeted by more than just the Krak directly
opposite. It could only be a matter of time until one or more of us were
hit. If the body of the force was to push on we really needed to root
the Krak out faster.

I felt the rumble before I heard it, my shoulder resting against the
plate of the bridges. Turning I glanced behind to see a Phalanx rumbling
out and onto the platform.

“Herre, comes zee cavalry boyz!” came an excited Russian voice over
our comms.

“What’s he doing?” Cathy called back over her shoulder

Staying in a crouch I swivelled on my toes, nearly sliding over in the
gritty fines. Rurik was about half way across now, sparks from small
arms flashing off the forward armour.

“He’s bringing the beetle across” I called back.

“Lets hope he doesn’t get a missile up his nose then” Riley said
over the headsets.

The rumble of the APC added to the din and we were forced to duck even
lower as it attracted even heavier fire, which ricocheted off to pepper
us as well. It slid to a halt in front of us, putting himself between us
and the Krak’s cover, kicking up a cloud of dust.

“Vhat you vant, inveetations?” Rurik boomed with a strained chuckle
as he lowered the rear ramp.

I could see the conflict on Cathy’s face, her brow furrowed in
thought. We needed to hold the bridge, but our current position wasn’t
great, it would be better to get to a more solid ground. She turned to
look back the way we had come and then suddenly she was signalling for
us to get to the APC. All of that had happened in a snap, what had set
her mind so quickly?

I threw a quick glance over my shoulder and saw a column of tanks headed
our way. Now I understood. I scrabbled up the shallow incline, the grit
of the lip digging into my palms as my feet threatened to slide away
underneath me. Then I was pounding forward again. Today my life was
running and ducking, dust or smoke and gunfire.

In the next few hours scores of tanks, MMRAVs and APCs pushed across
those bridges. They brought troops, armour and guns.

Our fight wasn’t done for the day, we were soon dismounted again,
using the ruin of an old mud-brick quarry office as cover, keeping as
many Krak infantry as possible occupied while our troops kept flowing
in. After all the broken sleep of the long months of patrolling and the
action and anticipation of the last couple of days I had been ready to
drop from fatigue. But watching the count of our vehicles on this side
of the plain steadily climb I was revitalised. I found myself grinning
and bubbling with adrenaline. We were really doing this.

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