Jumping Around a Bit
So while I work out some transitions, here’s a scene with a bit more oomph to it.
Lieutenant Upham called us together. 22 of us, crewing 10 trucks with a handful of the best yokels filling the empty seats. Still less than 30 of us total. The trucks were lined up in two chalks, herringboned out on either side of the road. Even though half the sun was over the horizon, even over the waist high shrubbery that seemed to have replaced grass in this weird climate, the yokel brigade was still struggling to get out of bed.
I focused in on the Lieutenant. We had already gone over the briefing last night, and nothing had changed since the yokels went to bed, but you never knew if you’d missed something. The plan was simple. Drive our armored trucks up the road, pause at the village and provide support while the yokels grabbed the village. Then we’d sweep around and skirmish forward to grab a crossroads that would let the rest of the division get assembled. The route was straightforward, recon was nonexistent. I would ride in Sergeant Mikkelson’s truck. Last in line. We ran with a light autocannon in the turret, as well as recovery gear. We needed that to fill our primary job of dealing with casualties. Our patrol rolled out as the first Yokel troops started to form up on the road. We left them coughing on a cloud of dust as we started the 5 miles to the village. We raced the first mile in a couple of minutes, but the hills forced us to slow down. An hour later we were still barely coming in sight of the village and the first vehicle had barely started down the last hill when the guns opened up.
A deluge of fire plastered us from the ridge running perpendicular to us south of the village. Our guns opened up but stacked up on the road and driving straight at them we had a hard time getting more than two sets of guns firing, and at this range we’d be lucky to hit the ground let alone the guns. Shells fountained the dirt around us. Upham called out the only orders he could and we raced forward, the Flaks engines pushing the massive bulk of bolted on armor and weapons into a lumbering, brain-rattling drive. I put my foot in, eyes on the screens linked to the cameras on either side of the truck. Rotating through the views trying to divine through the clouds of dust, flame, dirt and smoke whether I needed to brake, turn, or just plow forward. One of the Flaks took a direct hit. With the sound of an axe splitting a bucket the shell punched through the armor over the bed, then the concussive blast of the charge tearing the back half apart, the vehicle rolled forward, engine undamaged, before rolling off into the bushes.
“Left! left! left!” Mikkelsen called, taking us opposite the damaged truck. I’d been moving my hands to turn right and quickly corrected, smoothly pulling the truck over unmasking our cannon to take the gunline under fire. The heavy chook-chook-chook of the autocannon spitting tracers downrange into the flaming muzzle blasts reassured me even as a shell hit close enough to rattle shrapnel off our armor. We were only a few hundred yards away and as we deployed into line abreast our guns quickly silenced the artillery. 12 guns had been emplaced in scraped out shelters, most of the crews in yokel uniform scattering down the opposite slope of the ridge even as Upham’s truck rolled over the first gun, heavy machine guns blazing down the hill.
“Keep the skeer on ’em!” Upham yelled as our trucks crested the ridge. We pulled behind our line, leaving them to it as Eyallo moved into the back, getting the tow hooks ready. We pulled in front of the damaged Flak, Eyallo managed to hook up without even getting out, almost like we designed the system with that in mind, and we hauled it to what had been the command post for the guns.
Upham called out over the platoon push just as we reached the laager, “1 through 4 plus 7 rush the town, the rest of us will go ’round west of town and catch them as they flee, looks like it’s only yokels here and god knows when the infantry will catch up”
“Shit. L-T wants to win the damn war his own self. Eyallo unhook that Flak,” he paused to push a button “order of march, 1, 7, 4, 2, 3. Crags keep that grenade launcher pointed up the upper windows, rest of us watch ground floor, don’t give ’em a chance to aim, just level ’em if you see movement. Get moving, GO GO GO” he yelled as 1 rolled out as soon as he heard the order. I was already gassing it and Eyallo barely had time to scramble back to the passenger seat while Mikkelsen reloaded the cannon’s cumbersome clips. The village was barely a quarter mile away and we took it at a run, the troops in it were facing East, and we were coming in from the south where, only minutes before, friendly artillery had been holding the line. We hit them before they’d even come up with a plan to deal with the new threat and caught another battery of guns limbered up in the town square. As soon as we opened fire the garrison of the village lit out for greener pastures. Most of them never got there, unless you count Elysium.
We still lost another truck. Tail end charlie got it. One of the guns managed to get off the limber, and the gun captain, a grizzled old bastard, probably a former merc, had popped a shaped charged shell off, it had buzzed right down the line, missing every truck until it smashed square against the driver’s door on the number 3 truck. The shaped charge went off, spalling and molten metal rattling around inside the crew cab turning it into a horror of burnt, bleeding dead meat. The Flak seemingly stunned by the demise of its crew, shuddered to a halt. Before it stopped the gun captain exploded as 2 trucks heavy machine guns turned him and his crew into pink mist.
We pushed on past the town, meeting up with the rest of the patrol. Upham’s crews were trading shots with the last guns of the hostile Yokel’s artillery battalion. We didn’t dare cross the three miles to them, and with two broke trucks and damage to the others starting to pass from “inconvenient” to “dangerous” we decided to hook up the damaged trucks and fall back on the advancing friendly brigade. We didn’t hook up too fast. By the timeline the Yokels should already be assaulting the village and we expected them to show over the crest of the ridge east of town any minute now, but once we were hooked up we moved out.
The drive back was odd. Upham was in the lead, we were second, barely any dust screening our view. No sounds of gunfire ahead, but no communications with the yokels. We drove faster than we had on the drive out, even towing two trucks and with a couple others hammered by shells to where their alignment barely let them drive straight. Barely a mile from where we’d started we ran into the Yokels. A Major flagged us down, manning a checkpoint on the road with almost two platoons of troops behind sandbags, with heavy weapons, a radio, and trailers with the smell of fresh food conveniently at hand.
“Brigadier Moltz decided to halt the march. The troops are tired from yesterday and he though marching through the hills and then fighting a battle would be too much to ask for, especially with the sounds of the fighting we heard!”
Upham said nothing. 3 dead, 2 wounded, and a wounded yokel in return for two thirds of a battalion of guns and a shattered couple of yokel battalions and our own guys give it up for a siesta. I looked back to see Eyallo turning from dark brown to nearly purple.
“Easy, E. Long as they pay us we fight the war for ’em. Help me patch up Red and Sonny back there in 8 and get the Yokel turned over to these yahoos. God help him.”