OPERATION T-MINUS 00:01:02
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They wasted no time. Unsheathed from their seats ready for their tasks they awaited the door’s unfolding where they would deploy into the overgrown fauna near the town’s walls.
The lights in the compartment went out as if they’d blinked and a moment later everything was bathed in a dim red light.
The APC slowly came to a halt. In the hum, the pneumatic door yawned open. A wind whispered inside to greet the marines and they collectively breathed in the alien salt on the fresh, unstifled air. The recollection that this is a port town was made instantly. He whispered in the dark silence.
As one, the squad designated as King made their surgical movement out of the vehicle’s maw like a dagger fresh from the scabbard, leaving behind the two other escorting vehicles that they left behind in the midnight dark. It was a short dash to the treeline before them and Sparek made sure that he was the last one to be accounted for when he arrived at the heels of Ezral, the scout who’d left the APC first. Everyone was a general shape of black something. Their skill hid their humanoid figures and their shadowed edges were soft blurs in the planet’s moonless night. He made the signal for them to gather around him.
“You all remember the briefing? Insertion through the trees, over into the sentry post and make our way to the courthouse. You remember right?” There was general murmur of assent. “Saethwyr? Pwcca?”
“We remember, sir,” they confirmed more or less together. Sparek looked at each black figure for a moment.
“Alright, we’ve got three hours on Elanor. Ezral.”
“Take Pwcca, Saethwyr and Adrian. I’ll take Harved and Yuri,” Sparek replied.
“As we planned then? You’ll be taking Clara with you?”
“Naturally,” he replied. It went without saying in this unit. Clara chose to go where he went. Now it’s second nature. “Let’s go,” he said made the signal to fan out and move forward.
With speed they moved with a trained stealth, two-by-two as two separate, silent fireteams through the foliage. It didn’t take them long to reach the edge of the wood, but they strayed no more than a few metres from the edge.
From there the entire squad could see the weak spot in the walls from previous satellite observations; a single orange light above a metal doorway bored a coned beam down at the two figures below them. The distance was more or less amicable. A sloped incline and the drained, collapsed remains of what a brook disguised itself as a purely aesthetic moat provided a laughable set of obstacles that, at fifty metres were anything but. A hundred yards away south showed the squatted structure of a sewage outlet in the walls, but Sparek dismissed the tactical value of such an object at this particular moment. With a careful haste he paired Pwcca and Yuri, both of whom he knew expected to be called upon at this moment. It was a waste of sharpshooting at this distance, but it guaranteed the sentry’s deaths and he didn’t want to risk missing one and raising the alarm so early.
The two must have practiced together, for a moment after he told them the idea the two turned and fired their rifles with nothing more than a soft ‘puft’ from the barrels. It was expected. The colonel didn’t find this particularly surprising.
With one fireteam moving forward and the other held back in the treeline, Sparek’s forward team, designated as Bishop, led by Ezral, dragged the two bodies away from the door and into the dry moat, hiding them from any other picquet that may peer over the wall. Sparek watched from the trees as Ezral and Adrian entered the unlocked door, disappearing from his sight. Secondary fireteam – Rook – moved from the woods.
With no further issue Bishop and Rook had cleared the adjacent rooms and moved quickly through to the nearest buildings. Sparek’s marines were the first wave here. They were an extraction heading into Penan without any prior intelligence other than it had been overrun with revolutionaries. The 9th could move quickly but in no way could they shirk their operation.
Outside, the town was dark. Streetlights were cut but the street corners were garrisoned by searchlights. Probing, ominous beams of light fingered the streets like the starving blind. Somewhere in the night packs of dogs barked in a frothing orchestra. At this point they were all knelt in a burned out cafe. The embers, like its customers and owners, were long gone.
They scrambled to the floor as the searchlights melted through the broken windows. It passed them, clearly finding nothing of worth in the dead ashes of someone’s livelihood. Bishop and Rook moved on as it did so. With trained patterns they slowly made their way through abandoned buildings, over cobbled streets and, in one place, around an overturned pram in a street, an abandoned teddy bear remained gazing at the night sky.
It was hard to imagine that only forty minutes had passed when they eventually came to their destination. It was bigger than one would have imagined an official building in a town like this would be, and judging solely by the guards the entrance to the courthouse was clearly a negative on insertion.
Something hung from the archways between the thin pillars. Nude, caked in what must be blood and beheaded, the local mayor and what can only be her associates were hanging upside down from thin metal wiring. Swinging from a light breeze, the crudest of lettering was branded or flailed into their chests and backs.
It simply read ‘MANDATE’.
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OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 02:34:56
– by Kier Sparey
© Copyright Kier Sparey 2014