OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 00:39:59
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Holes ripped open in the body of an unsuspecting target, slouching its body against the wall and smearing a red paste across the wall of the corridor.
In pairs, the whole of the fireteams moved through the courthouse, bounding and covering each other in pairs. They’d split up once more into their previous incarnation as the two fireteams of Rook and Bishop and kept apart at just enough of a distance to respond to any large threats. They dispensed with their stealth tactics and moved from room to room, corridor to corridor, making their way upwards to the roof as they’d planned.
It was running smoothly. They rapidly entered rooms and terminated any imposters that they had encountered. Rooms were left with anywhere up to three dead contacts and the remains of struggles, looting and frenzied searching were evident in most of them. The corpses of civilians were absent, clearly moved to the courtroom itself for the butchery the group had previously witnessed. Large smears of dried blood were present on the floors and walls.
Most posed no problem, but twice they had run into additional hostiles and suffered minor wounds. Harved had hurriedly patched up a deep groove on Pwcca’s knee from ricocheted shrapnel and Saethwyr had been thrown by a large brute into a set of cabinets that collapsed, fracturing his right forearm. The other fireteam was forced to manoeuvre into a position to intercept a flanking group that ambushed Sparek’s team.
The enemy clearly knew that they were there if they hadn’t before. They had begun to coordinate themselves.
The 9th Union Marines pushed themselves onwards, faster than they had been acting before. There was no sense in getting caught in a protracted firefight. Ammunition was scarce. At last count they’d depleted their supplies enough for themselves so that when they evened out what they did have, the firearms held two magazines each. The snipers, however, had less. Pwcca was eating on his last full magazine and Yuri, after the incident at the courtroom, held just little under Pwcca’s amount.
They were running, bounding faster from location to location to the access routes to the roof above. They all convened near the only exit to the roof. Sparek stopped them all, quieting them all down. All attention was on him.
Ezral spoke. “Sir?” Sparek kept his hand up to silence them all. His head was tilted as he looked away and down the corridor.
It was quiet here. A breath of wind glided down the corridors. “There’s a breeze.”
A way to the roof. “This way” said Sparek, and he turned to the source of the wind. Bishop and Rook had become King once more and were behind their commander every step of the way.
The rearguard, made up of Saethwyr, Adrian and Ezral, took the odd potshots at the oncoming hostiles that chased them. Several would appear at a time. The three’s shots were nigh impeccable, forced to pick their moments due to the depleting ammunition. More should have been taken with them, but the decision was made that this rescue was not going to need that much for its parameters. Clearly the brass was wrong and so was intelligence. There were obviously higher numbers of the enemy, even if they weren’t revolutionaries, than previously thought.
There was one way up. A large freight elevator was tucked away in the corner of the level. The iron railings were closed and chained, a breeze flurrying down the elevator shaft. Without wasting time, Pwcca broke the lock with the butt of their rifle without care and between he and Sparek unceremoniously tore the railing to one side. They each jumbled onto the platform, Clara jamming the gate back when they were all present on the cold square. The metallic areas were rusting, a vague reminder of fact that this town was near the ocean. The tang of the air from above caused most of them to inhale manually, tasting the salt on the air.
The grating noise of the gate was almost like a beacon to the enemy. When it sounded again, more boots erupted onto the metal floor panels of the level, causing the entire floor to spark a cacophony of oncoming violence. Sparek let off two shots, punching a hole in the face of a crouching enemy and placing a crater in the chest of the one behind him. Further behind them, a head of a body bedecked in plated armour disappeared in a cloud of gore. Yuri pulled the mechanism to rechamber his rifle. Ezral punched the button on the wall that had “ROOF” stencilled upon it in fading yellow capitals and the rusting internals groaned into life. The floor shuddered, shaking their aim as metal slugs punched through the tangled mess of the gate. Clara grunted, having a groove scut out of her sides and she snarled through the pain before Harved dressed it. Sparek lost his pauldron, hanging as a mangled mess from his shoulder whilst the rest of his carapace armours suffered the chipping and denting of the mission so far, just like everyone else there.
Of their own selective firepower, most of them had hit. Their rifles and pistols tracked from left to right, choosing a target and loosing one or two rounds into enemy flesh. By the end of it Harved’s gun had jammed and most of their ammunition packs had run dry by the time that they had been lifted out of the enemy’s line of sight.
The elevator music did not go unnoticed. Sparek grinned despite the situation and Clara swore colourfully beneath her breath, checking her wound. “Everyone okay?” The collective murmur showed that everyone lived at least.
Pwcca touched his cheek where an almost direct hit had nearly taken his jaw away. It’d turned black and was pink around the edges. He was tempted to pull off his smock, but thought better of it. It was almost ruined either way and his burn could be seen where the material had been shredded away; his cheek area was on display and the cloth that covered it now dangled loosely. Harved heard the muttering and looked down. He crouched to see to Pwcca’s injury.
Adrian and Ezral shared a dark joke. “Do you think that’s blood we can smell?” Harved scowled at them and the shrinking distance between the above elevator doors and themselves.
“No,” came Sparek’s reply. “It’s salt on the air. The sea is nearby, remember.” Adrian shuffled his shoulders.
His russian accent piped up and it always surprised Sparek to hear it. “I do. It’s a joke, colonel.”
Colonel Sparek smirked at him. “I know,” he said, punctuated by the sudden shuddering of the freight elevator. It had shaken to a stop, stranding them around five foot short of the open doorway above them. A moment passed.
“Blatya leeft,” exclaimed Yuri.
“I want two of you up there.” Sparek leaned back against the wall as he spoke. “Harved, leg up Ezral. Adrian, up you go,” he commanded. Between them, Sparek and Harved’s braced positions boosted the pair to the lip of the doorway above, allowing them to climb over with a grunted, relative ease.
Sparek looked up from below his bandana. They were incredibly pressed for time, the fact punctuated by peppered fire against the bottom of the industrial elevator. A light in the floor made Sparek realise just how close Yuri’s smallest toe was to being shredded into the air around them. Yuri looked down without a care and looked up at Sparek, then upwards again.
Sparek noted the slight shift in angle of the russian’s foot as he turned it on the heel.
“Clear,” came the voice from over the ledge of the doors that accompanied Ezral’s newly appeared arm.
“Sir.” It didn’t take long for Pwcca and the rest of King to scale the remaining wall. The only snag came when Sparek offered Clara to go first. She insisted on his relocation first. Without spare time, he agreed. Up he went, grabbing Saethwyr’s arm, and turned to receive Clara – she stood on Harved’s hands and was pressed upwards. Sparek pulled her up with no difficulties before lying down and having both he and Saethwyr pull up the more nimble medic from below.
It was morning. It had been morning for a while, but now the sky had redeemed itself of its blanket of night where the sky of space stretched on into eternity, where stars and battleships in orbit blinked their lights that penetrated the still blue. Despite this, the sky’s horizon had become the colour of that of a bruise, reflecting the damaged lands beneath it where blood spilt onto the body of Demeter from so-called war between The Earth Union and The Mandate revolution.
As per standard procedure, they’d spread out atop the rooftop, taking all angles and possible entry points into account. It wasn’t the most defensible position, but they’d melded themselves amongst the air con units and air duct systems as if they didn’t want anyone to see them. Two bodies dressed in furs and ragtag civilian clothing lay in a bodily heap near a long barrelled gun emplacement that was aimed almost vertically upwards. An anti-aircraft gun. An old one too, Sparek saw. Who knows where they dredged that one from.
His earlier briefing hadn’t gone unnoticed. Ezral reappeared at Sparek’s side. “Beacon’s set, colonel.”
“Good. It’s time we got out of he-” something caught his attention and he swerved his head back around to the elevator. He could hear it moving again. “Light us up, Ezral. We need to leave!” He checked his ammunition before calling out. “Check yourselves! Pick your targets! Elevator’s operational again, assume hostile action!” Five rounds left. “Fuck them up!”
Sparek made a quick mental note of just how many people could fit in that freightlift. “Adrian, Yuri and I will take the first round! Clara, Harved and Pwcca can take the second wave and then back to us! Fire on my mark! Snipers fire last! Saeth’! Ezral! Take the rear and cover those steps!”
Wind howled across what had become battlements. The roof of the courthouse had become a small deadly bear trap for enemy forces.
Pwcca had become incredibly still. His eye stuck to the elevator doors through the scope of his rifle. Yuri, like Pwcca, sat as one of the furthest from the group. Nonetheless, he watched the elevator with a dry, sober gaze. Sparek looked around at the placement of the marines in his charge. He bloody hoped that this wasn’t a last stand.
Saethwyr’s hair blew in front of his eyes and almost melded with his beard. With Ezral, he was watching the metal-grated fire-escape – the only other passage to the roof that wasn’t the elevator. With this wind, it clearly wasn’t stable.
He shifted. His watch read as just under a minute remaining. Almost fifty five seconds left in Operation Elanor. If they hadn’t gotten the beacon’s signal, the spectre, a tiltjet heavy transport, wasn’t coming. Lt. Blake, the EU-2, wasn’t saved, but at least the secondary objective was almost completed. Another forty six seconds and The Hammer AA unit would be destroyed beyond repair. The Hammer was a towered silo that could launch and track guided missiles at aircraft, given that they weren’t displaying the correct IFF codes. It was a priority for the liberation of Penan but for now, King team was concerned about their own survival.
“Colonel!” The cry that snapped Sparek’s head up from looking at the ancient gun emplacement came from Adrian. A moment’s glance at Adrian and his singular twitch and then a glance at the elevator. Three hostiles so covered in blood that they appeared as walking crusts of scabs had managed to climb up the elevator shaft in their terrifying impatience to get to their murder-making.
“Fire!” One, two, three shots from the organised rifles of Adrian and Sparek felled them. Yuri had no need to fire. What the 9th couldn’t see was what the victim had fallen to; at the bottom of the elevator shaft gathered a large mass of frenzied flagellants, murderers and rapists. It had bludgeoned another of its comrades in the fall but was soon trampled underfoot by the gathering boots of other foes.
Above them, five of them scrambled with picks and other sharp tools up the shaft, seemingly unbothered by the chilling wind and warmed by a furious bloodlust. They too were crusty with blood, and this hid their flesh. Sparek threw his rifle to Clara and whipped out his pistol. He had an idea.
An explosion ricocheted in the distance, and Sparek could almost feel the members of Rook fireteam grinning. The Hammer AA unit that grounded all aerial units was destroyed. The main assault on the town can begin and with aerial support, minimalising future casualties as best as possible and opening potential enemy air support to being challenged by Union craft. More importantly, right now it opened up the potential for their extraction. They had to survive. At least if the extraction came for them.
Then the elevator started moving again, slowly following the second troupe of heralds above them with scum who had pushed their way in and had clotted into the crowded elevator.
“Fire!” Another snap of loosed rounds bought the corpses of four of the crawling berserkers as they appeared at the lip of the doorway. With Clara expertly taking three and Harved one, Pwcca deliberately waited another brief second after the drumbeat of the fire had stilled to explode the head of the grey skinned climber amongst the gore, fanning out like a bird’s wings. “Captain, take over!”
“Aye!” Clara thought it was obvious what to do, but obviously Sparek had some idea.
Sparek had sat at the gun emplacement’s cold, metal seat and began turning one wheel at the handle. It was stiff, but not as rusted as the rest of the machine from where it must have succumbed to the salty air of the ocean nearby from which the wind bit at him in this open position; the wind was still better than what had awaited in that elevator.
He’d finished turning the wheel oh-so-many times to turn the anti-aircraft gun the eighty or so degrees to face the elevator. Not long until they came now.
The second wheel to adjust the trajectory was stuck. It had rusted more than the remainder of the weapon and was obviously ill maintained. “What a relic,” he’d thought frustratingly. Grabbing a spigot of something on the gun and bracing himself he kicked at the handle of the second wheel.
It didn’t give way.
Another climber had appeared, followed by another. Adrian took them both but yelled out “ammo!” He had depleted and had pulled out his bayonet before fixing it to his rifle. He ran over near to Clara. He’d obviously had it in mind that the safest place in close combat wasn’t necessarily with Clara, but she’d probably be amongst the last ones standing in a swordfight. He took up a place just behind and to the left of her.
Sparek furiously kicked the damned thing again, severely putting a strain on his hands with the metal in his grip. It definitely wasn’t budging, and he definitely wasn’t giving up on it.
He saw out of the corner to his eye that Ezral and Saethwyr were discouraging some drenched enemies from braving the staircase, though one or two had draped their bodies over the railings and a small pile of what could have been three or six had almost covered the grating at the bottom of the stairs. It was impossible to see where they had been hit amongst the ragged red and brown clothing. Ezral’s teeth were clenching his unlit cigar almost to breaking point.
They were almost spent.
Clara shouted, “FIRE!” Sparek looked up briefly and saw the small horde spouting from the mouth of the industrial lift. Sparek swore colourfully and renewed the vigor in his kicks. A stiletto of shots marked the felling of a group of enemies. “ALL OF YOU! FIRE! FIRE AT WILL!” The last of the ammunition spouted from the rifles and pistols of the squad of 9th Marine and now a fraction of what was before them crumpled to the floor and back into their comrades behind them, but nonetheless the last of the ammunition had chewed through the front line of enemies with practiced marksmanship that was born out of choosing targets from sheer frustration.
None of them panicked but over the din of the rioting mess of incoherent threats that spread towards them like a catastrophically violent stampede, King squad threatened and provoked them back in return. Yuri and Pwcca had both affixed bayonets and joined Clara and Adrian. It now looked as if there’d be no pick up and with the press of bodies on all sides now, there was no time to pick up any enemy-dropped weapon and stripping them of any ammunition was clearly impossible.
Sparek kicked the wheel out of its place, and it spun back into his shin, grazing it up to his knee where his boot lurched forward. He ignored the pain and shook the pin around and around, exerting as much force into it as possible.
He screamed “fucking duck!” and every bit of anger and universe knows what out of his voice, almost spitting bullets himself as he leaned into the triggers of the AA gun. The group of marines before the gun threw themselves to either side and the gun’s heavy vibrations jerked and shook Sparek’s hands as the four barrels juddered back and forth in two pairs, throwing heavy flak that tore and ripped open the mass of bodies that bore down on the positions of Clara, Adrian and Pwcca. Yuri ran to Sparek’s side and had begun turning the dials for the colonel. Not far away Saethwyr was swinging his rifle like a club on the narrow stairs, snarling through the pain of his fractured arm.
The heavy weapon tore into the newly arrived climbers behind the group, sweeping away a drove of them in an exploding bloody mess. The elevator had returned a second time with just as big a horde and had vomited enemies forth once again. Sundering through the crowd flak punched giant fist shaped holes into bodies and faces and gouged through armour like thin strips of tin.
“UP! UP!” screamed Sparek above the chattering. He could see the prone form of Adrian pointing at the elevator and Yuri didn’t hesitate in shaking the wheel into life.
The gun slowly elevated its angle and the craters that erupted the blood and bone and sinew from the unnamed assailants travelled upwards towards the mechanical housing of the freight lift’s devices.
The magazine atop the weapon would not last much longer and Yuri yelled over the noise that there were no more, just empty shells that lay expended, covering the floor to their left.
Behind the rapid flashing of the nuzzle flare, Sparek’s face was as red as the enemy filth, willing the bullets to last just that bit longer. Through the brick. Through the mortar.
Through the machine and the thick cable that held aloft the elevator, sparks flew away from the mechanism in a cataclysmic display of maddening distress.
Amongst the flood of noise was the creaking announcement of the elevator’s demise. Inside groped the hands of survivors. Elsewhere, Clara cut down a handful of villains and the others stabbed, slashed and parried a multitude of enemies who fought back just as fiercely, pushing them into further acts of hatred and despondency.
Adrian had picked up a grenade from somewhere in the chaos and lobbed it into the archway. A second passed and the explosion shook the brickdust and concrete from the walls. At the same time the elevator’s wires snapped and fried the interior in a fireball whose heat dispelled the morning’s high wind.
This was not before Sparek looked over the blast shield and saw the one raised form of a missile launcher revealed itself from the grated corpses beneath it. He’d caught the sole glint of the rising sun in the bloodshot eyes of an insane bastard when the stubbed cone of the end of the missile itself appeared from the dark tube and threatened Sparek’s position with it’s growing size.
It arced up, suddenly offering a chance that it’d fly over their heads and explode beyond. Yuri leapt from his stand and Sparek, with only a drop beside him, prepared to leap too and follow Yuri to the floor. Instead the missile lurched downwards at a terrifying angle and hit the floor several metres away from the emplacement itself, pebbledashing the shield. The rest of the group were shielded by the airduct at their backs as they fought on.
Sparek lost his footing and the gun became angled.
He’d suddenly realised that it was too late to jump. A part of the courthouse began crumbling away beneath him and the weapon. The edge of the building fell away and plummeted to the ground several storeys below and the AA gun lurched almost slowly as the weight pushed down the unsupported floor below.
Sparek leapt. The edge was too far. His body dropped from the view of the roof.
His hand barely and painfully found purchase on the ledge below and his weight against the stone wall forced the air from his lungs as his body collided with the masonry that was still a part of the structure. Somewhere above him Clara shouted out his name.
His other hand reached above him but was delayed when overhead came the woosh and heat of thrusters that threatened to tear his grip away. The spectre had finally come and upon his position Sparek could hear the whine of the engines now hovering out of sight as he struggled to keep his grip beneath the hazing stone at his hands.
Too much pain at his tips, his fingers fell away.
Sparek watched in slow motion as his right hand slipped away from safety as his hands failed to keep the grip. His stomach lurched and his eyes grew wide with sudden realisation at the inevitable crash with the ground below, his legs would be crushed beneath his own weight, killing him with overloading shock to his nervous system.
Ezral came from above, and had thrown himself over the ledge with an outstretched hand that clasped his colonel’s forearm. Sparek grabbed back, firing pain through his joints from the wound in the corridor just as Ezral had clung to the periphery of the courthouse. Ezral somehow managed to keep his cigar firmly between his teeth.
For a few seconds they’d hung there and, after a moment, Sparek started laughing. Clara appeared over the zenith of the architecture with a face of thunder. A bloodied Adrian and Harved clamped Ezral in place as he swung Sparek to his own ledge before they were both brought over the edge by their comrade’s arms.
Clara appeared, punching Sparek’s damaged chestplate. He smirked and readjusted his bandana, which he’d now realised had hidden a flesh-wound above his brow. Blood rivered down his temple and reached his jawline. He looked around and saw the unknown dead everywhere. Much more than he’d expected.
Not one of them were marines. That was slightly more expected, he’d thought.
At a higher height the spectre hovered, the crew inside having thrown ropes and gear overboard for their extraction.
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OPERATION ELANOR TIME REMAINING 00:00:00
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– by Kier Sparey
© Kier Sparey 2014