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Operation Comet
 
Old 15 Aug 2007, 09:32   #1 (permalink)
42
Shas'El
 
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Default Operation Comet

The Valkyrie bucked and shuddered as tracer fire from the ground lanced up into the morning sky and stitched across the airborne assault carrier’s flight path. Large calibre rounds bounced off its nose cone and engine cowling with ominous clunks and bangs. Vaughn gripped the overhead loop tighter as the aircraft lurched suddenly down towards the rolling sand dunes below before righting itself and lumbering on through the incoming fire. Steadying himself on the door frame, the port side door gunner shot him a grin. It was grim and humourless. Orange tracer fire zipped past the open door and from his position next to the crew chief, Vaughn could see the objective drawing closer. Shifting his weight and hanging on the leather loop attached to the ceiling, he peered out to see the second Valkyrie off to their port side.
There were over a hundred and fifty such aircraft closing in on the hydro processing plant; one hundred and sixty Valkyries had lifted off for the 1,500 kilometre flight, escorted by thirty Vultures and a throng of Thunderbolts from 1002nd fighter wing. Presently only minutes out, a couple dozen aircraft had broken off from the formation and now bludgeoned their way towards their respective landing zones mere metres above the sun-baked sand while the main body of the Elysian 23rd cruised in at high altitude to drop onto the hydro plant via grav-chute. Three of those aircraft comprised two Valkyrie-borne Storm Trooper squads attached to 1st company and a Vulture gunship. As they drew ever closer to the compound the resistance grew stiffer.
‘One minute!’ Sergeant Caldus yelled over the din of the howling engines, gesturing with a raised finger. The men in the cabin began loading their high-yield lasguns, lowered their visors and donned their thick fast rope gloves. Flexing his hands in the heavy gauntlets, Vaughn felt Petrovic tug at the homing beacon strapped to the small of his back to ensure its fastening.
Newly elevated to the Storm Trooper company, Troopers Petrovic and Vaughn were the junior members of the unit. They had known one another since enrolment in the Schola Progenium at the ages of Fourteen and sixteen respectively, and had been the two most promising aspirants in their platoon during training. Eight years later they had graduated from the Schola and had been assigned in the 709th; the first of the Elysian 23rd’s two permanently attached Storm Trooper companies. Storm Troopers were inducted into the Schola Progenium at a young age as the orphans of high ranking officers and respected military figures. There they were schooled and trained in covert operations, airborne assault, demolitions and all manner of military skills so that they would number among the Imperium’s best. Upon graduation they would be assigned to regiments in the field as had need. Enrolment in the Schola encompassed a full basic-level education with particular emphasis on the Imperial creed. The mid-stages of training, after education as was necessary, consisted of a series of brutal trials in the most inhospitable climates, strung together with precious little time between each. It was a process designed to turn boys into men, and then break the lesser among them leaving only the strongest and most determined at the end of it. Those Progena who failed but had not been slain by the ordeal were destined to serve the Ministorum or Adeptus Terra, but the strongest; those that showed the greatest potential and resolve were eventually elevated to the role of Imperial Storm Troopers. Perhaps some would say a life doomed to soldiery and eventual death on some distant battlefield was no reward, but for the Progena true service to the Emperor was from behind a gun, laying waste to the enemies of the Imperium. The Progena were trained to believe with every fibre of their being that death in service to the Emperor of mankind was the final stamp of a lifetime of faithfulness and that their place at his side would be assured. All those enrolled in the Schola Progenium sought to one day become instruments of the Emperor’s will, and while elevation to the ranks of the Imperial Guard’s officer class was beyond the reach of most, to call themselves Storm Troopers was an honour within the grasp of every Progena had they only the will to seize it. But training was not easy; it was a heartless process that shaped the successful applicants into grim instruments of death; psychologically impervious soldiers in peak physical condition, well-versed in the operation and handling of dozens of different weapon types and explosives, trained for deployment and tactical operation in numerous conditions. Training lasted until they were deemed ready for service by the Drill Abbots. The Drill Abbots were veterans of the Imperial Guard’s finest units and often graduates of the Schola Progenium themselves. Vaughn and Petrovic had passed selection having spent their childhood enduring the sort of trials few men would face in a lifetime, and had subsequently found their place in the 709th. The two slots in chalk 5 had opened up after a room by room clearance of a factory complex that had been taken over by rioters. The Imperial response had been swift and brutal, but it had cost the squad two men. Vaughn and Petrovic had requested the places and had duly received them.
Now here they were on their first operational tour, thundering in towards a hydro processing plant on the desert world of Taros; The lives of thousands of Imperial Guard soldiers hanging in the balance, dependent on the success of the 23rd’s mission. The Imperial forces on the surface of Taros were desperately low on water and if they couldn’t secure hydro processing plant 23-30 then all would be lost. General Syckava had volunteered the regiment to drop in and clear the facility, making the most of the element of surprise, then hold it against all comers until a combined arms task force could break through the Iracunda Isthmus and relieve the drop troops. It was up to the Storm Trooper squads to rope in ahead of the main body of the airborne assault to secure landing zones and place beacons for the grav-chuting Elysians. A drop into an enemy held location was always fraught with danger, but dropping into a busy sector of the battlefield when the entrenched enemy had no more pressing targets than the men falling from the sky was suicidal. It was the role of 3rd and 5th chalk to deploy directly onto pumping station two and the central control complex to secure two of the critical locations in the compound and open up a ‘safe’ drop zone. It was Vaughn’s job to deploy chalk 5’s beacon for the grav-chuting elements of Captain Hebron’s company.
As the three aircraft reached the perimeter of the complex, they tilted back and shifted engine thrust to the vector nozzles. Sporadic ground fire speckled their armoured hulls as they roared between the tall settling tanks, rapidly decelerating as they approached their drop points. The door gunners answered in kind with their heavy bolters, sending juddering volleys of return fire towards the source of the enemy tracers. Wisps of smoke swept through the crowded cabin after every burst and left a feint whiff of fyceline in the air. The Vulture took up an overhead position to provide cover fire as the Valkyries started to slide to a halt in mid-air some fifteen or sixteen metres above the ground. The moment the aircraft began to level out one of the crew chiefs turned to Sergeant Caldus and nodded. He immediately slapped the ‘open ramp’ button and gestured with both arms out in front of him in an upright posture with clenched fists.
‘Ropes!’ he held his arms out either side and repeated the gesture, ‘Ropes!’ At the rear of the cabin, the two rearmost Storm Troopers unhooked the thick fast rope coils from the bulkhead and stepped out onto the still lowering rear ramp as the aircraft finished levelling out into a stationary hover. Hooking the ends of their ropes to metal loops welded to the tail booms, they tossed the loose coils out the back and gave the ropes a sharp tug to ensure their secure fastening. After one final burst the door gunners swung their heavy bolters inside and stowed them, snatched up ropes of their own and cast them out of the open side doors; the ends were already securely hooked to the underside of the wings. Vaughn was the closest man to the port side door; he slung his carbine, adjusted his helmet and stepped to the opening, waiting for the Sergeant’s word.
‘Go! Go!’ the Sergeant jabbed at the openings with his gloved hands in a ‘karate chop’ fashion. With a deep breath, Vaughn grabbed the rope with both hands and swung his feet out to catch it. Loosening his grip he began to slide down to the ground. Almost all Elysians were trained to fast rope, but for a Storm Trooper it was different; as first into a combat zone they would invariably receive the heaviest fire as they deployed, so getting on the ground as fast as possible was crucial. This being so, Storm Troopers were trained to practically fall down the rope, braking their decent at the last moment. The weight of their extended armour plates and additional equipment gave them great momentum, and it was entirely possible for a man to break his legs if he didn’t grip the rope tightly enough or gripped too late. As the swirling dust storm below rushed up to meet him, he could just about make out the shape of the Vulture hovering about fifty metres to his left. Heavy bolter fire stuttered from the nose mounted cannon, snaking between the pipes and suppressing the enemy. The full and terrible weight of the gunship’s fire could not be brought to bear as collateral damage to the facility was to be avoided lest it be rendered useless. Vaughn twisted his grip around the rope in a towel wringing fashion as he passed through the maelstrom, rapidly slowing his descent to land safely. His hands were warm from the friction.
He, and the three men around him, bent their knees as their boots slapped down onto sand swept concrete platform, and scurried away from the rope as their comrades descended. Vaughn took a knee in his assigned eleven o’clock position and immediately opened fire on a group of rebels on an overlooking gantry fixed to the side of a tall holding tank as they snapped las shots at the descending troops and fumbled with their heavy bolter. Petrovic thumped down behind him, assessed the situation in a split second and, under cover fire from Vaughn’s carbine, sprinted across the platform to take up position behind the pipes closest to the rebels. Vaughn’s heavy fire struck home and tore through one of the rebel’s shoulders, spinning him around. Another was struck in the neck and a third square in the face as Petrovic spun up and out of cover to add his fire to the barrage. A heavy thump and a clatter behind him caught Vaughn’s attention, he turned to see Sharpe’s twisted body sprawled in the sand at the foot of the rope; enemy fire had cut him from the line and sent him tumbling to the ground. Gormann, the team medic, had touched down with him and was at his side in moments. Removing his right glove he reached down pressed two fingers against Sharpe’s neck. Overhead, the door gunners disconnected the ropes from the wings and sent them tumbling to the deck. Gormann tugged off Sharpe’s ID tags, looked up at Sergeant Caldus and made a cut throat gesture with his bare hand before snatching his carbine from his back and scurrying clear of the falling tail boom ropes.
Those men first to touch down were on their feet and moving into cover as the Valkyrie overhead started to tilt forward out of its stationary position. Vaughn came clattering into cover behind the pipes next to the radioman, Lianus.
‘Chalk five on the ground, one less. Out.’ Storm Trooper radio discipline was less rigid than for the regulars, they just said what they needed to say and got on with it. Lianus pressed his gloved left hand to his earpiece and bared his teeth. ‘Chalk three has taken three casualties already.’ he informed the team.
Poised on one knee, Sergeant Caldus cursed at the news and spat into the dust. ‘Alright, let’s do what we came here to do.’ jabbing a finger at Hamas he began to issue orders as the engine noise of the Valkyrie rumbled away, leaving the whine of the Vulture’s vector jets and the staccato thudding of its heavy bolter as it engaged targets of opportunity. ‘Blue team, get down there and watch the western approach. If it moves, kill the hell out of it. The only nearby friendlies are chalk three, and they’re over there.’ he gestured to the central control complex east of their position. In the distance they could just about make out the under-strength chalk three engaging rebel forces on the roof of the central control complex. Emperor willing, they would soon descend into the interior and clear it room by room. Hamas nodded his understanding and led his fire team west, vaulting down off the concrete platform to take position behind a high-capacity water pipe.
‘Red,’ Caldus growled as hard rounds pinged off the pipe work and machinery that comprised their cover. ‘Take up position over there by those loaders next to the road. The 23rd will be jumping any second. Vaughn, get that beacon out there, do that now, go!’ Vaughn nodded as he removed his right glove and tucked it into his belt. The Mk. VII Accatran pattern lasgun (heavy) was a potent firearm that operated in the 28 megathule range and packed a punch far in excess of the standard Mk. IV that was issued to the bulk of the Elysian forces. The downside to such formidable firepower was that the Mk. VII ‘Hellgun’ could only draw enough power from a single standard power cell for twenty five shots and was prone to overheating. It was standard practice in Storm Trooper companies to retain their supporting hand’s fast rope glove to protect against the searing heat generated in prolonged engagements, while leaving the bare trigger hand free to operate the weapon. Reloading was a little awkward with the reduced sense of touch, but easily overcome with practice.
As one, red team rose up and dashed down the steps to the corner of the secondary pumping station to their north. Behind him, Vaughn could hear Caldus addressing the two remaining members of gold team and directing them to follow him to the eastern approach.
Corporal Dane dropped to one knee and peered round the corner. He immediately sighted rebel forces dashing about at the foot of a building on the other side of the road and raised his carbine to engage. Moments later, the Vulture that had previously been hovering overhead adjusted its engine thrust and roared past them, spitting fire from its chin turret on its way out. To Vaughn’s left, Schilder plucked a smoke grenade from his belt and primed it. He raised his bare hand to feel the wind before tossing it out into the open ground between the building and the heavy plant at the roadside. Vaughn followed suit and as they waited for the smoke cover to billow up and produce a decent screen he reached back and tore away the Velcro strap securing the homing beacon. He lifted it from its hook and allowed his hellgun to hang by his hip as he twisted the knob on the side. With a barely audible bleep, the beacon came to life and began flashing its unique infra red signature that identified it as ‘Chalk five’ in the visor displays of the descending drop troops. Vaughn looked to the sky and snapped up his own visor to see that the drop had begun; Elysians were already tumbling into the sky from their Valkyrie airborne assault carriers.
‘Go!’ Dane yelled over his shoulder, snapping shots off as the disorganised enemy troops over the road. Schilder and Vaughn took their cue and made the dash out into open ground under cover of the smoke clouds lazily drifting across the gap between the buildings and the industrial vehicles. To their right, on the other side of platform, Pasaki and Petrovic were running in a stooped crouch in Sergeant Caldus’ wake. They were making their way east to cover the only other approach to their position.
Suddenly, blue fire streaked past Vaughn’s head, noticeably warming the air it passed so close. In a split second he knew he couldn’t run through it and instead went to ground in a shallow gully that had probably been gouged in the earth to lay cables. The cover it provided from the torrent of fire was minimal but it was enough. Vaughn looked to his left as the blue bolts chased after Schilder; he was too far from cover when they caught up with him. Even from the ditch, Vaughn could hear the wet slaps as the pulse rounds tore through him, finding the gaps in his armour by dint of sheer weight of fire. He hit the ground without so much as a murmur and lay still in the sand, his wounds smoking. A thin gap in the smoke screen revealed the source of the fire; it was a Tau burst cannon emplacement. Vaughn blinked in surprise; it had not been spotted in the aerial photos and had caught them off guard. Another burst of blue fire tore into the earth at the lip of Vaughn’s gulley and he rolled onto his back to avoid the bolts of energy as they snaked upwards, slicing the air mere inches from his chest.
‘This is red three,’ he said, speaking into his helmet micro-bead, transmitting short wave to all of chalk five. ‘I’m pinned down in the open by a Tau sentry gun. Red two’s down.’
‘Got that,’ Lianus crackled back, ‘Hang tight, I’ll bring the Vulture back round.’ Vaughn lay still in the gulley, daring not to move except to slide the beacon up onto his chest. Above him, the sky was full of men, grav-chutes flaring for the final portion of the decent, it was an awesome spectacle. Hundreds of Elysian Drop troopers thronged the clear blue sky, all vectoring to descend into the vicinity of their area of responsibility. As he lay there in the dust, he wondered which of them were numbered among 1st company’s two hundred and fourteen fighting men. Only a single platoon would be dropped on his position, but that was still over forty men due to touch down right on top of him in less than a couple minute’s time. If that sentry gun still stood by the time the men reached the ground, their numbers would count as nothing. All around him the sound of distant fighting resounded and echoed among the storage tanks; the pop of autogun rounds, the snap of las fire and the staccato thuds of a heavy bolter. The cracks and rumbles of frag grenades sang out, carried by the breeze in the morning air. Not far to the north, just over the causeway, he could make out the sound of Valkyries deploying men to secure pumping station one. It was possibly the most surreal experience of his life; lying there in the ditch, gazing up at the blue sky, speckled with the ever growing incandescent dots he knew to be grav-chuting soldiers. If he were deaf it’d be like watching a glittering man-made snowfall. But he wasn’t deaf, and as his senses picked out the different sounds of the fighting around him, he became acutely aware of the thin whine of an inbound aircraft. The noise rose steadily to a whistling squeal and then suddenly became a deafening roar as the Vulture boomed overhead, releasing a solitary hellstrike missile. Vaughn didn’t see the impact, but he heard the thunderous crack as the ordnance struck home.
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 09:32   #2 (permalink)
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Shas'El
 
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Default Re: Operation Comet

Dane’s voice in his ear confirmed it, ‘Turret’s down! Legs, take post!’ Legs. That was his nickname; fastest man in the 709th…or so they said. He did ‘Colonel’s hill’ in five minutes flat and held the record for the ‘Ammo run’. Deputy master Cornell of the Schola Progenium had taught him speed often meant the difference between life and death, and he was thankful for the blessing. Rolling onto his right side and clambering out of the gulley, he could see the smoking ruin of the sentry turret and the silhouette of the Vulture as it climbed into the morning sun.
‘Moving!’ Vaughn yelled as he planted the beacon and dashed for the tracked power-lifter by the road. He rushed out and grabbed Schilder by his webbing straps as he went and hauled him behind the huge vehicle. There was no time to check on him now; the rebels were settling in on the other side of the road in a sandbagged emplacement at the foot of the building. Smoke screens worked both ways.
‘I’m in, move!’ he bellowed, raising his hellgun and rapid firing into the emplacement. The smoke was beginning to clear but if Dane didn’t cross now, Vaughn would be isolated and easily overrun. If that happened, the perimeter of the landing zone would be broken. So cross he did. Las fire snapped across the road, blasting sun-baked dust and rocks up at his feet. Of the fusillade of fire assaulting Dane’s foolhardy dash, one round struck him in the shoulder guard and knocked him down mere feet from the lifter. Pounding off his last remaining shots, Vaughn stooped and reached out his hand. The wounded Storm Trooper readily accepted it with his good arm and was hauled into cover.
‘Is he dead?’ he asked, pulling himself upright and nodding at the broken form of Schilder, holding his arm to staunch the bleeding. Vaughn didn’t answer, but merely broke out a first field dressing and started wrapping it around Dane’s upper arm.
‘Can you fight?’ he asked.
Dane laughed, it was a momentary chuckle before the sudden pain caused him to wince. The absurdity of a junior team member asking him if he could fight entertained him.
‘Whadd’ya reckon? Can you win this battle all by yourself?’
‘Don’t fancy my chances.’ replied Vaughn in earnest, tying off the dressing and tucking the loose ends into the tight strips of fabric.
‘I don’t have much of a choice then do I?’ Dane grinned. He stooped and unhooked Schilder’s weapon from his torn corpse. ‘Here, hit that shell scrape.’ he said, pressing the meltagun into Vaughn’s chest. It was a heavy and cumbersome weapon that lacked range and had fuel enough for only five shots, but its destructive power was beyond question. Vaughn took a knee as Dane raised his damaged arm with a grunt of effort to fire his own weapon at the entrenched heavy weapon team.
Vaughn slung his carbine and deftly removed the sling of the meltagun. Checking the status indicator briefly, he rose to his feet and planted the weapon’s bipod atop the lifter’s chassis. He steadied his aim by bracing his body against the vehicle and pressed the butt into his shoulder with his left hand. It was an easy shot, he couldn’t miss. Bracing with his right leg out behind him, he squeezed the trigger and sent a white-hot lance of sub-molecular pyrum-petrol gas searing across the road to tear through the low sandbag wall and vaporise the occupants of the shell scrape.
The rebel soldiers screamed an awful wailing song of excruciating pain. Their sizzling and deformed shapes tried to claw their way out of the bunker, their faces a mixed expression of horror, panic and agony. Mostly agony. Vaughn hauled the smoking weapon off the vehicle and planted it at his feet. Two loud cracks rang out from Dane’s carbine and the screams were silenced. Slouched against the side of the lifter with one leg out in front of him and the other bent, Vaughn glared at the weapon’s glowing ceramite muzzle.
‘Red team, one less. Position secure.’ he uttered into his micro-bead.
‘Blue team holding. All clear.’ Hamas sounded off.
‘Standby, chalk five.’ Caldus crackled back, ‘Watch your arcs and await further orders.’ Vaughn hauled himself up onto one knee and removed Schilder’s tags from his ruined corpse, gazing at them in the palm of his hand for a moment as the sun glinted off the engraved Aquila. He passed them to Dane and stripped out his carbine’s power cell, he could feel the spent cell’s warmth through his glove. The priests and commissars were always telling him that heretics deserved to die in the most awful ways possible, but he’d never held with that; there were differing degrees of heresy. Perhaps it was heretical even to think that? He didn’t care. He knew he had no qualms about delivering screaming death to the twisted legions of chaos, but the men they fought today were clearly not of that ilk. He wondered whether they even believed in their cause, or fought only because they knew destruction was the alternative. Whatever the case, they were the enemy and he was sworn to destroy them, by whatever means. He clipped a fresh cell into his weapon and hefted it to shoulder height, gazing down the road to the south.
In the distance Vaughn could make out the shapes of the last few Valkyries as they lifted up above the towering settling tanks and water silos, their passengers disgorged into the maze of pipes below. Tracer fire still whipped up sporadically at the Vultures as they swooped in to destroy sentry turrets and entrenched heavy weapons teams. They hovered periodically and popped up to launch hellstrike missiles before ducking back down and tilting away. Truly, these pilots were an elite force in their own right.
Vaughn shook off the distraction as las fire erupted around his position once again. Rebel soldiers had crept into the building over the road and had taken up firing positions on the first floor. With hissing roars, the first of the drop troops started to land behind him and immediately came under fire from the snipers. As the men touched down, most within the secure perimeter, they unclipped their grav-chutes and let them fall clumsily to the ground before running for cover. Not all of them made it. Some were cut down as they fled; others landed outside the perimeter and found themselves immediately surrounded. Dane and Vaughn poured suppressive fire into the building which was soon matched by a number of drop troops as they regrouped into squads, forming up on their Sergeants.
‘Loading!’ Dane yelled, dropping down behind cover, stripping the hot power cell from his carbine’s magazine port. Vaughn continued to hammer the windows and kept the troops inside pinned down while his senior comrade slapped a fresh power cell into his weapon and swung up to bring it to bear.
Vaughn counted off every shot as he squeezed the trigger; twenty three, twenty four, twenty five. The ammunition count on the side of his hellgun read zero and bleeped twice. He dropped down with his back to the las-shot riddled power-loader and ejected the spent cell, calling out his operational status. He glanced up as a number of drop troopers came sprinting towards him in a low crouch. They were dressed in sandy brown jumpsuits and grey body armour with heavy helmets and dark visors lowered over their eyes.
‘Lambert. Fourth squad.’ the lead Elysian took a knee beside him and introduced himself. The winged skull on his left shoulder guard and the white stripe on the back of his helmet indicated the rank of Sergeant. ‘What’s the crack here then, Trooper?’
‘Four or five hostiles holed up on the first floor.’ Vaughn yelled over the din of Dane’s fire and that of the newly arrived fourth squad, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder at the building behind him. Still clutching the fresh power cell in his gloved hand he raised his carbine by the pistol grip and slotted it into the empty port. There was a subtle whine as the weapon hummed back into life. ‘Nothing heavy, but those walls are too thick to penetrate.
‘Just keep them pinned for a few seconds.’ he said. Lambert nodded. Vaughn nudged Dane with his elbow as he ducked down to reload for the second time and gestured at the building. ‘Fourth squad are going to cover us.’
Dane nodded his understanding, ‘Let’s do it!’ he reached out and jabbed Vaughn’s clenched fist with his own and slapped another power cell into his carbine, ‘You got us, Sergeant?’ Dane directed the question towards Lambert.
‘Yeah, go!’ he yelled in reply as fourth squad poured fire across the wide road. Vaughn and Dane were up and moving without hesitation. Ruby red fire slashed overhead and tore masonry out of the wall, blasting shards of glass in every direction. It wasn’t a long distance to cover, perhaps little more than forty metres, but time always seemed to slow down in such situations. Vaughn sprinted as fast as his heavy carapace armour would allow, placing one bulky foot in front of the other and heaving his weight forward with every step. Dane lagged behind, clutching his carbine with both hands and working his arms to keep up. A pair of rebel soldiers appeared from behind a rusty fuel bowser to their left, clad in dusty desert smocks and headscarves.
The two Storm Troopers reacted in an instant, firing from the hip without breaking their stride, bearing the two newcomers to the ground, crumpled and broken. They slammed bodily into the wall at the foot of the building and Dane dropped to one knee covering the road to the south as Vaughn pulled a grenade from his belt, primed it and tossed it expertly through one of the broken windows on the first floor. Not satisfied with just one grenade, he turned and snatched a second from Dane’s raised hand, offered up as he continued to watch the road. After pitching the second grenade through the shattered windows above, Dane rose to his feet and slapped Vaughn’s breastplate, immediately regretting it as pain erupted from his wounded arm.
‘Alright, let’s go!’ he shouted. Vaughn swept his hellgun up from his side and followed his team leader back across the road. A moment later the first grenade detonated, sending jets of smoke and torn shreds of paper bursting from the shattered windows. The resounding bang was accompanied by the screams of those caught within. A second explosion followed shortly thereafter, hurling a broken body from the opening.
Running back across the open ground, Vaughn could hear Sergeant Caldus’ voice in his ear, ‘Chalk five regroup on me.’
‘Red team, roger.’ Dane replied shakily, his heavy footfalls jerking his diaphragm and disrupting his speech.
‘Blue team, roger.’ hissed Hamas.
‘Get that.’ Dane instructed pointing at Schilder’s still smoking Meltagun.
On his right, between the concrete platforms and machinery, Vaughn could see two members of blue team breaking away from their position and heading east as a drop troop squad took their place. Corporal Hamas paused to point out the principle threat vectors to the squad’s Sergeant before dashing off after his fire team. A few men still descended from the skies here and there, but most of the first drop were already on the ground. Among the last few sticks fell the Sentinels; lightly armoured bipedal machines that supported a bulky open topped one-man ‘cockpit’ with sturdy rolls bars forming a protective cage around the pilot. Each sported a single heavy weapon; a heavy bolter, multi-melta, multiple rocket launcher or a missile launcher, and they provided the Elysian’s heavy firepower on the ground.
The makeshift airbase from which the 23rd had struck out was too distant to allow the Vultures great deal of time on station, even with auxiliary fuel tanks. Much would depend upon the Sentinels.
Their retro rockets burned bright as they fell, the built in grav-chutes suspending the fighting vehicles upright to land feet first. They soon fell out of view behind the tall structures all around the compound and Vaughn followed Dane around an enormous pumping assembly to hook up with the rest of the chalk.
The stocky and heavily built Trooper Pasaki was propped up against a wall, clutching a wound to his hip. A medic from the company command squad was fussing over him, attempting to strip the bulky armour to tend to the wound. Had he not been so well protected, the heavy bolter round would have punched into his flesh and burst within. As it was, the armour plates he wore had caused the round to glance away; the wound was not life threatening.
‘I’ll be alright.’ he took a gulp from his water bottle, ‘I’m indestructible, me.’ He grinned despite the pain. He was out of the fight though, leaving Petrovic as the last able-bodied man from gold team.
Sergeant Caldus nodded, ‘Petrovic, you’re now part of red team.’
‘Guess that makes you red two, junior.’ Rasped the wounded Pasaki, ‘Here, swap.’ He said, raising his plasma gun. Petrovic unslung his carbine and swapped it for the wounded veteran’s weapon. Pasaki checked the carbine’s ammunition count and removed his helmet, ‘Go earn your tally.’ He winked and closed his eyes, furrowing his brow at the pain. The tally to which the older Trooper had referred was an unofficial symbol of seniority within drop regiments, one that had been adopted by the Storm Troopers attached to the 23rd. Troopers would score a single mark into the left side of their helmets for every combat drop survived. Pasaki had nine.
Petrovic snatched up the belt of hydrogen flasks from Pasaki’s side and joined red team in the kneeling huddle around the Sergeant. Hamas and Lianus listened in, but maintained a vigil over the eastern approach. Corporal Dane pressed Schilder’s ID tags into the Sergeant’s hand.
‘So we’ve lost two men. We’ll drink to them later. Right now we’ve got a job to do.’ He turned to the first company’s Captain and waited for him to address the squad.
‘The Boss’, Captain Hebron, was very well respected by the rank and file. Not every officer knew when to turn a blind eye to indiscretions, but the Captain had the pulse of the men and knew good morale and a firm foundation of trust in the chain of command counted as much as skill at arms. The Captain was currently engaged in a vox transmission to one of his outlying squads.
‘Killik, don’t make me come over there and show you how it’s done. I’ll kick your butt from here to Elysia.’ an inaudible reply crackled back. ‘Then knock the bloody wall down! See that it’s done.’ Vaughn smiled. It entertained him to see that the Captain’s radio discipline was even shabbier than theirs. He passed the handset back to his signaller and turned to face chalk five as they settled in on one knee in a crescent around him. ‘We’ve got a Valkyrie down. It’s chalk four. Word from Krieger’s chalk is that they took a missile hit before roping in and attempted to limp clear. Not sure what happened after that, guess the engines gave out; they came down over the Chlorination works.’
‘Survivors?’ Gormann asked as he disinfected Dane’s wound and changed the blood soaked dressing.
‘Chalk six reports sporadic weapons fire from the vicinity of the crash site so I guess someone’s still kicking, but they’re in no shape to go in after them. Sentry gun fire tore them up pretty bad.’ he paused momentarily as he overheard a status report from one of his platoon commanders and snatched up the handset to issue orders.
He returned the handset moments later and addressed the team once again, ‘Hook up with first platoon over the road and get to that crash site.’
‘Sir!’ Caldus acknowledged his orders and rose to his feet, ‘Alright, boys. Let’s get it done!’
The squad rose and headed south to the roadside, whereupon red team took up position to cover the others as they dashed across the open space to a cluster of rusting oil drums. Having made it safely across, they got into firing positions to cover red team as they crossed.
As expected, the road was secure and no shots came. First platoon had been thorough. Evidence of their handiwork was scattered all around; robed figures lay still in the dust, face down and splayed out in violent poses that told stories of their last moments before autogun fire found them. Distant shots still rang out from the other side of the complex, accompanied by the muffled crump of mortar rounds. A thin film of sand washed over the ground with the breeze and began to gather on the bodies. There were Elysians numbered among the dead also. Their twisted and broken forms showed signs of massive trauma and their cauterised wounds were the signature of energy weapon impacts. Looking east down the road, Vaughn saw the outline of a ruined Tau sentry turret of the sort that had slain Schilder. Many men had died here, many that would not have had to if proper reconnaissance had been carried out. He spat out a mouthful of gritty dust and glanced over his shoulder at Petrovic who just shook his head in dismay.
‘Let’s go.’ ordered Caldus, tugging Vaughn’s arm. The Storm Troopers shuffled quickly into the shadow of the big biochemical storage tanks and soon met first platoon’s command squad taking cover behind a concrete hard stand upon which was piled various industrial consumables and spare parts for the machinery.
At the foot of the platform knelt Lieutenant Drummer, surrounded by his veteran command squad. The men elevated to serve in their platoon’s command squad were always the most experienced fighters. Each typically had around a dozen jumps etched into their helmets, eight being the recognised number of jumps required for ‘veteran’ status. Within the Elysian 23rd, veterans were often collected into single squads and given free reign on the battlefield to operate independently of their platoons, putting their initiative, experience and outstanding marksmanship to good use. Such squads got the lion’s share of the platoon’s special weapons and equipment too. Serving in a veteran squad was a mixed blessing; it was a privilege to be recognised as one of the regiment’s premium fighting men, but platoon commanders demanded results from their best soldiers. Such undertakings as were expected of the elite were often fraught with danger.
The four men surrounding Lieutenant Drummer were likely hand picked for the command staff and taken from the veteran squads, selected for their individual skills as much as their experience. Their job was to keep the platoon commander alive. The Elysian 23rd was famed for the leadership of its officers, but that didn’t mean the youngest among them didn’t occasionally do stupid things for lack of experience. Drummer’s command staff were well equipped to provide advice and guidance when called upon, but moreover they were there to pull the Lieutenant to the ground by his belt or push him into cover should he pause in the wrong place.
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Old 15 Aug 2007, 09:33   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Operation Comet

‘Still not dead, old man?’ Vaughn quipped as he came to rest beside one of the burly drop troopers. The veteran Sergeant turned at the sound of the familiar voice and snapped up his visor as he laid eyes on the Trooper.
‘Well I’ll be. If it isn’t young Vaughn!’ He declared jabbing him in the shoulder with a clenched fist, ‘How’ve you been, boy? Too busy drinking with the glory boys to pay your old Abbot a visit?
Caldus visibly stiffened at the remark as he conversed with the platoon commander. The man never missed a thing. Storm Troopers were deeply respected and admired by the rank and file whilst simultaneously resented and shunned for their special treatment and the very respect they were afforded. It was a strange paradox.
Fighting men of all arms knew well how hard they themselves fought and the sacrifices paid in blood by their friends and brothers in arms, and knew that they were no more respected for their deeds than the next man. That being so, the celebrated Storm Troopers were often regarded with disdain and branded with such derogative titles as ‘Glory boys’ and ‘Special forces’, with particular emphasis on the word ‘Special’. Vaughn grinned, not yet so indoctrinated in the company that he couldn’t take a light-hearted dig. As fate would have it, Veteran Sergeant Valdoon had been one of Vaughn’s Drill Abbots back at the Schola, although he suspected it was Valdoon who had made arrangements for his induction into the 709th. They had grown very close during those years and Valdoon had returned to his unit shortly before Vaughn’s graduation. Perhaps he would have thought of him as a father figure…if he hadn’t hated his true father so much.
‘Don’t go and get killed now, you still owe me a drink for that thing in the place…you know what I’m talking about.’ the Sergeant winked.
‘How could I forget a thing like that?’ replied Vaughn with a smile, ‘We’ll catch up later.’ he turned to face his Sergeant and listened in on the conversation he was having with the Lieutenant.
‘Listen, we’ve got too many wounded to move right now.’ explained Drummer, ‘I’ve got to get them evacuated to the staging area. Right now I can only spare second squad.’
‘Alright, alright, they’ll do. Is that them over there?’ Caldus pointed to a cluster of drop troops hugging what little cover they could by the roadside.
‘That’s them.’ the Lieutenant confirmed, ‘We’ll be behind you presently, Sergeant.’ Caldus wasn’t listening anymore; he was already making his way towards the entrenched soldiers. His team followed behind him in a low crouch.
Second squad’s Sergeant turned to face Caldus and snapped up his visor as he approached, revealing a jagged scar over his left eye. He narrowed his eyes slightly, ‘Somethin’ I can do for ya, Sergeant?’ he asked Caldus.
‘You’re Sergeant Danna?
‘Aye, ‘s me. Call me Jorgan…or Scarface. Whatever.’
‘Marlon Caldus. You see that smoke?’ Caldus pointed into the Chlorination works.
‘Mmm, wounded bird went down during insertion.’ he sniffed absently, ‘Valkyrie by the looks of it. Saw it on my way in. Landed hard.’
Caldus nodded, ‘We’re going in there for the survivors.’
‘Survivors, eh?’ he inquired raising an eyebrow.
‘I hope so.’ Caldus replied earnestly.
‘Going in without Sentinel support?’
‘There isn’t much time.’
‘We’d best get on then.’ Danna looked past Caldus to address his squad, ‘Elysians down, boys. Let’s fetch ‘em back!’ A series of whoops and cheers declared the drop troopers’ eagerness to serve their brothers in arms. Though the Storm Troopers attached to the Elysian 23rd were from all walks of life and precious few were actually born on Elysia, Vaughn was pleased to see these men regarded them as kin. As Valdoon had once told him, ‘in a foxhole there are no allegiances except to the man beside you’.
Caldus led off into the compound with his team flanking him. Once they were over the road, they broke into their fire teams and began leapfrogging from cover to cover. Danna’s squad followed close behind operating in two five-man teams. They passed the bodies of the slain rebels which had already started to attract flies. Being this close to the sea meant insects were in abundance; an irritation Vaughn had just begun to notice. At least out in the vast reaches of the burning desert, there was nowhere for the damn bugs to breed, but here they were again. How he hated their infernal buzzing.
He remembered his time spent training in the swamps; not so much for the stifling humidity or the thick muck that made every step a labour, nor for the fear nurtured by the bleak darkness of the fog-filled nights. What he remembered most about those damned swamps was the plethora of insects that accompanied the daylight hours. In the morning you would be woken by big black flies that often tried to crawl into your nose and ears; in the afternoon tiny Pascal flies would throng the air, thousands of them, in great clouds that seemed to come out of nowhere; and in the evenings you’d spend the hours before dusk swatting dozens of surprisingly noisy little bastards that insisted upon biting you all night. Vaughn hated insects.
In the distance the discord of combat rattled on. Rippling cracks from automatic weapons were answered by staccato snaps and dull thuds. The enemy were clearly far from beaten. Despite this, their progress to the crash site was largely unimpeded. They had expected to fight every inch of the way.
As if to answer Vaughn’s thoughts, a pair of rebel soldiers suddenly broke cover and dashed across open ground as the Storm Troopers closed on their position. Their flight was short lived as combined fire from both teams cut them down and sent them tumbling to the ground. Caldus gestured to move on, and the men split up into smaller teams to sweep down the length of a few runs of pipes that formed ‘alleyways’ of sorts.
Taking a knee at end of the pipe run, just around the corner from the crash site, Caldus held up his right arm with a clenched fist and glanced over his shoulder to ensure his signal had been seen. Both squads took position in cover as best they could and waited. There was nothing to be heard but the distant fighting and the soft rustling of sand. The Sergeant reached up to a small short-range radio on his chest and clicked the channel selector switch to four.
With urgent hushed tones he whispered into the micro-bead, ‘Chalk four, chalk four, this is chalk five. Can anybody hear me?’
There was a delay of a few seconds before a ragged voice answered, ‘This is chalk four, I hear you, five. Caldus, that you?’
Caldus smiled, pleased to hear the voice of an old friend, ‘Yeah, it’s me. How’re you doing over there, Alby?’
‘Not good. It’s just me, Dinger and Beano. Beano’s hurt pretty bad and I don’t know about the pilots, but it doesn’t look good. Everyone else is dead.’ came the hissed reply.
‘Alright, we’re coming to you. Hold your fire to the north.’
‘North? Geez, Baggy…I don’t hardly know which way’s up or down no more!’
Corporal Alberton’s grim sense of humour coaxed out a grin, ‘Just don’t shoot us, Trooper.’
‘Got that.’
Slapping the arm of the man behind him to get his attention, Caldus rose to his feet and led off round the corner, the Storm Troopers followed suit with Sergeant Danna’s squad trailing behind.
Vaughn could see the crash site just ahead; there was a lot of open ground between here and there. Looking around quickly, he vaulted over a waist height pipe, dashed across to a pile of wreckage and dropped to one knee. He scanned the criss-crossing gantries overhead and reacted to a sudden wisp of sand that whipped up next to some boxes. There was nothing, just a few bodies here and there of those the survivors had killed defending their position. He glanced to his left. The Valkyrie was a mess. Both tail booms had be torn off by the impact along with the starboard side wing, which lay in a pool of burning fuel some twenty metres away. The port side wing and landing leg was crumpled under the weight of the aircraft, leaning as it was in the trench gouged in the sand by the carrier’s impact. Much of the nose cone was buried also. The canopy glass was shattered and the pilot was motionless; his head drooped and bloody. The co-pilot was definitely dead.
Caldus hurried over the sand and leapt over a smoking section of engine cowling, while the men of chalk 5 and second squad encircled the crash site and took cover behind smouldering wreckage wherever possible. He came to rest next to a wounded Storm Trooper crouching in the shade of the ruined aircraft. His left arm was bandaged and he looked pale. Another trooper was propped up behind him, leaning against the side of the Valkyrie.
Most of his armour had been stripped off and a jagged shard of metal protruded from his ribcage wrapped either side with first field dressings. His head lolled in semi-consciousness and an ‘M’ had been marked on his cheek along with a time, indicating the application of morphine. Two empty syrettes hung from his collar, their needles bent. ‘Pretty bad’ was an understatement; Beano was near death.
Wordlessly, Caldus motioned to Petrovic for the stretcher. Slinging his plasma gun, Petrovic unclipped the tightly folded stretcher from the small of his back and held it out for Vaughn to pull straight.
Caldus placed a hand on Alberton’s shoulder and passed him by to kneel by Beano’s side.
‘Still lucid, buddy?’ he enquired with a forced grin. Beano made no reply but rolled his head to face the Sergeant and looked him in the eye with mournful stare. ‘Hold on, alright? We’re going to get you back to the lines and fix you up, good as new.’ He nodded weakly. Vaughn and Petrovic appeared and took hold of him, gently trying to manoeuvre his bulk onto the stretcher without causing undue pain or further damage. Beano didn’t make a sound as they manhandled him and laid him flat.
Behind him, Vaughn heard a dull thud from the front of the aircraft. He turned to investigate. There was movement in the cockpit.
‘The pilot!’ he exclaimed, ‘He’s alive!’
Caldus looked up in surprise, ‘Well, get him out!’ Vaughn lifted himself up on the footholds on the left side of the cockpit and planted his right foot atop the sensor array. Leaning in through the broken glass he tugged the canopy manual release catch and attempted to lift the buckled frame to free the trapped crewman. The pilot was groggily regaining consciousness. Dry blood ran down his cheek from his temple where his helmet was buckled and cracked from a violent impact.
‘Welcome back, soldier.’ Vaughn grinned as he struggled with the canopy. The pilot squinted in the burning daylight and he craned his neck to look up at he man clinging to his cockpit.
‘You’re not one of mine.’ he declared after a moment spent observing the Storm Trooper’s efforts.
‘No. Vaughn, chalk five. We’re here to get you out.’ he replied. Vaughn gave up trying to lift the canopy and pulled out his long combat knife from a sheath strapped to his right calf. He jammed the blade into the gap between the buckled canopy frame and the cockpit hull and levered the twisted metal loose. Fortunately, his blade was of sturdier stuff and didn’t break with the effort.
It was one of the new pattern blades made by the Standard Template Constructor Imperial scouts had discovered on Geyluss Auspix. The hallowed Adeptus Astartes had of course been the first to be outfitted with the new steel, and although not yet issued to the rank and file of the Imperial Guard, the first batches of the lighter, stronger blades had started to reach the elite arms of the Imperium. Vaughn was glad of this as the canopy popped loose.
‘Alright, we’re winning.’ he declared with a thin satisfied smile. ‘Can you move?’
‘My co-pilot, Lieutenant Jenkins…he’s dead isn’t he?’ the pilot asked grimly, staring past the console in front of him. It was more of a statement than a question. ‘How many did I lose?’
‘Don’t think about that now,’ Vaughn’s smile vanished, ‘Let’s just get you out of here, ok? What’s your name, sir?’ the pilot seemed slightly taken aback by the formal address.
‘Vandeer. Brim Vandeer.’
‘Ok, Brim. How do you feel? Can you unbuckle your harness for me?’
‘My head hurts like hell and I’m a little dizzy, but I think I’m ok.’ Vandeer fumbled with the quick release harness for a moment with his gloved hands and wriggled free. With Vaughn’s help he lifted himself out of his seat and leaned heavily on the edge of the cockpit gaining his composure.
‘Steady, sir.’
‘My name’s Brim, Vaughn.’ he reminded the trooper.
‘Yes, sir.’ Vaughn replied ironically. He helped the uneasy pilot from the cockpit and half lowered him to the ground. Getting his footing in the sand, Lieutenant Vandeer staggered to the passenger compartment and grew suddenly weak upon seeing the devastation within. He leaned against the hull with both hands and threw up.
Aircraft crew formed close bonds over the years and regimental command would try to keep the same crews together wherever possible. Experience gained while working effectively as a team was greatly valued. While every crewmember recognised their duty to one another and to their passengers, the pilot would consider the safety of his passengers as his personal responsibility. The broken bodies slumped within and scattered about in the sand mortified him.
A shadow fell on him from behind and a gloved hand rested on his shoulder. ‘We’re still here, Brim.’ boomed the voice of Trooper Bell, ‘Me an’ Alby…we’re ok.’
Vandeer looked up at the hulking Trooper silhouetted in the sun. ‘It wasn’t your fault.’ he reassured him.
‘We can’t stay here.’ interrupted Caldus. ‘Jorgan, can you spare a couple of yours to carry our wounded man?’
The Sergeant nodded, not at all offended by the suggestion that his men were inferior soldiers by comparison, and gestured for two of his junior squad members to pick up the gravely wounded Storm Trooper.
‘I’ll do it.’ declared Vandeer, stopping one of the men in his tracks.
‘Sure you’re up to it, Lieutenant?’ asked Caldus.
‘I’m not a rifleman, Sergeant, and if we run into trouble I imagine you’d want all the shooters you can get.’ Caldus nodded in acknowledgement.
‘Alright, let’s move o-’ Caldus began.
‘Sniper!’ Lianus yelled suddenly, cutting him off. He blasted two snapshots in the direction of a distant water silo. As if to confirm his sighting, a single high-velocity shot snapped across the open ground and struck down a drop trooper as he stooped to pick up Beano on the stretcher. His limp corpse slammed bodily into the side of the aircraft and blood splattered across the hull from the gaping wound in the side of his head.
Vaughn reacted immediately and rushed to pick up the now vacant end of the stretcher.
‘Everyone, move!’ bellowed Caldus gesturing forward with his arm. Vandeer and Vaughn lifted the wounded Storm Trooper and hurried after the Sergeant. To his left, an Elysian dashed past and was knocked sprawling sideways into their path by a second shot. He was dead before he hit the ground. They stepped over him and kept moving. There was more than one shooter out there now and multiple shots were pattering into the sand and pinging off wreckage.
The two squads rushed in the direction indicated by Sergeant Caldus, pausing momentarily behind what sparse cover there was available to lay down return fire. Somewhere to the west another rebel squad had evidently heard the gunfire and had rushed to occupy a firing position. Heavy bolter tracers whined overhead now and snaked down into the sand as the gunner adjusted. A couple of the explosive rounds struck Lianus in the back and hip as he ran, shattering his radio and sending him tumbling to the ground howling in pain. He clutched his gaping wound, desperately trying to stop the bleeding.
Gormann and Hamas immediately ran back and grabbed a webbing strap each. Together, with explosive rounds tearing up the ground in their wake, they hauled the Trooper behind them at a near-running pace. The two squads carried out a staggered retreat towards a small building that served as a monitoring station for the chlorination works.
Corporal Dane led the way, kicking in the door with his massive size thirteen boots. He swept into the building aggressively, with his carbine ready in his shoulder. Petrovic was right behind him.
‘Clear!’ announced Dane, turning left into one of the building’s two ground floor rooms. Petrovic turned right through the other doorway and declared the same, doubling back to follow the Corporal upstairs.
Outside, Sergeant Danna ushered his men into the building along with the wounded, while Caldus laid down whatever suppressing fire he could manage.
‘Caldus, let’s go!’ he yelled over the din of exploding rounds and hellgun fire. The Sergeant turned and made for the door. He was mere feet away when a heavy bolter round found him. He arched his back suddenly, his face contorted in pain. A fine mist of blood burst from behind him and he collapsed at the threshold with a horrific wound to his back.
Danna grabbed his arm and hauled him inside. One of the drop troopers slammed the door shut and bolted it. The Sergeant collapsed at the end of the short corridor at the foot of the stairs and sat with his back to the wall. He unbuckled his helmet and looked down at the remains of Sergeant Caldus sprawled before him.
Dane appeared at the foot of the stairs to see his friend laying face down on the dusty tiles. He crouched down at his side, leaning on his carbine, and bowed his head with a sigh. Behind him, Petrovic said nothing.
In the next room, the drop troopers took up firing positions at the two windows. Vaughn and Vandeer put Beano down and stepped away. Vaughn removed his helmet and wiped his brow with the back of a gloved hand. Brim leaned on his knees panting heavily. One of the Elysians kneeled at Beano’s side and removed a glove to check the Storm Trooper’s pulse. Wordlessly he pressed his hands to Beano’s chest and jabbed downwards sharply. After eleven compressions, the Trooper pressed his fingers to Beano’s throat once again and tilted his head back to breath air into his lungs. After a second and a third effort to restart Beano’s heart and get him breathing again, he looked up gravely and shook his head. Vaughn cursed and hurled his helmet across the room. He ran his fingers through his hair and stalked back into the doorway.
For the first time, he saw that his Sergeant was dead also. Vaughn cursed under his breath. In the room opposite, Gormann was tending to Lianus who squirmed under the weight of his team mates as the medic attempted to stop the bleeding. The morphine would numb the pain in about fifteen minutes, but that’d be no good if he bled to death first.
Turning away from the spectacle he slumped down against the wall next to one of the drop troopers beside Beano’s corpse. The man slipped a crushed and beaten cardboard box out of his jumpsuit pocket and drew a lho stick from it between pursed lips, staring wide eyed at the dead Storm Trooper across from him. Vaughn could see his hands were shaking too much to light it. He took the lighter from his quivering hand and lit it for him.
‘First jump?’ he asked. The soldier nodded hastily, not making eye contact. Vaughn turned away and tilted his head back to lean against the wall, staring up at the ceiling. He breathed out a slow sigh and closed his eyes, ‘Me too.’
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Old 22 Aug 2007, 03:03   #4 (permalink)
Shas'Ui
 
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Default Re: Operation Comet

Why hasn't this piece gotten more attention?

Pros
+An accurate (in terms of contemporary military action) piece that expresses modern warfare procedures and tactica
+Great pre-mission information on the protagonist that made him possibly more 'real'
+Awesome, gritty descriptions of gratuitous violence that are easy to follow and quite cinematic
+Provides a very first-hand experience with involving settings and stressing situations (even for us readers)

Cons
-Lack of background synopsis (Taros? I thought it was rebel, turned out to be Tau as well...)
-Inept depictions of the hydro processing plant (once the Storm Troopers were in I had no reliable mental images of where the characters were going or how they found themselves mired in many calamities)

Overall, this piece is brilliant if only for its military accuracy (I believe I know the author actually) which helps engulf the reader into the action as one of the novice Glory Boys. Well done!
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Old 03 Sep 2007, 09:46   #5 (permalink)
Shas'El
 
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Default Re: Operation Comet

I think the story is borrowing too heavily from the Taros Campaign. It is clear that it is the same operation as described in the book, but to my eyes this loses some of the appeal, since the event seems "copied". It's not a copy, since most of the story is about the actual combat on the ground that the IA3 explained in few short paragraphs, but the first feeling you get when you start to read is that it is a "copy" of the event in IA3, a plagiarism of sort.

As for the main story, it is maybe a bit too action filled. The few short moments of pause (hero lying in a ditch pinned down by turret looking into the sky for example) seem too few,and the combat becomes the "default tone" of story. As such, it loses some of it's danger, and excitement, and the highlights of danger seem to lose their effect. I also had trouble distinguishing the characters: their names were thrown out with minimal description of them causing me to quickly lose tract of who was who, and soon I just started ignoring the names, and following by "some guy joins up" level of detail. However, it does create feeling with chaotic combat situation, where very many people are present, so it could be this was the meaning also.

The death of the sergeant in the end was a bit too "theatrical" (fits too well) somehow, but it could be that it's just me.

Now, I'd take two assumptions :
-If took the IA3 page that shows the map of the compound, I assume the events could be easier to track from there, with map giving the location of landmarks mentioned in the story. Did you write this with the map as reference?

-Do you have some service background? The use of language on some of the terms and radio signals seems somehow "professional", so I started to wonderif you actually have had some sort of service, or are familiar with the military communications.

Overall it is a good story, the largest problems I see is the character name/detail mess (unless it was meant to be like that), and the constant battle, which tends to lose the edge of any combat event and dulling it all to non-dangerous non-special situation which just happens to take place in middle of firefight.
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