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Authors: Nick S. Thomas

Battle Earth: 12 (19 page)

BOOK: Battle Earth: 12
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Taylor acknowledged and looked to Barclay who immediately relaxed the orders. Taylor kept a keen eye on the time and watched the seconds pass by in between watching the screens of the battle.

“We find anything here, what do you expect to do about it?” Rains asked.

“Something,” he replied sternly.

It took four minutes for them to come about and get into visual contact with the location Barclay had identified. As they did, they all looked at the screens and tried to make out what they were looking at. There appeared to be a huge round doorway cut into the surface of the canyon. It was larger than the biggest vessels in the fleet and was obvious to the naked eye, for it was the only smooth surface on the canyon floor.

“What the fuck is that?” asked Rains.

Taylor looked over to Lasure who was still on screen.

“Are you getting this, Admiral?”

“We are. What the hell is it?”

Irala suddenly appeared before the Admiral as a hologram.

“Colonel, we believe you have identified the location of a gateway built deep into the surface.”

“Guess they’re monitoring our channels then,” muttered Rains.

“Wait a second,” started Taylor, “You’re saying that’s the gateway? Not the Fatihi?”

“We have been analysing data collected from your vessel, and we believe a permanent gateway has been build one kilometre below the surface utilising the remnants of the engines aboard the Fatihi.”

“And you only found this out now?”

Irala nodded as if completely missing his sarcasm.

“Well what the hell are we supposed to do about it? Can you take it out?”

Irala was shaking his head.

“That far below the surface and protected by thick blast doors, it must be destroyed from inside. We have identified a maintenance opening inside the canyon that you should be able to access.”

“In the time we have?” asked Taylor in amazement.

“You have to try, Colonel. All our lives depend on it,” said Lasure.

Taylor shook his head in amazement, but it was all the time he needed to think. "Open the docking doors and prepare to launch!” he yelled.

“Think you can put us down on top of that maintenance entrance, Eddie?”

“Flying you there is no problem at all, but I can’t guarantee we won’t get blasted out of the air by whatever defence systems they have in place.”

“Our sensors show us that all localised weapon systems cannot target vessels flying at thirty metres below the surface.”

“Thirty metres?” asked Taylor.

Rains gasped as the docking bay doors opened.

“Can you do it?”

“Oh yeah, sure, just as easily as I can get my head blown off, Mitch.”

With that, he put all power to the engines, and they rushed off the deck and out into space. They were already in low orbit and broke into the atmosphere quickly. As soon as they were through, they found pulses rushing towards them, but Rains was already in a dive to get under the guns.

“This better work!”

The surface was approaching fast, and yet he showed no signs of slowing, and the other copter pilots were following his lead. Finally, as it looked as if they were going to plummet into the ground, he lifted the nose and kept half power to the engines and half to the hull thrusters. They levelled off just in time and came to within five metres of the craggy surface that was so jagged and coarse it would have clawed the hull open if he’d pulled out just two seconds later.

“Damn it, Eddie, trying to get us killed before we’ve even started. Let’s not forget there’s a nuke on board, okay?”

“Ain’t none of it gonna matter if we don’t live to ram it down the bastards throats!” he shouted enthusiastically.

Taylor looked at the clock. They had just two minutes left.

“No way we’re gonna make this, Admiral,” he said to Lasure.

“You just do what you got to do, and we’ll do the same.”

Taylor looked back to the maps, and they were coming up over the canyon of the location they were heading for.

“Ain’t nowhere safe for us to hang, just gonna have to put down,” said Rains.

“Visors down!” Taylor ordered. He pressed the button on the side of his helmet, and the visor slid down and latched onto the neck ring of his suit.

Rains took them right over the vast circular entrance doors in the canyon and landed them on the far side. They put down hard and bounced a little before coming to a standstill.

“Everyone out! Move, move, move!” he yelled

They rushed out to find a quiet sight. The entrance to the gateway was just as it looked, a single huge round entrance in the surface itself that was made up of two halves that locked and connected in the centre. He looked at his Mappad and then up to the canyon edge to a well-hidden entrance. It was just as Irala had said.

“There it is, go!”

They rushed up to the cut in half way up the canyon face, but as they reached it, he looked at his watch. The time was up. He looked up to the sky and half expected to see the battle raging above them, before remembering they were on the opposite side of the planet.

“They can’t last long up there, Colonel,” said Morris.

“I know.”

They rushed into the entrance, and sentry guns opened fire on them immediately. Taylor raised his shield and took one impact before leaping back around the canyon entrance. His shield was smouldering from the burning hot impacts.

“Couldn’t just be easy, could it?” he said to himself.

He pulled out two grenades, armed them, and threw them down the entrance. He waited until the blasts rang out and then rushed around the corner once again. One of the sentry guns was destroyed, but the other still fired on him. From the cover of his shield, he advanced and kept up the fire until one of his shots hit the barrel of the gun as a pulse was bursting from its tip and blew the gun apart.

As the smoke cleared, he could see they had come up against a huge thick armoured door that was three metres wide.

“Bring up the charges!”

They placed eight charges on the doorway, all close to one another. An explosion rang out as they were set off, and Taylor could see that all they had achieved was a small impact on the surface.

“What else have we got?” he shouted.

No response came.

“All the other charges you’ve got; bring me everything!”

They set the charges and took a pace back and waited for the blast. The impact rocked the ground, and it felt as if the cave were going to collapse, but as the dust settled, they could see a slight buckle in the door and nothing more. Lasure appeared on the comms. A fire was burning in the background, and he could see blood on the Admiral’s head.

“Colonel, we can’t survive much more of this. Whatever you’re gonna do, do it fast!”

“We can’t get into this facility, Sir. We need larger explosives!”

“Taylor, we’ve lost four vessels in the last minute. We cannot wait. Set the nukes and get the hell out of there!”

Taylor froze for a moment, as he tried to find some way to save the mission but was soon met by Rains, and he had no better news.

“Colonel, we’ve got incoming fighters and several hundred Mechs inbound on the surface. You can’t stay there!”

“Fuck!”

“This is over. Let’s save ourselves while we still can,” said Silva.

Taylor couldn’t believe he was going to accept it, but he had no choice.

“All right, arm one nuke here. Lang, see that the other is placed and armed at the centre of that gateway. We’ll pick you up on the way past.”

“Will it have any effect?" Silva asked.

“We can only hope.”

“Armed and ready to go,” a response soon came.

“Okay, let’s move!”

Taylor led the way and sprinted back to the copters, taking up position with his rifle as they all got aboard. Finally, he climbed in but left the door open.

“Tell the others to go. We’ll get Lang en route!”

The engines fired up, and he could see the other copter pilots eagerly lifting their birds off the ground and rush back towards the atmosphere to escape the enemy world.

“You sent him out there alone? Poor bastard.”

“Just swing by and grab him, Eddie!”

Their copter soared over the gateway entrance where Lang was punching in the codes for the nuclear weapon.

“Come on, Sergeant!” Taylor hollered as they hovered just off the ground nearby. At last he turned and rushed back towards them, but as he reached the door, a volley of pulses struck his position and hit him in the back. He collapsed into Taylor who hauled him aboard.

“Go!” Taylor screamed.

Rains lifted off and put all the power down to see them once again racing back for the Baron. Taylor turned Lang over. There were three pulse impacts in the back of his armour and another in the back of his helmet. Not one had penetrated through.

“You lucky fucker,” said Taylor.

Lang slumped down into a seat nearby and looked stunned. Taylor quickly made his way to the cockpit and watched in horror as they broke orbit. The scene before him was utter carnage. Several Aranui vessels had been completely destroyed, and many more of their own vessels floated lifelessly in space. Several human bodies bounced off of their cockpit. The battle was still raging, but it was clear they had paid a heavy price.

‘My god,” said Rains.

“Land us, quickly!”

“I’m doing it. I’m doing it!”

They rushed towards the Baron, but just as they were about the start their landing approach were struck by two heavy pulse weapons.

“I’ve lost power to engines! Life support is out! Flight controls are…limited!”

Nobody said a word as they watched and prayed that Rains could get them back home alive. They were approaching the landing area far too fast. Eddie was using all the power he could get for the forward thrusters, but it wasn’t enough. They were off course and smashed into the docking bay entrance. They slid through and crashed into the landing area before scraping across the surface and smashing into the far side bulkhead. Taylor hit the comms channel a second after they stopped moving.

“All aboard. Jump!”

The countdown began, but they could still feel impacts hitting the Baron as the docking bay doors shut behind them. Taylor slumped down onto the floor of the copter and prayed they would make it. He could feel the gravity shift they had become accustomed to, and it was all the confirmation he needed.

“We made it!” Rains said.

Taylor got to his feet and looked around. No one had suffered anything but a few bruises.

“Yeah, we made it, but we failed.”

Chapter 10
 

Taylor sat at the bar with a drink in his hand. He still wore his armour, and his rifle was slung at his side. The dust and dirt from Bursa clung to his armour and his face where he had wiped the sweat from his cheeks with the back of his dirty glove. He hadn’t even bothered to take his helmet off.

Lines of stretcher-bearers passed him as crews from the ships were ferried towards the hospital that had been established on the surface. The Diderot lay where it had crash-landed half a kilometre in the distance, with crews going back and forth. Kelly came to him first, as no one else could find the courage.

“You okay, Colonel?”

Taylor nodded as he took another drink.

“Oh, yeah, I’m just fantastic,” he replied, watching another heavily damaged vessel come into land, and fires still raged on several levels.

“We fucked up. I fucked up.”

“You can’t put this one on yourself,” Kelly quickly responded.

“Yeah? Doesn’t matter whether I do or not, we’re in deep shit.”

Kelly laughed, and that made Taylor look up.

“Now we’re in deep shit? When haven’t we been? I think you’re forgetting the war we’re in, Taylor. We’re in a war we should never have stood a chance in from the beginning. And yet, here we are, soldiering on.”

“You saw the power of their fleet and the resources they had, how can we stand against that?”

Kelly shrugged.

“We’ll find a way. You told me we could end this war by killing Erdogan, right?”

Taylor nodded.

“Has that changed?”

Taylor shook his head.

“No, just now we only have the time it takes for them to get that gateway working to accomplish such a monumental task.”

“All right, then, let’s do it.”

Taylor was silent.

“Don’t give me that silent treatment bullshit. I’ve had enough of that off others to last a lifetime. You are Colonel Mitch Taylor, and you don’t give up. You can’t. You have no right to after all this. What would Parker think?”

Taylor leapt up from his chair and swung a punch at Kelly that rocked him and made him stagger back before recovering his balance. Blood seeped from his split lip, but he made no attempt to return the favour.

“You don’t get to talk about her. You killed her!” Taylor screamed at him.

“Is that what you think? And the clone of Jones, do you blame him for the deaths that clone caused, too?”

Once again Taylor went silent. He knew Kelly was speaking sense, but he was so distraught that he could not make sense of any of it.

“Almost a day has passed, and you’re still wallowing in this shit,” said Kelly.

Irala appeared before them without warning, as he often did.

“Great, you come to have a go as well?”

Irala shook his head.

“I am sorry, Colonel.”

“For what?” Taylor asked, not understanding.

“The casualties inflicted on our people were too severe yesterday.”

“What are you saying?”

“I am here to inform you that my people will have no further part in any combat operations that take place outside of this world. We will continue to give you refuge and help in any way we can, but only here.”

“You’re abandoning us now?” he asked, although he didn’t sound too surprised.

“I told you my people could not afford to lose lives. Yesterday was the most severe loss of life for my people since the Great War. They will not fight anymore. Only I will continue to be at your side.”

“You? Just you?”

“My grudge with Erdogan goes far deeper than my people’s. I will see him dead even if it costs my life.”

Taylor nodded, but it was hard to be enthusiastic after having lost their greatest and only ally.

"You have to try and change their minds. We need them," he pleaded.

Irala shook his head.

"Their decision is final. They will no longer leave this world."

“We’re fucked,” Taylor muttered.

“We’ve thought as much before. Hell, we’ve seen a lot worse,” replied Kelly, “If there’s one thing I know, Colonel Taylor of the Inter-Allied is never down and out. He’s always in the fight, he’s always got a plan, and he never gives up. Are you still that man? Are you still that marine, Colonel?”

He had struck a nerve, and Taylor stood up in defence of himself, and that only brought a smile to Kelly’s face.

"So what do you suggest we do now? We have maybe two weeks, but that could be days or months. What do you propose we do?"

"What we should have done a long time ago. You keep saying it, and we get distracted at every turn. Find Erdogan and end his life."

"You say that, and I say that, but it never works out that way. Every time we get close, he seems to slip away from us."

Kelly looked around and caught sight of Jafar lurking in the background.

"Get over here!" he ordered.

Jafar paced casually up to them.

"Sergeant. You must understand Erdogan better than any of us; you served his kind for much of your life. How can we find him?"

"We've been through all this before," Taylor said in a weary voice.

"Yeah, well maybe it's time we tried it again, and again until we get the result we want," said Kelly.

 
He turned to Jafar for answers, but he said nothing.

"You must have something to add?"

"If I had any idea where to find Erdogan, that is where I would be now," he finally replied.

A path opened up ahead of them, and Lasure came through. He was heading right for Taylor, but he didn't get up. The Admiral stopped just two paces from him. His arm was in a sling and his head wrapped in a bandage. He said nothing as he waited for Taylor to say something.

"I had to try," said Taylor quietly.

"Of course you did. That is all any of us could do. It was worth risking all that we had to accomplish that mission."

"And yet it achieved nothing."

"Actually," Irala interrupted, "I have studied data from the blasts, and I believe you have delayed the enemy’s progress on their gateway by up to two days."

"Great," Taylor answered sarcastically.

"We can't go back there. We don't have the strength for a second attempt."

"Then what, Admiral?" Taylor asked.

"You said we had just two options, and one of those is now beyond our reach. You have just one task, one order left to fulfil. You already know what that is."

Taylor shook his head. "I get it. I know what you all want, but I don't have the answers. I don't know where Erdogan is any more than the rest of you. Believe me, I'd give anything to know."

"Well you sure won't find him moping about here."

Taylor frowned at the concept that he was moping about anywhere and stood up before the Admiral.

"You have the full resources of the fleet at your disposal, Colonel. Every man and woman working in service of this fleet is behind you now. What do we do?"

Taylor shook his head and sighed. He didn't have a clue, but at least now there were no distractions. He looked back to Jafar.

"Erdogan would never go anywhere without a sizeable entourage of his most elite troops, right?"

Jafar nodded.

"Right, then. We've been hitting strategic targets of industry and his supply network, but we've never found the boss himself there. We need to know where his most elite fighting forces are deployed, or housed, and hit them."

"That's your plan?" asked Irala, "Hit random high profile targets in the hope you'll find Erdogan?"

"You got a better one?"

Nobody said a word.

"Irala, do you still have access to the surveillance drones in our Solar System?"

"I can provide you everything we have done previously, except the lives of my people. They will help you while it does not involve leaving this world and this system."

"All right, then. Find me a location. Better still find me many. Look for places that are lavish, and where the elite would reside; the sort that Jafar was when he was still one of them, the type of exclusive place that only the best of the Krys could expect to reside. They have a rigid class system, so they can't be hard to find."

"Can't be all that easy to attack either," Kelly joined in.

"You forget that until that gateway is operational, we still have the element of surprise. The enemy fleet over Earth has been dwindling throughout this war. Earth is weak right now, and Erdogan knows it. We have a small window to exploit that weakness before our world is lost to us for good."

General White was approaching from behind the Admiral and pushed his way to the front.

"Looks like you have some plan coming together," he stated.

"Just as Kelly says. Let's do what we should have done a long time ago. Let's kill the bastard!"

He stopped; realising dozens of officers and troops around them had stopped to listen in.

"If Erdogan gets the reinforcements from Tau Ceti, then this is over.”

He turned to Irala.

“I don’t care what your people think, once Erdogan has that technology working and the armies of his people rallied, he will come for this place; and all the technology and wonders in the world won’t save you from his wrath.”

Irala clearly agreed with him, but it was clear to both of them that there was no reasoning with them.

“What are you thinking?” White asked.

All eyes were on him now. They all looked for Taylor for the answer and would accept whatever he had to say.

“All or nothing. We might only have a week left to try and find Erdogan. I say we jump back to Earth with every fighting man, woman, and vessel we can muster. Everything.”

“And the civilians?”

“They’ll be safe here, Admiral, under the protection of the Aranui, and if we don’t go, they’d be lost anyway.”

“An all out attack?” asked White, “We’ve barely started hit and run attacks. Yes we’ve been successful, but you’re talking a whole different ball game.”

“You’re damn right I am. Erdogan knows what a danger that jump gateway presents to us, and he also expects us to expend our resources trying to destroy it. He wants us to break our forces over that target, and then he’ll mop up the survivors at his leisure.”

“And you think risking it all is the only way?”

Taylor stood up and stretched before standing tall amongst them.

“So far we’ve never put more than a few thousand troops on the ground, but we have hundreds of thousands at our disposal. We probably have close to a half of what he has on Earth now, and we can choose when and where we strike. The only thing stopping us hitting with everything we have got is the fear of what we have to lose, but it’s clear now that in another week or two, we’ll lose it all anyway. Right now the enemy’s armies are spread across the globe. We hit multiple targets on many fronts all at once, and we hit them hard.”

“What if the Aranui are wrong about that gateway? What if the Krys are years away from getting it working again?”

“They haven’t been wrong yet, and do you want to take that gamble?”

White shook his head.

“Hey, I never wanted any of this. I was born to fight, not to lead, but I can see we’re on a gradual path of destruction. We have the chance to decide our fate now, and in a week or two’s time it can be over, one way or another.”

“What do you think?” White asked Lasure.

“I have heard no better suggestions. The enemy fleet orbiting Earth is modest. If we arrive in force, we can destroy that fleet and take control of the system. Then it’s down to the rest of you to get the work done on the ground.”

White looked to Jafar.

BOOK: Battle Earth: 12
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