Read Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour Online

Authors: Mark E. Cooper

Tags: #Space Opera, #Science Fiction, #war, #Military, #space marines, #alien invasion, #cyborg, #merkiaari wars

Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour

BOOK: Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour
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Contents

What Price Honour

By

 

Mark E. Cooper

v1.005

A word on language and pronunciation
 

This book was written and produced in the United Kingdom and uses British English language conventions. For example the use of ‘ou’ in the words colour and honour instead of the American spellings: color, honor. Another example would be the interchangeable use of ize and ise in words such as realise or realize. Both are correct.

The Shan are an alien species with their own verbal and written language, but for story purposes all Shan dialogue is translated into English. However, names of characters remain as close as is possible to the actual alien name. See examples below for pronunciation:

Shima = Shee-muh

Tei’Varyk = Tie-va-rick

Kajetan = Kah-jet-an

Fuentez = Foo-en-tez

 

Part I
 

One year ago…

Chapter 1
 

Planet Thurston, Border Zone

Year 217 AST (Alliance Standard Time)

Gunnery Sergeant Gina Fuentez slapped a hand to her cheek. With a muttered curse, she pulled it away to reveal a mosquito the size of a heavy cruiser splattered over her palm, still oozing the blood it had just hijacked… if it was a mosquito. Insects were about the only things on this cursed planet she did recognise, but the size and shape of this one was only vaguely familiar.

Earth was far away; familiar sights such as insects and trees on this world, gave only a skewed impression of a jungle on Earth. The sun was like, yet unlike Sol. It was almost, but not quite, the right size in the sky, and almost the right colour. The sickly orangey-yellow light of this sun, filtered through the thick canopy of the jungle, and heated the undergrowth almost beyond her Marines’ endurance. The operative word here was almost. The Alliance Marines, of which she was a fifteen year veteran, were the best at what they did. A little heat and sweat wouldn’t affect their performance one way or the other.

Gina glanced aside to check her people. All were well concealed and keeping low. Her squad consisted of ten of the best Marines she had ever met, and that included Major Stein back at base. They were her friends, her people, and the Corps was her home. She had no other home or family, but that didn’t matter as long as she had the Corps.

She wiped the sweat from her face through her open visor, and then slapped it shut. Sweating was preferable to being bitten to death. Her helmet systems reactivated the moment her silvered visor clicked shut, and she focused upon what the HUD (head up display) was telling her.

Not a hell of a lot.

She tongued a control and scrolled through the menu. She selected communications, and browsed the channels that were accessible to her. None of her squad was on the air—as it should be. She flicked from channel to channel hoping to get lucky and hear the rebels. Back at base, they often listened to the so-called Freedom Movement’s propaganda. It was always good for a laugh, but today they were silent, which in itself was unusual.

She activated her comm. “Eagle One to all Eagles, status check.”

“Eagle Two copies. No joy, repeat nothing in sight.”

“Eagle Three copies, no joy.”

“Eagle Four, no joy.”

“Eagle Five…”

Gina acknowledged reports from all of her people. As had been the case previously, they had seen nothing. Every half hour she repeated the routine until Eagle Three suddenly broke it.

“Eagle One, Eagle Three. I have movement directly ahead. I make it two-point-three klicks and moving fast.”

She didn’t even think of checking her own sensors. If one of her people said there was something coming, then there was. “Eagle Three, Eagle One copies. Can you identify?”

“Negative. Repeat negative visual,” Corporal Grace Wingate said. “It reads as Human in size,” she added helpfully.

“Eagle One copies, keep your eye on it.”

“Aye, aye. Eagle Three out.”

Gina switched channels and contacted base. “Red One, Eagle One.”

“Eagle One, Red One. Go,” the quiet voice of Lieutenant Strong came back instantly.

“Am observing movement two klicks east of my position—advise over.”

“Acknowledged, Eagle One. That’s our boy. Take no chances—repeat no chances. Red One clear.”

“Aye, aye, sir. Eagle One clear.”

So, this was it. They had been briefed to expect a recovery operation but they hadn’t been given a precise time, which in this case meant someone had been working undercover and needed extraction fast. She had no idea who this man was, but that didn’t matter. Her job was to see to it that he reached base in one piece, and the bad guys didn’t. She watched him on her sensors. He was moving damn fast, totally ignoring the danger of detection, which said to her he had already been detected—more, it meant he was being pursued.

Gina selected a channel. “All Eagles, this is our boy. Eagles Three, Four, and Five—hold position. I want the rest of you to pull in as he passes. Watch for pursuit and nail them.”

“Eagle Three copies.”

“…Four copies.”

“Five copies.”

Quiet acknowledgements came over the comm as she watched the man jump a fallen tree ahead of her. She blinked in astonishment as he flew through the air completely ignoring gravity. He landed hard and rolled to his feet, and that was when she saw the wound. One arm ended in a bloody and broken stump just below the elbow. To keep going with a wound like that, he had to be running on adrenalin alone. One last leap had him skidding to a halt, and rolling into her dugout. He was an Anglo, tall and broad shouldered with slim hips. He was wearing a mud-splashed brown coverall of civ design, with no devices or sensors on his person. How the
hell
had he known where she was?

“The name’s Eric,” he said without looking at her. He was staring hard at his back trail. “I suggest we get the hell out of here, Sergeant.”

Gina blinked. He wasn’t even breathing hard. “Your arm,” she said reaching for her medikit.

Eric slapped his good hand onto hers in a blur of speed, but his grip was exceedingly gentle as if afraid of breaking her. “I’m fine, my bots took care of it.” He studied the trees for a long moment and nodded. “Good, your people are moving back. Call the last three in and let’s go before…” he snarled a curse. “Too late.”

Gina’s eyes focussed upon the sensor data displayed on her HUD. A wall of light codes was approaching her position. Just as she was about to give the order to open fire, Grace opened up. The AAR (anti-armour railgun) thudded repeatedly, and was joined by the lesser stuttering of outgoing pulser fire from Eagles Four and Five.

“All Eagles, Eagle One—fall back in pairs and give them covering fire!”
Gina screamed over the comm.

She couldn’t see the enemy visually, but she added her weight to that of her people. A storm of pulser fire went out shredding foliage and anything hidden within it. Her magazine ran dry; she slapped another in place with economical motions barely halting her fire. When she ran dry again, she slapped another in place.

Pags and Pike pulled back leaving Grace to hold the line, and then set up covering fire for her. Grace gave the jungle another burst before diving passed them and reciprocating in kind. The manoeuvre was perfectly executed.

Gina ducked as the rebels sought and found her position. She hugged the dirt as they saturated the air above her with lethal rain. Something tugged at her sleeve, and she hissed expecting pain, but to her surprise it didn’t hurt. She glanced aside and found the sleeve of her uniform flapping free as if cut with a knife. It had been a near miss—a very near miss.

Grace was hosing the jungle on full auto as the enemy came into sight. Trees were turned to toothpicks and roman candles, as a railgun designed to take out armoured vehicles literally wiped the jungle ahead of her clean. Suddenly a thunderous explosion shook the air, and Grace vanished in an eye-searing ball of light.

Heavy grenade launcher!

Gina had no time to grieve for her oldest friend, nor for the AAR, which was her only heavy weapon. The rebels walked their fire along her position and away. Instantly, she propped herself on her elbows and switched to full auto in an effort to suppress the rebel’s increased fire. Her people were still too far forward to concentrate their effort, but they were having an effect. The enemy was withering under the storm of pulser bolts, but her rifle was heating dangerously. She switched to semi-automatic, and picked her targets with care. The rebels were wearing armour, but a three round burst from an M18-AP pulser took care of it. With relief, Gina watched the enemy go to ground. Outgoing fire slowed to a trickle as her people changed to single shot. She was proud of their discipline, but as their fire died away, the enemy opened up all at once and it was her Marines’ turn to hug the dirt.

She tongued a control in her helmet, and zoomed her optics trying to see where the grenade launcher was, but although these people were amateurs, they still knew to keep their ace well back. Her software package had located some of the rebels by backtracking pulser blasts—the locations were painted red on her HUD, but the grenade launcher was another matter entirely. The MkIV tactical helmet was proven technology, but grenades could not be tracked in flight, which meant the software had nothing to work with. She couldn’t see the launcher, but she did see something else. Among the pulsers in enemy hands, there were old style slug throwers as well. She was glad the bastards had supply problems, but it didn’t help her situation. A well handled slug thrower would kill her just as dead as a modern pulser. Her flapping sleeve testified to that.

Gina ducked as the enemy turned their attention back to her position. She tried to pull Eric down with her. He snarled something at her and pulled a pistol from inside his clothing. On one knee, entirely exposed to the enemy, he fired his own slug thrower and killed his target, and then again and again. His fire was unerring. Every shot found its target, and that target died.

“Red One, Eagle One!”
Gina screamed over the din. Whatever the gun was, it was louder than her rifle.

“Eagle One, Red One. Go,” snapped the reply.

“We’re under heavy fire!”
The grenade launcher dropped one nearby and the ground erupted. “Completely on the defensive. I’m pulling back—request air support.”

“Negative, Eagle One. Ground cover is too extensive.”

“Not anymore, sir. Grace cleared a large section before she bought it. Drop it in the centre and you’ll nail most of them.”

“Red One copies, it’s on the way.”

Gina opened fire again. “Eagle One clear.”

“I’m hit!”
a voice screamed from nearby.

“…God! Oh God…” bubbled another over the comm.

It was Pags.

Gina bit her lip, pushing the grief away, as Corporal ‘
Pags
’ Paglino sobbed into his mike and died. Pags was…
had been
a good man. All of her people were. She had screwed up. Recovery operation or no recovery operation, she should have brought the heavy stuff.

BOOK: Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour
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