Note: Another Mission Report from Kingfisher. Probably should be rated for violence, but what the heck! :-D
The explosion lifted the hapless body of the Ranger Coproral a few feet into the air, blood spurting from the stump in his legs, to fall a few yards away from Lt. Hurnain. Kingfisher winced in pain as the hot shrapnel from the Chig mine burnt the side of his face.
Kingfisher wished he could dig in deeper into the ground; his nails raked the soil, urging his body flatter into the ground. Chigs poured rounds after rounds into the decimated ranks of the Earth Forces around him, tracer fire whizzed by as the bullets flew only this far above him. Kingfisher turned his attention towards the injured Corporal. He lay on his back, both his legs blown off by the mine, but still alive. Kingfisher glanced back. Private Johan was taking cover behind a fallen tree stump, exchanging fire with the Chig gunners on top of the hill.
"Swift!," KF shouted. "Cover me, I'm trying to pull in the Ranger!"
Swift nodded. He adjusted his M590 Ballistic rifle from single-shot to full-auto.
When he heard Swift's rifle spewing a constant stream of fire, Kingfisher crawled up and attempted to rescue the injured Ranger. Kingfisher reached the Corporal and half dragged, and half carried him to safety. A Chig bullet creased his helmet. A little too close for comfort.
The Lieutenant deposited the Corporal in a small gully where Gossy, was establishing an emergency infirmary. The small depression stank of dried blood and death. He could see Gossy attending to a New Zealand infantryman, who had had his ear shot off.
"Present for you Gossy," puffed KF
"Put 'em down here Lt.," Gossy said pointing to a clear spot, vacant of wounded.
"I'm running out of space here, Lt," Gossy said. "If the evac ship doesn't reach here soon, some of them won't make it"
Kingfisher looked around the gully, where scores of wounded lay. Some with head wounds and bloodied faces, some with missing limbs. But all had that thousand-yard-stare; eyes vacant, staring at nothing. Others moaned quietly.
Kingfisher patted Gossy hand and said, " Make do Gossy, make do," and ran back towards the fighting. He dodged the fire and came careening to Falcon's position. Falcon was manning a Vulcan cannon, trying hard to fire and reload it with only one hand. Kingfisher saw the Falcon's gunner's mate, a newbie named Shrike, was dead beside him. Kingfisher glanced towards Falcon's arm. Falc had hastily bandaged the raw looking wound .
"What happened Private?" asked Kingfisher
"Chig mortar fell right in front of us. Missed the cannon but Shrike wasn't so lucky. Took the blast squarely on the face. Shrapnel hit my arm," Falc said
Kingfisher nodded and scanned the battlefield. He saw Gabrielle, 'Hawk', taking cover behind a gigantic tree, similar to a Redwood back home on Earth. The private rose from her position, fired her M579 grenade launcher and took cover hastily as the Chig gunners from the top of the hill, jabbered at the private's postition.
Kingfisher signalled towards Hawk to come to him. Hawk looked up and nodded acknowledment. Seconds later, after zigzagging through the fire, she came to rest beside the Lieutenant.
Machine gun fire chattered furiously, as behind them the Marine's only howitzer fired beehives, millons of tiny hot needles hurling through the air, completely useless in this terrain.
"Hawk, help Falc with the Cannon, we need the fire support badly," shouted Kingfisher through the racket.
"Sure Lt," answered Hawk and took to her task immmediately, reloading the cannon.
Kingfisher then ran from his cover. Acrid smoke stung his eyes and burnt his throat as he continued up the hill, firing his rifle as he ran. He saw Capt. Yasmin, 'Garuda', behind a boulder, negotiating for air support from the Yorktown.
Kingfisher emptied his rifle at the enemy's position and dived at the last moment at Garry's feet, as a Chig mortar round exploded a few metres behind him, hot shrapnell missing him by inches.
Slamming in a fresh magazine, Kingfisher turned to Garry and said, "Captain! You'd better get those Hammers down here quickly, lest there be a massacre,"
"I'm trying," answered Garry. " The Yorktown's under attack by 3 Chig destroyers, at least, and can't spare the fighters. They told us to hold our positions, the hill must fall,at all cost."
A sudden noise came from his right. Kingfisher brought his rifle up, fingers at the trigger, expecting to see a Chig advancing towards him. He was relieved, instead, to see Major Yap, 'Sparhawk', tumble down beside him and Garry.
"Lieutenant, I'm giving the orders to pull back. No air support, no artillery support, we'll be Chig beef if we'll try to overrun their positions," panted the Major
"What about the Rangers?" asked Garry.
"Colonel Hussein's dead. Direct hit by Chig mortar, killed his adjuntant too. I'm in charge of this siege now," answered Spar.
Garry tuned her PRC to the emergency frequency and at once the morbid radio show came after. As usual,in your basic-honest-to-goddamn battle conditons, radio discipline was first to go,
"Receiving fire! Receiving fire!"
"Chigs all around us, need fire suppo...."
"I'm hit! I'm hit!"
"Shoot direct <untranslatable>-it, shoot direct!"
Horrified voices poured out in the early twilight sky. Tinny voices, shrill with fear and pain and damage. Every radio in the place was turned on, and each told the same story. Confusion. Pandemonium in the most original sense of the word. The demons were there. Nobody could find the Ranger commander. They didn't know that he was dead, blown in half by a mortar round.
"All platoons, pull back! Pull back!" Garry nearly screamed on the radio, urging, pleading, beckoning. The stress was clear in her voice because the whole operation was turning into a first class boondoggle.
As Comms officer of the company, Garry's PRC was equipped with an override facility for the guard channel frequency, enabling all the radio handles to hear, whether they were blind, dumb and deaf or just plain stupid.
Slowly, the attacking hosts retreated back to the staging area, carrying their wounded and dragging their dead. Others covered their retreat. The firing subsequently stopped as the Marines, Rangers and New Zealand infantry regrouped at the bottom of the hill.
The grey dawn mist surrounded the hillside with an eerie feeling.
Bodies lay strewn everywhere, humans and Chigs alike. Lieutenant Zeb lay in her fighting hole, gripping her rifle tightly. The air chilled her to the bone. The lull in fighting was a welcome relief to the Earth Forces soldiers, but they knew the fight was not over. It would never be over.
The Engineering officer squinted into the distance, it would be dawn soon. The pitch black darkness played in her vision a little while longer. But, there was light, on the other side of the hill. A reddish glow potrayed the furious firefight taking place between the 6th Malaysian Armored Divison and the well-dugged in Chigs on top of the hill. The terrain was mush flatter there, easier for the tanks and APC's to move. But the Chig artillery was there too. She knew, as they did, that the Armored Division was taking a hell of a beating.
Her musings brought her memories back to the first day of the Operation. Operation White Wing had been undertaken by the 1st Asian Task Force Group. The operation was essential, as the Earth Forces command had committed all their manpower for this operation. Their target was Planet Boonwell, situated in the Kuiper Belt.
Throughout the war, the planet was and had been controlled by enemy forces. Chig and AI's alike... and the burnt-out husk of the Icarus Mining Facility was once the remainder of a former POW camp, which was captured and subsequently destroyed when White Wing was carried out.
Hill 375. Coordinates YZ234637. A heavily fortified Chig command Post. They had artillery emplacements, 500mm's spewing death miles and miles into the countryside, Lidar installations, gun turrets, machine gun pillboxes, mail orders, postal service, the works... everything except door to door salesmen and pizza delivery services.
The planet was in the front line of the Chig advencement towards Earth. Operation Roundhammer had stopped that advance, as the Chigs mustered their remaining efforts to stop Earth Forces from reaching the Chig's home planet. Earth Forces had landed 16000 men and women on the planet and nearby moons. The Chig navy struck back two days later, destroying two carriers in the first of many battles fought in the Kuiper belt.
Chig troops attacked the defence perimeter, but suffered heavy losses. Earth Forces had then pushed their defense perimeter out towards the western hemisphere of the Kuiper Belt. Two months later, the Chigs were able to put more troops on their front line.
Their attack had came in 3 directions against Earth Forces' positions. The line had held and Earth Forces had begun to have the upper hand. Planet Boonwell happened to be in the middle of Earth forces supply line. To leave the planet in Chig hands, would have a disastrous effect. They could hamstring Earth Forces' advancement. In order for the Earth Forces to maintain air superiority in the sytem, the planet had to be taken, whatever the costs
And so, the Royal Malaysian Marine Corps, including the 88th had been sent along with the 22nd Malaysian Ranger Battalion to the staging area, Foxtrot Charlie. It was one of many displacements of troops on the planet. The honour of taking Hill 375 was given to the Malaysian Armed Forces. The Armored Division was given the opprtunity to take the hill from the southern side, while the Marines and Rangers carried the offensive from the west.
The 8th New Zealand infantry had wanted to tag along. And so, as good hospitable hosts and knowing that they needed every bit of help they could get, the Malaysian Armed Forces Command allowed them.
...a hand shook her from her reverie. The 88th Weapons Officer crouched down beside her.
"The Major wants us to proceed with the siege," he said. "Our Armored Division has captured one of the Lidar installations and is gaining yardage on the other side. When the mortar fires, we go."
The Engineering officer smiled grimly at Kingfisher and readied her rifle.
The soft clunk of the mortar round being loaded was duly heard by the the troops of Earth Forces. Seconds later, a dull thud echoed from the distance... And the fighting started all over again.
Everybody who had a weapon was furiously firing them, triggers pulled back all the way. Others rushed up the hill, screaming at the top of their lungs, some inane war cry which was heard all across the valley. Others gave covering fire for those rushing up the hill, and still others lay dead, where they were killed.
Lt. Lowe sprinted from her hole, firing a few bursts from her rifle. She took cover behind a mound of earth as Chig small arms fire intensified. To her left, Lieutenant Hurnain was slowly inching his way up the hill, fallen tree stumps from artillery fire giving him the cover that he required. Behind him, Private Ahmad, 'Jaeger' followed suit.
The Marines poured a deadly barrage of mortars into the Chig's positions. Rounds after rounds were fed into their 81mm's, providing support for the Rangers and Marines.
A loud thump near Bat made her spin. A Marine trooper rolled down the slope, coming to rest at her feet. A portion of his head was clearly missing. Far in front, Kingfisher and Jae were gaining ground as M590 rifle fire increased around her. Bat refitted a new magazine into her rifle and steadily crawled forward.
Chig artillery rounds threw debris and soil on top of Private Anita, 'Vulture' as she lay on her back behind a dead New Zealand trooper. She could feel a few bullets hit the soft flesh of the dead soldier. She waited for a pause in the shooting, and when it came, Vully jumped up and started her way up the hill. The soil was wet with blood and her boots left deep imprints on the ground baptized by the blood of Earth Forces soldiers.
She had only gained a few yards when a Chig round caught her in-between the shoulder blades. Vully dropped like she was pole-axed. She tried to stand but the pain was excruciating.
Behind her, Garry who was covering for Vully, saw her fall. Garry slung her rifle behind her back and rushed to her aid. Turning Vully gently on her back, she saw that Vully was breathing heavily as if each breath was going to ber her last. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner of her mouth. Garry could see that the bullet had passed cleanly through, but Vully was in shock. Her cold clammy hands and disorientation was clear evidence of that.
Garry grabbed her in a fireman's carry and started back down, towards the gully where Gossy was. She had only made it halfway, when another Chig machine gun burst blew her kneecap off. Screaming with pain, Garry fell to the ground. Vully tumbled on top of her as both went down.
Eagle who had just dropped another round into her mortar, saw what had happend and together with another Marine, who was in the mortar pit with her, rushed to help.
Eagle took out her med kit and tied the bandage around Garry's knee, hoping that her leg wouldn't drop off, while the other Marine applied pressure on Vully's wound. With all the turmoil around them, they half carried, half dragged the wounded Firebirds towards the relative safety of the infirmary.
Gossy came running, two of her corpsmen in tow. Eagle deposited Garry onto a stretcher carried by the two corpsmen. The Marine did the same and after making sure that Garry and Vully would be in good hands, they both returned to their mortar emplacements.
Vully was propped up against the gully wall, one of the corpsmen busy attending her. After deciding that Vully would live, Gossy busied herself tying a tourniquet around Garry's leg, and then she stood up, quite accidentally. At that instant, a Chig sniper bullet came whizzing by, shattering her jaw. The force of the hit knocked her backwards. She lay writhing on the ground as blood began to fill her vision.
Major Yap threw herself down as Chig machine gun fire raked her position. Her radioman wasn't that lucky. 6 bullets hit him on the chest crushing his ribs and collapsing his lungs. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Lucky for her, the PRC that he was carrying was spared the fate of its carrier. Spar quickly pulled the radio off his body and tried again to contact the Yorktown for air support.
10 yards in front of her, Kingfisher lay in a small ledge, a few metres away from a Chig machine gun pillbox that was belching death everywhere it fired. Kingfisher gave hand signals to a Marine Sergeant lying near him, in preparation for an assault on the pillbox.
The Marines had came under heavy fire while trying to dislodge a Chig Mortar emplacement halfway from the top. With the help of some Rangers, they were able to take out the mortar crew, the one of many to hinder the progress of the attackers to capture the hill. The Rangers had given the distraction that the Marines needed.
Kingfisher and Jae crept close enough to throw in their grenades. When the mortar pit blew, Lieutenant Lowe and 2 Marines broke cover to hose the surviving Chigs with automatic fire. But the win came, not without a price. A Ranger Lieutenant, along with 3 other Marines had been killed in the charge to overrun the emplacement. Their still bodies lay sprawled in awkward positions on the ground.
The survivors had proceeded up the hill and chanced upon the pillbox when it had opened fire suddenly, killing 2 more Marines in the process.
The Sergeant brought up a rocket launcher at ready, safety off, waiting for Kingfisher's signal. Kingfisher and Jae had grenades, fingers on the pins.
"Jae, cook the greanade for 3 seconds, and then, let it fly," ordered the Lieutenant.
"Affirmative Lt.," Jae answered, hyped up with the ardrenaline pumping through him.
Kingfisher then pulled the ring off, and let the handle drop. He counted to 3, and under cover of an outcropping of rock, flung it away from him. Private Ahmad did the same. Kingfisher's grenade flew high and dropped a few yards short of the target. It exploded without doing much damage to the pillbox structure. Jae's grenade fared little better. It landed quite close to the pillbox, but the explosion only peppered the pillbox with debris. No actual harm was done to the pillbox.
The Marine Sergeant, seeing the grenades fly, waited until the second explosion was heard, before he knelt up and aimed the launcher at the pillbox.
Kingfisher tried to stop him, but it was too late. As the grenades hadn't inflicted severe enough damage to the pillbox, the gun chattered furiously at the figure of the Sergeant. The rounds hit him in the stomach, forcing him against a tree. Kingfisher could see his intestines trailing down to his knees. A second burst from the gun severed the head from the body.
Kingfisher cursed colourfully under his breath. His fists were clenched hard, as his anger welled up inside him. Beside him, Jae's face was contorted with anger at the Sergeant's unnecessary death.
"Where is that goddamned support from the Yorktown?! They'd better get here before I personally go up there and strangle that Chig with my bare hands!" spat Kingfisher
His words were barely out of his mouth when the small explosions of grenades rocked the area around the pillbox. He and Jae peered over and saw Rangers and Marines trying effortlessly to overunn the pillbox. They failed misreably as the gun swept their ranks. Many died bravely.
Spar called from below them, breathless, cradling the radio, hands bloodied.
"The Yorktown's shot to hell, but the Toga's here. 5 squadrons were sent down to bail us out."
As soon as she said that, Kingfisher strained his ears. He didn't hear them at once. It came softly, but it was enough. It was the loveliest, sweetest, most welcoming sound in sky that he had eve heard.
The ancients believed that the heavenly bodies were set in crystalline spheres that made music as they moved, and that if we hear the sound, it would be the most celestial experience of all. But the sound which Kingfisher heard was even sweeter. More moving than the songs David sang for Solomon, or deeply affecting than all the galaxies singing in concert.
It was the sound of Hammerhead fighters blazing in the fiery sky.
Kingfisher squinted in the morning sky. 4 silver shaped blurs came screaming from above. The lead plane coming in on an attack run, flew in low. The other Hammers broke off formation to attack other targets called in by respective Platoon Leaders.
Kingfisher assessed their run and angle of attack and it suddenly dawned on him...
"The target's too close... Napalm!!" he shouted
His words struck fear into everyone who heard him. They instinctively covered their heads, cringing on the ground.
All at once, Kingfisher's training kicked in, and he frantically gulped in a mouthful of air and held his breath. The others did the same. There was a soft click in the air, followed by a furious roar and an explosion of internal fire. When Napalm goes off, it creates flames in excess of 2000 degress. Huge volumes of air rush instantly upwards with the heat. Living creatures are stunned when the air is actually sucked out of their lungs.
The jungle above them was immediately tranformed into a greasy apricot-orange furnace, shot through with snaky coils of wispy smoke.
Through the smoke, Kingfisher could see that the pillbox, though not destroyed, was blackened. The gun sticking out from it lay limp.
"Hoooyah!!!" he shouted, as he picked up his rifle and ran towards the pillbox. His bayonets were fixed, solely intent on wiping out those gunners. That was the cue for the others, as Marines and Rangers alike jumped out of their holes, depression, covering, manhole, man at work signs or wherever they took cover behind, screaming indecencies to the Chigs.
Jae ran up to the rocket launcher the Sergeant had dropped, still unfired. Jae aimed the launcher at the pillbox and with calm ease, pressed the firing mechanism.
Kingfisher who was halfway up the slope, running as fast as his skinny legs could take him, suddenly saw that the gun, which was limp a moment ago, come horrifically to life. He prepared to throw himself on the ground. The orders to take cover were already beginning to form in his brain as tiny electrical currents carried the message to the rest of his body.
A rocket suddenly came streaking out from behind him. It hit the pillbox directly on its gun opening, collapsing the structure on top of the gunners. Kingfisher now found himself on top of the pillbox. He emptied his full magazine inside a small opening. His bullets sounded hollow as they ricocheted inside the box, making sure no Chig survived.
He jumped down, and landed in a trench which was blackened by the napalm run. A Chig, with an arm missing sat against the trench wall. He brought his rifle up towards Kingfisher, but the Weapons Officer was faster. Knocking aside the rifle, KF skewered the Chig with his bayonet, the blade penetrating its armour. The Chig shuddered at first, and then fell silent.
What Kingfisher wasn't aware of, was that there was another Chig creeping up behind him, the rifle pointed directly at KF's back. Spar quickly brought her rifle up, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The round blew the Chig's head off.
Bloody hand to hand fighting was taking place all around them. Quite a number of Chigs had survived the Napalm, and now, they were engaged in a life-and-death concerta with Earth forces soldiers. The Marines, stressed and angry with the death of their comrades, took their frustration and anger out accordingly on the Chigs.
A Marine, face bloodied, strangled a Chig with a piece of wire. His hands trembled behind the Chigs neck, as he jerked hard, grinning with morbid fascination as the Chig's neck snapped like a twig.
Nearby, a Marine corporal had knocked down a Chig soldier and had his K-bar out. He pounced on top of the fallen Chig and drove the blade deep inside its stomach
Private Ahmad smashed the butt of his rifle on the face of another Chig. He then turned it sideways and emptied the whole clip into the crumpled alien.
Scrambling over the body of a fallen comrade, a Marine private killed a Chig machine gunner, the round entering its throat. Unable to breathe, it drowned in its own blood. The Marine then took control of the Chig's gun and turned it towards the enemy's position. The withering fire from the Private was murderous, cutting down the defenders as they were killed, ironically, with their own weapon.
The Napalm attack had clearly created the upper hand the attackers needed. Many of the Chigs who hadn't died in the fire, were stunned as the Marines and Rangers rushed their positions. Although the attackers had suffered heavy casualties, the overwhelming number of surviving Marines and Rangers combined were just too much for the Chigs to handle.
Hammerheads flew down, slashing and burning everything in their path. A plume of smoke rose slowly into the sky, a firmament of light, towering in crescendo about a mile from where Private Jae stood. The Chig's ammunition bunker, a chaotic roiling ascendant blaze of glory, ceased utterly to exist. Bunkers were destroyed; grenades were thrown in, then automatic fire was sprayed in to ensure that no Chig lived to tell the tale.
Lt. Kingfisher stood beside a kneeling Major Yap. She was on the PRC, talking to the evac ships for the wounded. . . and the dead.
"You'd better get that wound on your hand checked," KF said
"I'll live, but what about you?" Spar answered gesturing to the Lieutenant's head.
Kingfisher touched a hand to his temple, grimacing as it came away sticky with blood.
"Don't worry, my brains are still intact. Its my ribs that bother me. I think I broke one or two when I dove for cover back there," winced KF, feeling his side throbbing.
He then turned and viewed the carnage. Already the Marines were picking up their dead, laying them out in neat rows. Dogtags were being collected as keepsakes.
"I got the evac coming, ETA 3 minutes. I'm having somebody popping yellow down there, where Gossy is," Spar said pointing somewhere down the hill
Kingfisher nodded. He took a gulp of water from a canteen a Ranger had given him. The liquid tasted hot and salty. It didn't matter. He needed something to wash down the taste of blood and smoke from his throat. He passed the canteen to Spar who took it.
Private Ahmad came running from behind a destroyed Chig bunker, oddly excited.
"Man, you should have seen it!" he exclaimed to both KF and Spar. " I had a front row seat. First a lone Hammer came in low, and at once, those dumb Chigs started to open up with everything they had. Taking several hits, the fighter slowly turned south, trailing smoke. Then 4 Hammers came in, guns strafing. The last plane landed a 300 pounder on top of the Chigs. Those Chigs are roasting in hell right now."
"You'll be roasting in hell if you don't help those Marines over there collect our dead," KF said.
"Yessir," drawled Jae, obviously unhappy at the cool reception and at having been given something to do.
"Hey, private," called KF
"Nice work on the pillbox back there."said KF
Jae answered back with a grin and went off to help the other Marines.
"I'm setting up a defence perimeter around here," KF said to Spar. "You want anything else?"
Spar shook her head, but after a pause, added, "Try and get a body count, KF"
"Will do, " KF answered.
Kingfisher called to a few Marines who were doing nothing and set up guards around the immediate area. Noticing the one of the Marines' patch, the Weapons Officer enquired, "Aren't you with 3rd Battalion on the eastern side of this hill?"
"Yes sir. Chigs threw everything they got on us," replied one of them. "But we rallied behind our Platoon Leader and took out the machine gun nests on the ridge. My PL was killed while we were trying to capture the main bunker."
"You found the Lidar installations there," asked KF.
The Corporal nodded, "We blew 'em, and the Chigs around it turned tail and ran. We chased them right into you here. Sandwiched between us and your platoon, they were spammed"
Kingfisher nodded grimly and proceeded with the security detail.
A few minutew later, Spar came running up to him, "I got word that we have suppressed all Chig resistance on this hill. All bunkers and emplacements have been captured or destroyed. The Toga's sending in reinforcements. We're required to secure the area and make a bridgehead here....and they told me the 58th has just been landed 2 mikes north of here." She grinned slyly.
Kingfisher smiled, unable to hide the stupid grin that was beginning to form on his face. It had been 4 months since he last saw his wife, Captain Shane Vansen, Platoon leader of the 58th. And news that she was here, was a nice substitute to the death and destruction that he had had to face for the past two weeks.
The sound of an ISCCV made them look up. It landed somewhere near them, blowing dust everwhere.
Shielding his eyes from the dust, KF ordered, "The evac ship's here. Get the wounded on it"
At once Marines began to gather the wounded, some being carried with stretchers while others were being assisted towards the ship.
Spar ran to ISCCV when she saw Gossy inside, propping up Vully's head on her lap. Garry sat beside her, legs in a hastily made cast, grinning at Spar.
She saw that Vully's breathing was slow and labored. But she would live. A sigh of relief escaped her. She had lost too many people already. It was no time to lose friends as well.
Gossy's jaw was taped with vast layers of bandages, that were now crimson-soaked. Spar later found out that Gossy had bandaged herself up and continued with treating the wounded, until she collapsed later due to fatigue and loss of blood.
"You look like hell!" cried Spar, shocked and yet relieved.
Gossy just nodded and tried to smile. Taking out a note book from her pocket, she scribbled something on it and gave it to Spar.
A little curiously, Spar took it from her hands. Just two words were written on it. Two words that brought a grin to her face.
'the stars a billion for every life laid down in Vietnam, still shines on us and will guide those who follow'
The End© Copyrighted 1997
Reported by Kingfisher
Back to the 88th Firebirds Fanfiction page