“I’ve done the best I can for now,” Wilcox said out loud.
Beside her, Julia nodded. She had taken away the dishes from both breakfast and lunch. Now, as the afternoon stretched out, she waited beside Gina feeling utterly helpless inside their little room in the AWD.
The former Marine Sergeant had not been able to do much about the kill order for political prisoners. She watched some of the executions taking place by hijacking video streams from cameras around the globe.
The sight of so much innocent blood being shed led her to a dark place.
Julia caught the mood, and also struggled with the fact she could not help anyone. All she could do was sit in the room and listen to Wilcox’s occasional commentary on what was happening in the world.
Then Gina found out about the order for ground troops to Patmos. She also discovered the name of the downed troop transport. It was the Ronald Reagan, her old ship.
She quickly modified the order on the sly. Rescinding it entirely was a good way to get caught, she thought. Such a blatant reversal would surely result in it being detected and overturned.
So, she looked through the ranks stationed on Corfu and selected the newest. These would have the youngest and presumably least trained soldiers among them. Then she simply took off a zero. Instead of 2,000 troops, only 200 were sent in.
Finally, she sent a warning to the communicator in the command hut after watching an officer walk in via the satellite feed. The communicator was a one-way device, and she could not hear a response. But to put the icing on the cake, so to speak, she sent in a personal message about the 31st and their private holo habits.
“That ought to do it to convince them,” she told Julia.
Sure enough, she noticed the officer leaving the hut at a run and immediately conferring with others. Shortly after, everyone in the camp spread out. They set up a perimeter in the woods and sent a large force out, using battle bots as scouts.
Very smart, Gina thought.
When the League troops landed, their officer immediately consulted the satellite feed.
“Oops. I forgot about that,” Gina said.
She quickly switched the spy satellite in orbit above Patmos into maintenance mode, so it would stop broadcasting its feed.
“I’ve done the best I can for you, maggots,” Gina said in a whisper.
Davis cautiously approached the line of trees with three privates behind him. He did not like this one bit. A more experienced officer would probably have a better plan than just charging blindly into unknown territory. It felt wrong.
Behind him, the kid from the transport said, “Hey, Sarge. I think I see—”
As Davis turned his head, he heard the distinct, distant sound of a blaster firing.
The kids head exploded, blood splattering everywhere.
“Down! Down! Down!”
Davis threw himself to the ground next to the headless corpse. The other two soldiers followed suit immediately. Fortunately, they were behind a slight ridge that provided some cover.
One of the soldier’s black boots could still be seen from the trees, though, sticking out an angle.
A bolt slammed into the boot and the young woman screamed in pain, pulling her knees up close to her chest.
All around, Davis could sense blaster fire from the trees. He watched as more soldiers were hit, their grunts and yells of pain filling the air.
He activated his neural implant.
“We’re pinned down, Lieutenant! Snipers in the trees!”
This is what they call a classic pincer move, Boggs thought.
Not that he knew much about ground tactics beyond what the sergeants might tell him. But, he’d been in the Marines long enough to know which way was up. He had even read a little military history in his free time, when he was not watching the latest holo or playing a game.
A pincer movement, he knew, involved flanking both sides of the enemy and cutting them off. Like a giant crab claw closing in.
The bots were a huge help. With their aim, they trumped human snipers. If they caught sight of the enemy, they would kill said enemy with singles shots. Most of the X99s were spread out at the periphery of the trees, ready to bring down destruction on any League ground forces willing to come into range.
The 31st and the 32nd were positioned to one side of the sniper line. The 33rd and 34th were on the other. Remaining troops were behind the bots or in a secondary perimeter around the camp. Every company had civilian prisoners mixed in, to stymie those infernal missiles. They took volunteers, and found plenty willing to go with them.
After spending, in some cases, years on this island with little means to fight back, many prisoners jumped at the opportunity. Delgado ordered they be protected carefully. He clearly did not like the notion of “human shields,” but reluctantly agreed to the measure when so many volunteered to go along.
Everyone heard the sniper fire, and screams from the soldiers who suddenly found themselves pinned down out in the open.
By now, several were no doubt dead, survivors being those who found shelter somehow, out there on the ground. One of the officers signaled the bots to hold their fire. Lieutenant Meyers stood, suddenly visible to the Marines behind him.
He made a motion with his hand and shouted, “Move out! Move! Move! Move!”
As if they comprised a single organism rather than 200 disparate Marines, with several civilians mixed in, both companies stood and moved. They streamed out into the field, spreading out, providing a solid line of firepower.
Several hundred meters away, the other two companies executed the same maneuver.
Boggs scanned the field with his gun sights, swinging the muzzle back and forth in controlled arcs.
A League soldier jumped up, aiming his weapon at them.
Three Marines fired simultaneously.
Boggs realized he had been one of the shooters.
The soldier’s body collapsed, riddled with holes. For a moment, Boggs could see green grass through them, then blood filled up the empty spaces.
They came to a mass of soldiers, and found mostly bodies from where the bots had mowed the men down.
And a few survivors.
“Drop it! Drop your weapon! Show me your hands!”
Boggs aimed his gun at an older man wearing sergeant stripes. He was unhurt, but the female soldier next to him had lost a foot to blaster fire.
The sergeant raised his hands. He did not look happy about it, but he was not going to shoot back.