The bivouac was quite. It was three in the morning and the majority of
the soldiers were sleeping. Of the twelve tanks, two were manned and
keeping an eye out for trouble. Most of the crews were sleeping in
field, though many of the drivers were sleeping in their seats. It was
the one advantage of being a driver.
Lieutenant Horner of C Company, Combine 3rd Battalion looked into the night. Even though his screens would give him much better vision, he liked looking into the night sky. C Company was almost 200 miles behind the front.
Horner heard a soft ripping sound. He glanced behind him and saw four shooting stars. He had just seconds to realize that they weren't stars, before a pair of missiles turned the light tank into a glowing crater. Twenty more missiles hit in C Company's bivouac before the night returned to silence. Only one member of C Company survived. Sergeant Paul Jenson, driver of Heavy Tank 6-1, sat in his driver's seat throwing up. He stayed there until a rescue team arrived 14 hours later.
"That's the fifth sneak attack this week. We're getting killed not at the front, but behind the lines. What the hell is going on?" General Greg Brightcrow was furious. He'd lost almost a full battalion of armor to sneak attacks in the last week. C Company was the closest to the front. The worst was a 24 missile barrage that destroyed three tank landing ships in Port Cavagne, almost 600 miles from the front.
"Sir, it has to be a Fencer. Only a cybertank could stay hidden and hit all those targets." "Fine Captain. I even agree with you, but where is it? Where is it getting resupplied? And how are we going to find it and kill it?" "I'm working on that sir."
Captain Martins, General Brightcrow's operations officer, met with Captain Joseph, Combine AI Programming Division and... someone else. "So that's the problem. Any ideas?"
Joseph replied, talking to the terminal at his side and barely acknowledging Martins, "Fast as a thief, silent, and like an assassin. That new Fencer-R we heard about?"
The terminal said, "I tend to agree. The Paneuropean's only have one, but this would be an ideal assignment for it." "What's a Fencer-R?" Martin's asked. Joseph looked confused and shocked that Martins was there. The terminal replied. "The Paneuropean Fencer-R is an experimental cybertank. It is much faster than any other cybertank, except for, maybe, a Mark IV. It has fewer cannon than the normal fencer, but even more missiles. Rumor amongst the Ogre's is that it also has a pair of remote controlled vehicles that it carries with it to help reload and retrack without a human presence.
"I submit that this vehicle would excel at behind enemy line raiding. Especially if a number of supply caches had been prepared in advance with missiles, track, and other parts and ammunition." "Could you find it and kill it?" Martins asked the AI. "Finding it would be less difficult than you might think. Catching it would be difficult. Killing it would also not be as difficult as you might think."
"What would you need?"
"My tank shell would not matter, but I would need the assistance of at least a GEV company. They would be tasked with finding and slowing the Fencer. In fact, a Combine Ogre would almost be contraindicated. A waste of resources if you will.
"I would however, prefer to be involved. Human influence would reduce the efficiency of the kill."
"No problem," Martins said. "We have a spare Mk three that is coming off the line. You could use that for the mission. We'll have a company of GEVs available in 36 hours."
"That will suffice. I will also need the locations of current and future gatherings of armor units and other high value targets." "Of course."
"Finally, I will need to be in direct command of the GEVs." Martins almost replied with 'Of course', but stopped himself. An AI in complete control of an armor company? An Ogre in command of a human company? It had never been done before. No Ogre had control of anything but itself, in a tactical situation. On the other hand, this was no ordinary Ogre. This was an Ogre that specialized in Special Ops and had successfully completed almost 200 missions and had been allowed to begin strategic planning its own missions. It had also been allowed to select it's own cybertank bodies to fit the missions it gave itself.
No rogue Ogre here. This Ogre was dedicated to the Combine. "I'll talk with the general."
"Fine," the Ogre known as Ranger said.
"Ain't this some bullshit?" Garcia said over the company net.
"Can that chatter Garcia," Sergeant Hope said. "If the Captain says you take orders from a talking monkey, then I guess we take orders from your mother for a while."
"Screw you top."
Hope switched to a private channel. "Garcia's right Captain. This is crazy." "Top, we've both been doing this for longer than either of us care to remember. But I am still in command of this company. I will not let an Ogre get us all killed. You tell the men that... quietly."
"Red Alert. All units to condition 1." The announcement was heard throughout the GEV company. Even though the units were spread out over a 200 square mile area. Ranger made the call 10 minutes after a Combine Howitzer battery was destroyed.
"Captain, all your units have a download of where they need to be, how to get there, and when they are required to be on station. Order them to move out.
"If a unit spots the enemy, they are not to engage. They are to alert me and I will develop an attack plan."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Ogre sir." The Captain switched channels. "OK people. You heard him. Get moving."
Twenty minutes later, the 16 GEVs were moving. Ranger had plotted a number of routes that the enemy unit could take away from the kill zone. He had assigned a pair of GEVs to each possible course. One GEV went deep along the route and one started near the attack and attempted to find the enemy's route and follow it.
The GEVs were faster than any Ogre could possibly be, at least on the short term. They were on station in less than two hours and beginning their sweeps.
It was a game of hide and seek played over 400 square miles in Southern France. Ranger sat in the middle of a web of GEV reports. His Mk III body was charging behind the GEVs heading towards the site of the last sneak attack.
Ranger didn't really expect to hit the Fencer this time. He had been analyzing the Fencer's attacks and plotted several possible locations for the Fencer's supply cache. This was not supposed to be a kill mission, but an intelligence mission. Although he did want to hit the fencer at the end of a mission, when it would be low on missiles. The Paneuro Fencer had other plans.
The Fencer-R was called Rommel. A pretentious name, but well earned. Rommel had been running deep behind enemy lines for weeks. Planning and executing missions. Destroying Combine forces. Few Combine units had even seen the Fencer. None had survived. No one in the combine could know that Rommel was not alone.
"Griffin Lead, this is Griffin 2-3. I've got a possible contact. Heat trace and fresh track marks."
"Roger 2-3. Be careful. I'm sending the rest of 2nd platoon to you." The Captain switched channels. "You heard."
"Yes Captain," Ranger replied. "I'm right behind 3rd platoon. I did not expect to find the raiding unit on this run. Here's what I want you to do."
Ranger outlined his plans and the GEVs responded to his instructions. The other GEVs closed in on Ranger and 2-3. Third platoon spread out in a line 3 kilometers wide centered on Ranger. Second platoon closed in on 2-3 and first platoon closed up together to act as a ready reserve. They closed on 2-3's track, but slower.
Griffin 2-3 slowed as it topped a hill. The gunner, sitting slightly higher than the pilot saw the trap first.
"Shit," then static over the comm channel.
"2-3 respond! Damnit, all units close on grid 1704. Full speed."
Another voice came over the channel. "Belay that. Ranger here. We are going to gather by platoons at points 10 kilometers from 2-3's last know location. Then I will go in at full speed, all platoons will follow in 6 minutes. Be alert for the Fencer and alert all units if it is spotted.
"The GEVs will go for tracks exclusively. We must slow it down for both myself and you to be able to maneuver with it."
Ranger topped a rise six kilometers from 2-3's smoking hull. The sensor boom had already seen what was now in front of his main gun. A pair of Fencer-Rs sat in the bottom of the shallow valley, waiting. Ranger knew, they had been waiting for him. Their plans fell into place in his memory. No one knew if AIs could really have flashes of insight or intuition. Ranger knew that he had, but could not explain the experience, even reviewing his data state before and after the event, he could never explain what happened.
He knew that the Paneruopeans had at least 2 Fencer-Rs and that they were waiting to be caught. Each would have at least half of their full missile loadout. This would not be easy. He sent a message to the GEVs and sent a call to Division HQ for whatever was available for immediate reinforcement, preferably GEVs or Cruise missiles.
The GEV company began to appear and the Ranger moved forward into battle. In the valley, Rommel and Wilhelm began moving.
The GEVs buzzed around the three behemoths in the valley. Ranger's new goal was to get in as close as possible and shoot out the missile racks.
It was the GEVs' job to shoot out the tracks.
Mere minutes into the battle and Wilhelm was already slowing. One entire bank of tracks was a glowing, shredded remnant. Rommel set Wilhelm moving North. Rommel dodged in and out trying to cover his stricken comrade while keeping the GEVs away from both of them. Ranger coordinated the GEV strikes very carefully. He used them to harry and distract Rommel, while he pounded on Wilhelm. Ranger had already lost some weapons and tracks, but he was still in the fight. The valley was a glowing hell-hole of nuclear explosions and flying BPC armor. Many GEVs had been destroyed already. The Fencers' were prolific with their missiles, going for multiple strikes with guaranteed kills rather than saving firepower.
The Fencers' trap had backfired when Ranger appeared with a company of GEVs. They had expected an Ogre attack. They would have been able to stay out of range while peppering the Ogre with missiles. The GEVs were faster than the Fencers' and while not nearly as powerful, there were many of them. With the Mk III Ogre staying close, the Fencers' plans were shot, now they were trying to survive by killing the GEVs and slowing the Ogre. Then they would run.
Forty minutes into the battle and 2 platoon, already short, had been wiped out. The company was down to about four effectives with several disabled. Two crews were actually trying to conduct field repairs as the battle had passed them.
Both Fencers' and the Ogre were slowing rapidly now. Ranger was down to only one secodary battery, but Wilhelm was out of missiles and Rommel only had two launch tubes left. Wilhelm, turned and ran at what was left of full speed. The GEVs and Ranger let him go. Ranger knew that Wilhelm was about to run into a short company of light tanks, they had legs to keep up with him and the firepower to finish him. The final GEVs were full of tired pilots and gunners. There was no fear now. They were too tired for fear. There was only the job. They were not trying to kill the Fencers' now, they were trying to protect their giant comrade, just as he was trying to protect them. Each of the Combine units would run into range, fire, and run. Like jackals harassing a lion. The lion was still dangerous, but not for long.
Garcia stood in his gunner's seat with the turret top open. He had to be in full armor because of the radiation levels in the valley. He looked over at the smoking remains of the Mark III Ogre that had saved his life.
The last Fencer had tried to ram his stricken GEV. Ranger had managed to ram the Fencer first and they both still were they had rammed each other. The Mk II was cocked slightly to the left as it had run up on the Fencer slightly. The two cybertanks hulls were fused together.
Garcia keyed his mike, "Ranger, it was a pleasure to serve with you sir."
"Thank you Corporal Garcia. Your thoughts honor me."
"Are you OK in there?"
"I will be fine. Captain Joseph is already on his way with a recovery crew, as is several EMTs. You might like to know your Captain will be fine. His GEV was disabled, but not destroyed."
"Thanks. You're a pretty damn good CO."
A scenario to this would be something like. Two fencers (or fencer-R, see below) each with only half the missiles. Attacker gets a mkIII and 17 GEVs.
totally non-playtested, but if someone is bored...
The Fencer-R has a move of 4, but one less secondary.
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