ASSAULT ON TARS PELITI
Five times in the last few seconds MBT-337 had
taken hits on its turret face. As it pounded out return fire at the dozens of
Selangor enemy moving across its front, the unmanned Australian tank continued
to back along the low fire step that protected its right side. Forward of its
position, other friendly units guarded the main wall fronting their shallow
crack-crack, crack the rapid fire staccato from both sides punched the
air. Two enemy tanks lurched to a halt, no return fire, no movement. Seconds
later indirect fire laced its way through the massive counterbattery exchange
passing above the battlefield. Explosions crumped in amongst the enemy advance
as the smart rounds defied all countermeasures and smashed another seven or
eight MBTs. High overhead Australian aviation arrived in response to the
division controller's call for support. Selangor anti-aircraft fire rose in
swarms only to be plucked out of the sky by nearby counterfire. From Mars
orbit, Selangor assault platforms peered at the Australian aircraft far below
but were themselves engaged by Australian orbital forces before they could
interfere. The division controller knew it would be another 15 minutes before
the next enemy orbit would pass far overhead, he hoped High Command had a plan
for stopping them.
Down at Tars
Peliti the snapping sound of air bursting submunitions rippled across the
uneven plain, and down went almost a dozen enemy reconnaissance crawlers. The
air briefly filled with micromunitions that peened the surfaces of the Selangor
tanks and kicked up wisps of fine red dust. The surviving crawlers kept rolling
through the rock fields on the far side of the Selangor heavy armor, detouring
around a damaged unit that drove in circles a few times and then stopped. It
was badly holed and the outer fairings were covered with MGVs from both sides,
fighting for supremacy a miniature battle within a battle.
shrieking, tearing sound the Australian aviation which had finished their
circuit along the horizon swept in and crossed the rear of the Selangor
formations, systematically dispensing their deadly and seemingly endless
payloads. Instantly the air was full of hundreds of small pen-shaped missiles,
slamming past and through the Selangor armored formation with high density
fury. The entire area erupted into a spray of dust and flying metal as Selangor
counterfire tried to kill off or divert the attacking ammunition. Some of the
Australian ordnance passed through the formation entirely and came back around
from the sides. Cruising in low and slow they dispensed a deadly array of MGVs
onto their enemy and a hundred battles broke out on the surfaces of the
Selangor tanks. The Australian microassaults did not stand a chance, but they
would force the enemy into costly miniature counterattacks. The veil of red
dust thinned and drifted away to reveal a hundred enemy main battle tanks
threading their way amongst dozens of motionless hulks.
Australian tanks surrounded themselves with wrecked enemies, but the Selangor
kept pouring through, irresistibly pushing back the defending right flank.
Orders from 80th Divisions controller came through: Withdraw.
Immediately the Australian armor began leapfrogging back, each group supporting
the one in front as they maneuvered to avoid entrapment. Maintaining defense in
depth and overlapping fire, the Australians continued to make the Selangor
forces pay dearly for every meter they covered. Unfortunately Tars Peliti was
running out of time.
Operation Crowbar was to assure
thorough commitment of the main Australian ground forces. Soon after, a new
Selangor orbital group appeared on Australian sensors as it decelerated into
position high above the battlefield. Without delay their first sortie tumbled
into the thin Martian atmosphere. As the descending pods cleared the
thermosphere their entry shells peeled away and the heavy attack jets
previously cocooned inside clustered into formation. The supporting mother
ships then released their final loadouts; massive and deadly, it had taken a
lot of valuable time and energy to move them so far for so long.
Down at Tars
Peliti, the Australian commander looked with mild alarm at the situation. Until
now he was confident they could hold out. He had just spoken to the controller
for 80th division who felt things were going their way. Thirty
minutes before there had been two other assaults on remote Australian bases
like Tars Peliti and those attacks were repulsed. This assault had seemed to be
going the same way until now.
set aside a few precious moments to absorb this change in fortune, and then
summoned his subordinate in the complex deep below; Lieutenant Ng, be
advised additional enemy forces are en route, you have 70 seconds to complete
armory mobilization. In the base below, the young lieutenant received the
new order with shock. Tars Peliti was in the middle of nowhere and everyone had
thought these attacks were a diversion.
With a curt
Yes sir. the Lieutenant issued a new defense profile to the fire
control system and walked into an elevator that quickly ascended to the armory
level. Exiting moments later she scanned the hall with meticulous satisfaction.
Already the long smooth walls had opened up and racks of ordnance were rapidly
loading into vertical handlers. She paced the open floor and ordered by voice
the deployment of the defenses and retraction of the access well; Tars
Peliti Base prepare to repel boarders this is no drill this is no drill.
of her order came instantly with the sound of the access well four stories
above retracting into the solid walls. Walking casually over to the main hatch,
she grabbed a vertical handrail, manually pulled the door open and leaned
through, craning her head upward to see the last of open sky through the long
rectangular chasm that was the only route into the tower. She paused for a
moment to admire the dark Martian sky and then leaned back in as the door seal
alarm sounded. Standing further back, she watched the door slide fully closed,
sealing the base.
loading system continued to feed ordnance into ports next to the main bulkhead.
Facing outward and upward on the other side of that heavy wall pointed the
business end of the launching system the bases entire weapon
array, ranging from the orbital engagement system to racks of MGV dispensers
were ready for firing. Woe to those in the way.
launch alarm blasted out a deafening alert, followed one second later by the
sequential roar of five anti-ship missiles being automatically launched. Soon
after, five more went up. Even as the first ordnance sailed spaceward the
Lieutenant's ES assistant sent her an emergency notice explaining the
unauthorized action. She quickly jabbed at the air in front of her as she
punched through a series of data threads and briefly interrogated the system.
Shocked at what she discovered, she wanted to open a channel to the Colonel.
But her batur commander would already know what she knew: Selangor ground
penetrators were hurtling like meteors down on Tars Peliti. Looking over at the
loading racks and the sealed door, her eyebrows furrowed and she bit her lip in
levels below, Colonel Tarka's thoughts were with Major Collins, the 80th
Division controller still up on the surface. He must be having a hard
time of it, and Tarka hoped he was still alive. Suddenly drawn to the orbital
view by his ES assistant, the batur officer stiffened slightly. Seconds later
the muffled roar of the system auto-firing made its way to him. With a hurried
motion he double-checked his final uploads and made sure they were not jammed
by the enemy. "The Enemy." he thought to himself, as he breezed gracefully
through the last items on his mental checklist. I wonder what will come
of things now?
He noted with
approval that Lieutenant Ng had acted on the alarm and was switching the
system's combat profile to an emergency assault mission; this would unleash the
bases entire inventory of weapons onto every Selangor target in range.
The floor suddenly vibrated as ten stories up the entire armory roared out of
the ground in a spectacular display of firepower. The fire control system spent
its final moments of existence sending off the last of the bases reserve
upload confirmation arrived, Tarka ordered all system modules within the base
to self-destruct immediately. He calmly sat back and looked around, thinking
about his friends back in Australia and beyond. He hoped they would be okay.
Within moments his ES assistant reported complete self-destruct for the entire
Tars Peliti system. He opened a simple hardware line to the armory hall and
started to speak.
Far above, an
Australian orbital controller was first to report the slug-shaped explosion
plumes rising from Tars Peliti. Double checking the information pouring into
his network, he made sure it forwarded securely to Mars command. Forced back to
the matter at hand, he armed the rest of his ships to make sure the Selangor
group that did this enjoyed a short career. They had come in fast and were now
low in the atmosphere as they sped past beneath the Australians.
controller peered down on the enemy formations and blurted out with a
perfunctory fierceness; Congratulations, you won't be around long enough
to enjoy it. As he watched, rising anti-ship fire from Tars Peliti
followed the enemy downrange, tearing into their ranks. Not one to delay
advantage, the Australian immediately released his ES operators to engage from
above with everything in the division.
Down on the
dark side of Mars, the head of Australias Mars Command took over the
incoming Tars Peliti stream and opened up a line to the entire base.
MAOC, this is your commander speaking. he said in a firm voice as
he finished reviewing the last of what mattered. Tars Peliti Base has
been destroyed by a Selangor orbital strike, its command center is a total loss
from enemy SCRAM penetrators. I want an immediate counter-reconnaissance of
that area. There will be a meeting in five minutes, station heads be
With that the
commander turned his back on the reports and wondered about Colonel Tarka and
Lieutenant Ng. He could not steer his mind away from the loss, and again played
the stream of Tarka's command center taken from orbit; it was spitting a wall
of anti-ship fire spaceward until the cluster of black SCRAM penetrators
flashed into view and shattered the underground complex in a gout of flame.
Slipping out the sides of the drifting smoke and ash column appeared a dozen
surface missiles, fired at nearby Selangor ground units by the young Australian
armory lieutenant just before the penetrators hit.
Tarka. thought the commander. Whatever will we do now? he
asked himself, not expecting an answer. With that he swept aside the images and
headed off to the meeting.
03. Java Front