"You're fine with using the new 40mm template, Ma'am?" Vuxten asked.
The Division CO nodded, sweat on her face. "When a thousand year old NCO who's worked in ordnance longer than you've been alive gives you a new template and tells you it'll solve your problem, you use it," she said. "If it doesn't work, you can just hot-swap templates back."
The tank under his hand roared, the heavy duty fans keeping the plenum chambers pressurized enough to keep the tank a good foot off the ground and moving forward at a steady clip.
"All right, ma'am," Vuxten said. "Out."
The CO nodded and her face vanished from the little window.
"471, how's it look?" Vuxten asked.
--good good-- the little green mantid said from his compartment between the shoulders of the armor. --can't believe not think of ammo--
"Yeah. Everyone concentrated on the launcher," Vuxten said.
There was a pause for a second even though Vuxten could see that his commo system was engaged.
"Everything OK, buddy?" Vuxten asked.
--looking at Precursor clankers-- 471 said. --we have problems--
Vuxten tabbed up stimgum and started chewing on it. "You don't say."
--follow pictures will go slow-- 471 said.
"All right," Vuxten slapped his hand on the cupola and made his visor opaque.
The picture of the gigantic crawler appeared.
Then a picture of the planet's crust with depths and heat and pressure.
A dot down at seventy-thousand feet below the surface. What came next was formula.
--this herd tank gun--
A picture of the plasma cannon popped up, with formula rapidly appearing on it.
"Um, 471, you have completely
lost me, buddy," Vuxten said.
A meme popped up on the Division, then the Corps, then the Army then the Theater social media channel of a little green mantid showing a Telkan a chart full of number and formula with the Telkan going "Um... Q?" and the next picture of a dozen green mantids face palming.
The greenies thought it was hilarious.
It took someone to search the datanet to find out the formula were nothing more than respiration rates, rates of a Telkan walking, and tooth pressure on stim gum AKA walking and chewing gum at the same time.
Then everyone else found it funny.
--mine = pressure + heat-- 471 said. --more deep more pressure more heat--
"Right," Vuxten said.
A picture of the Precursor machines popped up again. --mysteronium alloy armor over heat times pressure--
"OK, so they've got armor that handles heat and pressure," Vuxten said.
471 wanted to bang his head against the inside of the housing.
--plasma cannon-- 471 flashed.
"Oh," Vuxten said. "OH!" He clicked channels till his CO popped up.
"What, Lieutenant?" the Terran Captain asked.
"Ma'am, the Precursor machines are deep crust miners, that means high heat and pressure," Vuxten said. "My greenie ran the computations."
"And?" she asked.
"The armor's made to withstand high heat and pressure than a point blank shot from one of the plasma cannons," Vuxten said. "Not only can the Great Herd guns not hurt them, but some specialized alloys, something called... uh... mysteronium, get tougher."
"Mysteronium is what a greenie uses to handwave away a complex armor laminate or alloy. Is he sure of his findings?" She asked.
"You want to ask a greenie if he got his math right?" Vuxten asked.
She chuckled. "Point. I'll talk to Great Most High A'armo'o, let him know," she said.
"Sir, communication from the commander of First Telkan Marines," Most High A'armo'o's communications specialist said.
"Put it through to my visor," A'armo'o said, looking around the tank. He was half out of the tank, like he'd seen the human commanders do. He had to admit, he liked the visibility it gave him. It gave him a feel of power for the tank, let him look at the tanks around him. Yes, he had one graviton booster smoking heavily, but for some reason it did not cause him anxiety to see it pouring blackish-blue smoke like seeing the icon of it being damaged did.
"Most High," the human said. Her face was sweaty and A'armo'o was glad he was a tank commander and not a power armor soldier.
"General," A'armo'o said. He liked the Terran ranks. They had such weight to them.
"You have a problem with the upcoming engagement," the Terran said.
"Oh?" A'armo'o raised the fur tufts at the top of his forward eyes, normally used to catch perspiration. It had taken him days of practice to emulate the effect and he found he liked it.
"The Precursor machines are deep crust mining machines," the General started.
"Which means my plasma weapons, which depend on heat and limited kinetic energy, are useless," A'armo'o said.
"I recommend we break off, Most High," the human said.
A'armo'o shook his head. "We must make haste. The threat is immanent."
The human frowned but nodded. "As you say, sir. My Marines are with you."
"What munitions do your Marines have loaded at this time?" A'armo'o asked.
She glanced up. "Standard mass reactive armor defeating rounds. The heavy gunners have anti-matter rounds loaded up."
A'armo'o thought quickly. Heat and pressure would increase the vehicle's armor and toughness. He thought real quick, pinged his implant, then nodded to himself.
"Can your men 'fab' up liquid nitrogen rounds for their weapons? Perhaps have your heavy guns mix it at a three to one ratio and your men's rocket and grenade weapons mix it in?" he asked.
She glanced up again, spoke on mute, then looked at A'armo'o again. "No problem. Good plan."
"Thank you. Your Marines will be critical to my planning. They have my utmost confidence," A'armo'o said. Part of him knew that as little as a month ago he would have never had faith in neo-sapient troops, much less rebellious species that had left the Unified Council to join up with a pack of murder machine lemurs.
But when your business was death, murder machine lemurs and their allies were the best partners to have.
The Terran signed off and A'armo'o pinged his commo officer. "Get me that one eyed human that deal with munitions."
There was a few seconds before the one eyed Terran appeared in his vision. It was obvious to A'armo'o that the Terran was running in his loading frame, easily keeping up with the hover tanks.
"Casey here," the Terran snapped.
A'armo'o noted that his eye wasn't glowing red.
"I am Great Most High of Armor A'armo'o," he said.
"Sergeant First Class Casey, 144th Orndnance Company, Fifteenth Combat Sustainment Battalion," the human stated. "What can I do for you?"
"Plasma rounds are problematic for the upcoming battle. The enemy's armor gets stronger when exposed to heat and pressure and undoubtably has high temperature superconductor properties," A'armo'o said. "You have the specifics of our main guns, as you have been providing our ammunition needs."
"Yes," the Terran answered.
"I need you to devise what kind of munitions we can field without modification to our weapons. We have only minutes and not many of those," A'armo'o said.
"I'm gonna have to mount the back deck of one of your tanks," the Terran said. "I'm in a heavy frame."
A'armo'o checked at the back of his tank and motioned at the three Telkan Marines to jump to one of the other tanks. "My rear deck is clear."
"Why Most High, I hardly know you," the Terran grinned, then cut the channel.
A'armo'o frowned, did a search, then burst out laughing.
"He was disrespectful, Most High," A'armo'o's gunner said. "The lemur should not make sexual comments toward one of your rank."
"Perhaps you would like to fist fight him over my honor?" A'armo'o asked. "I never knew you had such feelings for I, your superior. I will swoon with delight to watch you duel the Terran over my virtue."
The gunner ducked his head, embarrassed.
"Quickly, navigator, set a course for the Most High's fainting couch," the driver laughed.
"I will set my instruments to search for the Most High's virtue! Surely I can find it!" his gunner said, trying to get in on it. "It is surely next to the box marked grid squares and military intelligence."
A'armo'o laughed, glad to see his men's morale raise.
The tank actually bobbled when SFC Casey climbed on the tank. He didn't jump in the air like the Telkan did, just grabbed the back and pulled himself up.
A'armo'o felt a little bit of nervous at the sight as Casey opened the maintenance dataport and connected a cable, kneeling down on the back deck.
"Pressure's too low for that," the Terran mumbled. "Not enough laser propellant for that. I can have the mortar rounds made for that."
Most High A'armo'o let the Terran work. He had heard that the Terran was nearly a thousand years old and had spent the entire time in the Confederate military.
Suddenly Casey looked up. "Your training rounds. Compressed air to register impacts. I can use that."
"Your experience and skills are appreciated, Terran," A'armo'o said.
The Terran grinned. "I'm a jumped up chimp that figured out how to throw a rock, I'm all about innovation."
Casey touched his implant. "Captain Starpunt, I've got templates I'm going to hand you. Dump the current loadout for the Great Herd in the grinders, plasma rounds are a nogo at this station."
He nodded. "I'm sure, ma'am. Have Dominguez and Chatterman start fabbing them up. We're going to have to either set up an ATP on this side of the river or go in on their tails and do drop back and reload patterns."
He was silent a moment. "Roger that, coming back."
The Terran just disconnected the cable, stood up, and gave a little hop that let the tank drive out from under him.
A'armo'o shook his head.
The fans howled as his unit made for the river at flank speed. He examined the drone feeds of the fast scan drones that were searching for a place for the sustainment battalion to dig in so they could fab up ammunition and repair tanks that needed maintenance frames.
"Most High?" his comlink clinked.
It was the Terran.
"Here," he said.
"My unit's going to mount the tanks and cross the river with you. We'll be working on your tanks until you get within a kay of engagement or get engaged, then we'll drop off and start digging in," the Terran Colonel said. "There's civilians on the ground, we might go in with you."
"I cannot provide safety," A'armo'o said.
"Sir, it's war. There's no such thing," the Terran said.
A'armo'o noted that her eyes were glowing a soft red.
"My men are trained in combat refit," the Terran said. "That's why we wear armor."
A'armo'o's implant pinged and he checked it, then looked at the Terran. "I must remind you, that without your SUDS operational, should you or your soldiers be killed in action you will remain dead, there is no recovery."
She nodded slow. "We know."
She cut the link and A'armo'o nodded to himself, staring at the wreckage going by. If I was effectively immortal and then lost it, would I risk entering battle?
he thought to himself. I joined the Unified Military Forces at thirty, have been a tanker for centuries. I have spent the bulk of my five hundred years of life risking that
one life to lead this tank.
He stared at a burned out ground-car where he could see the bones of the owners fused to the melted plasteel. Yes, yes I would. The same thing that urged me to leave behind a life of ease and comfort as the son of a Fifth Most High and learn to fight a tank would urge me to to do even if I had been born a Confederate lemur,
"We will be halting five hundred meters from the river for ten minutes. That is the time your people have to work," A'armo'o told the CO of the support unit.
"Roger that. We'll prioritize repairs on armor and battlescreen replacement, drive train repair, and IFF systems. Captain Starpunt said the fabs are already running off your new ammunition. You'll need to run your guns in long range training mode to use the munitions, but they should work," the Colonel said.
A'armo'o nodded. The system was designed to 'fire' a 'slug' of compressed air up to two miles that could flip over a ground car with a direct hit.
"The round just has to hit, don't worry about penetration. We'll be loading your mortar tubes with hydrogen slush rounds with a kicker," the Colonel added. "15th, out."
A'armo'o nodded again, marking the area to come to a halt. It would keep a huge cargo ship loading and unloading area between his troops and the fighting going on only a few miles beyond.
The tanks put on more speed, hoverfans and graviton systems howling.
Vuxten jumped onto the back of the Most High's tank, the heavy mag-ac stubber in his hands. Part of him felt that he should be wielding the same weapon as every other Telkan in the division, but despite his misgivings he had been more or less ordered to keep carrying the weapon that he had been gifted with just prior to his desperate fight under the mountain that had become the Wrath Forge of Telkan.
He glanced at the spread winged eagle on the side of the heavy gun, done in still burning warsteel, and closed his eyes.
He could feel it.
It was going to get thick.
Colonel Dremsal saw the medics of 13th Evac hurrying beings onto the heavy combat shuttles in the rearview of his visor, concentrating on hammering at the Precursor vehicles with his quad-barrel. They were using the wreckage of the first four drill systems as cover as they advanced, the rest pulling back. His self-propelled artillery pieces were firing ground penetrating rounds, blowing up plumes of dirt hundreds of meters high, all with the bright whitish-blue snap of antimatter at the foot.
"How long?" he asked.
One of his tanks took a heavy hit, ringing like a bell, but the spalling liner held and the tank stayed in the fight even with a six inch deep crater in the side of the cupola.
"Ten minutes!" one of the SAR replied. "Dropship Six suffered a turbine failure due to enemy fire."
"Roger that, we'll hold the line," he answered.
Thunderpunch was putting out their namesake, even restricted with what ammunition they could use. Normally they'd have gone full blown atomic, but the refugees behind them who's makeshift shelter had failed would die from the hellish particle sleet if he ordered that.
Which wouldn't do anyone any good.
A mining laser ripped through the battlescreen of tank 3-8, the TC, one Major Grummand, vanished from the waist up in a spray of reddish steam and scraps of boiled flesh as the energy transfer from the high powered laser converted the water in his body to steam.
Those big ones, they were tougher than they had any right to be, and were staying back, hiding, and putting out their mining drones with heavy lasers. The ones that had tried to get close enough to use their impact tools had been reduced to junk.
But they were still trying.
Worse, there was movement from a grounded Jotun only a few miles away, but the smoke, debris, and radiation in the air prevented anyone from getting a good look at what was coming.
A laser managed to get through the screen, ripping across 1-1's armor, leaving a deep glowing gouge in the warsteel hull, and stopped just before it would have snapped Colonel Dremsal in half.
Dremsal answered with his quad-barrel, shattering the metal attackers with the actinic flash of antimatter liberating its energy. Come on, Thunderpunch, only a few more minutes,
But in combat, 10 minutes was an eternity.