1.18: Cpl Martinez

Date: Thursday 25 October 2040ce 0954z
Location: Phoenix War Zone (-0700)

The problem is, we are camped outside of a hive…

‘Outside’ was certainly an exaggeration; The troop was camped about two hundred meters south-east of Phoenix Hive B-3, itself the most south and east of the four hives that rose from the ruins of Phoenix.

But those hives were under heavy around-the-clock bombardment, a necessary measure to ensure enough damage beneath the shields to prevent those hives from producing fully functional biomechs. The shields most often resisted the ballistic force of the munitions on contact. But that resistance triggered an immediate chain of consequences.

First, the shell was built from one of the formorian alloys that used the shield’s own energy discharge to create a strong magnetic disturbance. This effect lasted only a fraction of a second but was strong enough to cause the shield matrix at the location to change alignment for the duration.

The second consequence was in the engineering of the munitions, which caused it to shatter into a million razor shards, almost all of which would pass through the compromised shield and shred everything in their path.

The third and final consequence was the end game, that each disruption of the alignment of the shield matrix built up into a feedback loop which would render the shield generators vulnerable to overload. Once it was determined that a shield had reached that coveted condition, a full-scale insertion attempt is made. The shield generators overloaded again and again, creating openings through which squads would enter and seek out the red crystal that was believed to house the artificial intelligence operating the hive.

But why are we here…?

Keeping Phoenix under siege made perfect sense; The hives, consisting of one of the largest complex hives on record accompanied by a cluster of five smaller ones, would mass-produce biomechs by the thousands if left unabated.

What made no sense to Martinez, and most everyone else, was why there was a listening station set up monitoring the shield output when establishing an insertion wasn’t going to be possible in the near future. That was a matter of production and economics; The artillery was being built, with rumors of ‘advanced upgrades’ starting to circulate, and it would be possible eventually to take down not only these hives but a multitude of others.

But in his mind, someone had made a rather stupid decision to even bother paying attention to what the shields here were doing.

And now, most likely he believed, that someone was making his troop’s life harder than it needed to be by insisting that the station be repaired. That same someone, of course, only knew part of the problem, so while the initial repair was completed mid-morning, they ended up remaining huddled in this wreckage of a basement waiting for a drone to carry the necessary part to them.

By the time that part was installed, Sergeant Wagner called it a night and, to his horror, picked the very same basement to sleep in.

Like anyone can sleep…

He looked around him; Most everyone was sleeping.

Outside their refuge, the constant whistle of flying projectiles and the crackling broken-glass sound of shield impact.

Bastards.

“Why the fuck are we here?” Bruce asked in an annoyed tone.

“Defending the species,” Crew remarked.

“Keep it down,” Martinez said, hoping he sounded more confident then he felt.

“Fuckin’ shells ain’t keeping anyone up,” Crew said, “Then we’re not going to.”

The fucking shells are keeping me up.

But he had to agree that she had a point; They hadn’t woken anyone up yet, and they weren’t keeping him up either.

“Still with us, Ball?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Yup,” came the reply.

Ever the conversationalist.

Ball was on duty; He had the motion sensor that would report if a biomech had managed to mature enough to flee its hive. No one operated this close to a hive without one.

We should have six of those things.

“This is such shit work,” Crew complained. “I still don’t get why we have to sleep here.”

“Because she ordered it,” Martinez replied, this time hoping it didn’t sound like the complaint it was.

“What I want to know,” Bruce began, “is who the hell dug this hole out to begin with.

The ‘hole’ was the remains of a basement, stocked with medical supplies, a small amount of dry rations, and a wall of electronics encased in an iron box that would likely withstand most anything other than a direct hit from an artillery shell or a droog’s blaster.

“Someone with bigger balls than you,” Crew replied.

“Yup,” came Bell’s voice from behind.

Do you ever say anything else?

Martinez looked over at the listening equipment, figuring that the static field would be close to null; With a third of the dome no longer subject to artillery bombardment, the shield matrix would at least partially realign itself.

It also meant that the hive beneath that third of the dome had started to repair itself.

If insertion here is impossible, then why do we have listening stations?

It made no sense to him, but sometimes that just meant he didn’t know everything that needed to be known in order for sense to be made of it. What he did know was that someone considered the presence of an operational listening station here important enough to allow bombardment of the nearest hive to be reduced enough for them to get here.

And spend the fucking night!

Overall, he wasn’t very comfortable with their position at all. His first field patrol had seen action along the Utah-Wyoming border, but he had never been this close to a hive before.

The constant drumming and glass-shattering was wearing down his nerves.

“It’s not like we’re the only troop in the area,” Bruce continued.

Doesn’t this guy ever shut up?

Fact was, Bruce was putting voice to Martinez’s emotions, which helped very little.

He’s the sort of guy who’d accidentally start a riot just by talking too much…

“What?” Crew asked indignantly. “You ‘spectin’ Apache Command to not send’n der Kommodant?”

You can barely fake an American accent… Stop faking German.

Not that anyone spoke straight English anymore; Pre-Invasion languages had blended together, forming regional dialects of English with Spanish, Spanish with English, French-English in the north-east, Inuit merging with English in the Alaskan States, and so on. Even Apache Command had adopted every First Nations language with the deliberate intent of birthing a new language that reflected their own merging as a single nation.

Driving the linguists crazy, too.

He laughed at the thought, finding it an alien concept that things like academic studies were still occurring somewhere in the world far away from any place he’d ever been.

“Die Engel auf Reno,” Bruce chortled.

“Now keep that down,” Martinez half-barked, adding in a softer tone, “She’ll have your ass if she hears any of that.”

Though your faux German is much better then hers.

He peered over in her direction, making sure she, at the very least, appeared to be sleeping. Sarge was never inclined to speak about her past fame, and he’d witnessed her unleashing Hell’s fury on a couple booties at Apache Command who had recognized her.

“She can have my ass if she wants,” Crew replied.

“I didn’t know she was still in,” Bruce said after a snicker. “The kids in my neighborhood… Everyone wanted to be her. We’d salute her posters, brag about how one day we’d be part of Wagner’s Firebirds. Didn’t exist anymore, but that didn’t stop us. Kinda weird now that I’ve met her… Here and all, I mean. We all believed she had one of those retirement houses outside of Francisco.”

“Yeah,” Crew remarked. “Up there in the ‘green belt’. Would be nice.”

“Take down a hive and you’ll get one,” Martinez said. “Right, Ball?”

“Yup,” came the faithful reply.

That only encouraged Bruce some more.

“That’s what I mean, though,” he said, clearly baffled. “That’s automatic retirement. Anyone that gets in a hive and survives gets one. It’s still that way now. Over a hundred troopers retired after Lone Star. Green yards, picket fences, ocean view some of them.”

That was certainly true. Northern state-nations had originally offered them, having fertile land to spare. Now the SWS offered them as well, having developed restoration methods for the stripped land.

“So why’s she still in?” Bruce concluded.

“To kick the shit out of boots like you,” Crew answered, her own annoyance growing. “She’s a lifer, true and through.”

I don’t think that’s how the expression goes.

“Twenty or twelve?” Bruce asked.

“Shit, kid,” Martinez said as he pushed himself into a standing position. “If that trooper ever dies, it’ll be with her fucking boots on. Going out to piss, Ball.”

“Yup.”

Outside the wall, he emptied his bladder while looking up towards the top of the shield.

Even if they produce a feedback loop, an insertion run is impossible…

That was the ‘blessed event’ of a siege, one of the many miracles of the quantum universe that he never really understood beyond the most basic principles, described to him as a ‘band’ of residual energy within the shield matrix which were analogous to hollow tubes. Over time, it would dissipate, but once detected, the Terran forces hammered at it, increasing its geometry exponentially. Eventually, the matrix fails in that region, the generator taking several minutes to realign itself properly.

And in we go…

That was the madness behind the hive siege method.

“Was wondering how long you were going to keep me waiting.”

The voice was like a purr, so unlike its usual blunt harshness.

The fuck?

Martinez wasn’t toilet shy, but surprise had nearly closed his bladder.

“I wasn’t sure,” he said, trying not to feel awkward as he continued urinating, “if I was supposed to see you slipping out.”

He was lying; he hadn’t seen her at all.

Bad guard! I’m a bad, bad guard!

“Thought I might have been meeting someone else?”

Almost done…

“Nope,” he said. “But sometimes a trooper wants to be alone.”

Like for the next ten seconds…

“Uh uh,” Bovee whispered into his ear. “I prefer it if you don’t shake first.”

She dropped to her knees.

Well, hello…

“Yup,” he heard Ball call out.

Damn motion sensors!

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