Hostile Environment Training Complex
First Lieutenant Callum Jaay scanned the terrain with sensor binocs, auto-rifle in hand. Shapes solidified a little over 100 meters away, creeping through an adjacent ravine. “We have movement,” he reported on the platoon comm-net. He spoke sotto voiced into the wire-thin mic attached to the helmet faceplate and pressed against his cracked lips. A flick of his eyes switched the comm channel to command only. "Vaughn?"
“We see it,” Sergeant Vaughn's voice replied in his ear. “You have the flank. Your call, Lieutenant. Try to trap as many as possible.”
“Roger that,” Jaay said. “They have good distance between them. This won't be easy.”
“We can use the mortars to pin down their rear. They should charge and try to roll up a flank.”
"Gee, so that’s why we’ve been lugging those freakin’ mortars around for a week in containment gear?"
"Not everything at HET is to make your life miserable. Just most of it."
“Roger that." Jaay flicked back to the platoon comm-net. "Flankers look sharp on your guns. Mortarmen up!” The mortarmen acted instantly on his order, anxious to do something besides lug their equipment around.
“Mortars are up,” Vaughn responded. “Suggest no more than 4 or 6 rounds. Your call.”
Six mortar rounds between two mortars… maybe two minutes tops? Jaay chewed his lip and watched the enemy approach. That’s an eternity in an ambush. The mortarmen also need time to break down. "Mortars. Flash four. Everyone else. On my zero." Jaay drew down on the soldier nearest him. Fifty meters and closing slowly, wary of an ambush. Smart trooper. Jaay almost regreted having to kill him. Almost. The targeting reticule painted an X on the unlucky soldier's chest. The weapon calculated the lag time between first round, armor response, and penetration round. The reticule blipped green.
Jaay gave a harsh whisper into his mic. “Look alive, people. Five…four…three…two…one…zero!”
Two 50mm mortars, two 50mm grenade launchers, four machine guns, and 18 riflemen opened up simultaneously on the approaching enemy. Jaay fired at his target. The soldier's uniform flashed a brilliant crimson once then settled into a pattern, red, black, red. A kill. The man looked up and made a rude gesture. Weapon inoperative, he dropped to the ground to wait out the action. Smoke canister mortar and grenade rounds landed between Jaay's squad and the enemy soldiers, dulling the uniform flashes of injured troops.
“Action right! Action right!” Vaughn shouted on the comm-net. Troops on the crossbar of the L-shaped ambush shifted right. It left a gap to the immediate right of Jaay—in front of Maxwell’s team.
"Damn!" Jaay assessed the problem in several quick glances, straining to peer through the smoke. “Corporal Maxwell! Fire support for Vaughn! Pepin! Report!”
“Left is clear, sir!” Pepin replied. “We surprised them over here.”
“Fall back towards me. Maxwell, we're on our way. Hold tight.” Jaay said. He stood in the wadi, head below the ridge as Corporal Pepin slid down the crumbling wall to land in a heap next to him. “Pepin, secure the left.” Jaay slapped the shoulder armor of the younger man. "No prisoners!"
"Rog, sir. Secure the left." Pepin's helmet bobbed once before he popped up to fire a laser burst. As suppressive fire it wasn't much but it kept the enemy's heads down.
Jaay raced down the wadi behind his teammates. He slapped Maxwell on the shoulder as he passed. She fired her machine gun, grinning behind the faceplate. Her manic laughter echoed over the comm-net. “Pepin’s coming up," Jaay shouted over her noise. "He’ll replace you. Fall back after me. Support Vaughn on the right!”
“Roger that, sir!” Maxwell flipped him a hand, never taking her eyes from the scene in front of her.
“Mortarmen! Pack up and stand by.” Jaay ran along the wadi without waiting for acknowledgement, trusting Maxwell’s fire team to be on his heels. He slowed as the ravine widened. Two soldiers trotted past, weapons at the ready, the rest of the squad coming up fast.
A discolored line of dirt 100 meters in front of them gave Jaay pause. Before he could focus the sensor binocs in on the anomaly, the soldiers in front of him disintegrated in a shower of blood and body parts. Jaay threw himself sideways, behind a laughably small boulder. Rock shards splintered off as Jaay tried to will himself smaller. The screams of injured troops rang in his ears. "Ambush! Take cover!" he shouted before realization kicked in. This training was now a live fire exercise. His platoon was the target.