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The Assault of Orion I

Part Six

Sgt Kindred's voice on the com woke Rhame from his semi sleep state."Sarge you seeing anything strange out to our front?" Rhame quickly ran through the sensor data and the camera views one by one and replied harshly."Kindred , I am not seeing anything wierd from here,what's the problem ?" The rest of the Platoon had picked up over the past few days that all was not well with Rhame so Kindred chose his next words carefully "I dont know but , even though I am not picking up anything visually , the ground in the desert is looking real strange." Rhame learned a long time ago to trust his peoples instincts and ran through his vids again. There seemed to be a disturbance along some of the dunes like sand being kicked up but both his vids and the feeds from all the remote sensors showed nothing. Rhame wanted to pop the hatch and look around but after checking his command board his jaw clenched , the whole area was recently covered with a class IV Nerve Agent . Rhame thought a moment "Now why do you want us to keep buttoned up you bastards." Rhame smiled as he remembered the one piece of equipment that every generation of tankers had insisted remain on even the newest tanks. He reached down and unscrewed the armor cap on the end of his ancient optical sight."You can fool the hardware but the Mark One Eyeball Detector is still the hardest thing to spoof." Rhame started hearing small arms fire break out from the eastern edge of the perimeter as he leaned down and peered through the archaic aiming device. He didn't realize his mike was still keyed when he saw what was truly out there. A chill went through the unit at the bleak voice they heard. "Oh my dear God."

General Parker cursed as she read the message from the Bio/Chem Decontamination Battalion. They had taken heavy losses in the last Antaran attack and doubted their ability to keep the Corps Command/Maintenance areas clear of contamination. She keyed back a message to their Colonel. "If you can't keep this area deconed then we might as well just roll over and die , so deal with it." She realized that her reply wasn't going to help him clean the equipment of contaminants."You are authorized to grab anyone you can find out of the following sections: Personnel , Psy Ops and Food Service." She paused a moment and smiled as she removed the food service people from the list."I may need them on the perimeter soon so the cooks are mine." She was interrupted by her Comm Officer . General we have something strange happening out here the Commander of the Marines says he needs to speak to you ASAP. Gen Parker sighed and as she entered the Ops area and grabbed a mike. "Yes Major what's the problem?" There was the sound of massive fire overlaying the next transmision."General we are getting slaughtered out here and your tanks are not providing support fire on these battleoids! They tell me they have no targets in range but they are right on top of us , we need help from those machines of yours NOW!" The General walked to a console and went through the vid feeds. She saw nothing on most of the perimeter but did see some sort of explosions coming from the eastern edge where the Marines and a Regiment of her tanks were dug in. As she looked carefully she noticed some fire was coming from an unusual angle and the area just didn't look quite right.She blanched as she realized what was happening."Hacked! They Hacked our vids and sensor systems and are masking their units." The senior Hack Team Officer spoke up."General its impossible , we would have seen some sign of them trying and its impossible to hide that many moving units at once."The General grabbed the Captain by the scruff of his neck and dragged him to the vid."Then tell me what is killing my troops!" She keyed her mike and sent out an all unit push "All units , this is the General , our sensors and vids have been Hacked. Switch to MANUAL targeting control and report all enemy sightings in your area." The General walked over to her electronic map table and waited for her staff to manually update enemy unit locations. As markers showing Antaran battleoid and infantry units started flooding in the General closed her eyes a moment."Very well played." She thought to her unknown counterpart. "Full assault with all your forces and we are blind and our tanks are only 10% effective without their targeting systems." She turned to her still whitefaced Hack Team Captain and pointed her finger at him. "If your people can't write some counter code to this in the next 15 minutes , your whole unit may as well grab rifles and head for the line as you are no use to me here!" The General looked again at the board and shook her head "Very well played indeed."

One tank's plasma gun fired again. Rhame heard Dunphy curse as he missed again. Rhame looked down at his gunner "Dunphy if you don't start putting some plasma on target I am gonna shave your freakin head." Dunphy just grunted and muttered "Maybe they used to use this primative targeting flarg when you started Sarge but I had ONE class on this during my training and we all thought it was a joke." Rhame just leaned down and whispered in Dunphy's ear."If you can't kill enough of them the joke is gonna be on us and it's not gonna be a nice one." The gunner bent over his sight and fired again "HIT. That got him Sarge." Rhame nodded , just do that another 50 or 60 times and we will be ok. The sound of the gun firing and his gunners curse told him of another miss. He checked the status of his Platoon and cursed as he saw a few red indicators on his board. Four tank showed as a mobility disable and Three tank was showing all secondary armaments disabled and ECM systems offline. He figured that with their ECM systems down , Three tank would be the main focus of the enemies push "Provide cover fire for Three tank , they are unmasked and things might be getting hot for them. Four tank I show you as immobile , what's the problem?" In a moment Sgt Kindred replied "We took a pair of plasma missiles through the front slope Rhame , McKay is fried and the whole drivers compartment with him and I have burnout creepage eating up my movement controls so we are going nowhere." There was pause then Kindred spoke again "You know they are getting too close and we aren't killing them fast enough Sarge." Rhame checked his sight again "Yeah but I'm not gonna just roll over and die." Before they could say anything else there was a tremendous explosion from the ridge. Rhame saw Three tank's indicators go straight red. Rhame closed his eyes and added three more names to his List."Golden , Lazenby , Clipp." He said said softly."See you soon Laz , Hell is gonna be crowded so save me a seat buddy." Kindred broke in on the comm and Rhame heard what sounded like an argument going on in Four tank "One sec Burke I am gonna check with the Sarge , NO don't do anything till I tell you. Sarge you read me ?" Rhame waited till the main gun fired again before replying."What you need Kindred?" The sergeant of Four tank sounded uncertain."Burke thinks he has a way to get us online Sarge,he still has that data cube with Hack Labs new fire control system and he thinks that if we upload it we will be at 100% or near enough. But Sarge,if the Corps Hack Team comes up with a program fix and we have the wrong fire control version uploaded when they transmit the bug fix ......." Rhame broke in "They could crash our whole tanks software package." A series of impacts and near misses on his tank made his decision for him." Tell Burke to upload it to all of us."

General Parker was watching her staff try to keep updates on the main map board as far too many of her units were marked as disabled or killed and far too few Antarans were winking out in return fire. A sudden change on the plot board drew her attention as the situation on the ridge south of the Spaceport became crystal clear. Marks showing every enemy unit in that area were appearing with a perfection they hadn't in weeks. And they were dying , fast. The three tanks shown there were engaging and destroying enemies faster than she thought possible. She looked over to the Hack Team furiously hammering away at their keyboards. "You did it ! But why did you only upload your code to those units ?" Their Captain looked at the board "It wasn't us General , we are still trying to find their wurm." The General looked at the board "Get me in contact with those units NOW!" A moment later Parker heard a tired voice on her com "Rhame here , what do you want?" The General's voice was deceptively calm "Well Sergeant , this is your General here and what we in Ops. would like you to know is why YOU are the only combat capable units in the whole damn Corps?" There was a pause "General , one of my people ....ummm.... 'acquired' a copy of the newest fire control program from the Hack Labs and we figured......." The General heard an exclamation behind her from the Hacker Captain "But that code is Top Secret and hasn't even been approved for limited testing!" The General looked at her mapboard again as units attacking the ridge melted away before the firestorm "Looks tested and I approve!" she keyed her mike "Sergeant , pulse Ops and Control a copy of this new software for upload to all units."

HiveMaster Mphhilian watched as the last of his Warriors died in the hellish fire from the human positions. He felt shame as he stood in the Circle of Judgment but did not know how his plan had failed. The other HiveMasters looked upon him with contempt. Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar pointed a finger in his direction "They drew you in like a Vranth is drawn to the slaughter pens. Your plans reliance on disabling their machines was foolish , costly and in the end fatal.You are FLAWED and your HELIX is to be purged! You and your seed will not contaminate our perfection." There was a bright glow as the Circle consumed Mphhilian and burned him to less than ash. Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar looked upon the others "Who will step forward to cleanse this infection that stains our world?" Without pause HiveMaster Nurrclian stepped forward. "I will eliminate the contamination upon our World and bring an end to this!" Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar nodded "You must do so quickly. We have detected more of their ships coming to bring greater infestation to our World." HiveMaster Nurrclian flared his ridges in assent. "I will use no more tricks to kill them , I will order all Warriors to assault as I lead the Special Attack Units in a strike on their HiveMistress , this Parrrkuur , I will kill her myself and take our revenge on her seed !" The other HiveMasters indicated their assent , the plan was good.

Senior HiveMaster Gillixiar held up a finger of warning "Make haste HiveMaster , if you can not eliminate them in twelve Time Units you know what we must do."




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