Anti-matter grenades erupted all around me as I penetrated Jovian defenses. I was conducting a squad-level rush, fireteam by fireteam, to take the high ground on a ridge in Quadrant Three of Section Five in the Northeastern Hemisphere of Ganymede.
The Jovian moon was an icy nightmare, but it was crucial as an ice mining location and recharging station for the Universal Legion. Dedicated to space exploration and advancement, the Legion had been around since 2038.
I radioed (inside my helmet) my first fireteam leader, Corporal Letchin, to check his status.
“Letchin, I need an update,” I said.
“I’ve lost Freid, Sarge.” He sounded like he was in trouble, which was rare for him. It was only his second combat operation since making Corporal and having his own fireteam.
“Sarge, I’m pinned down behind an outcropping. I need assistance ay-sap!”
“Be there in two mikes, buddy. Can you hold on ’til then?”
“Roger that. We are on our way.”
Letchin was an old friend of mine from the early days of the Universal Legion. I let my emotions get the better of me and I took a high-risk, high-reward boost with my ankle thrusters. I nearly overshot Letchin’s position by two miles and he was going to be overrun in the time it would have taken me to double back. I landed, with some luck, within thirty-five feet of my projected landing spot.
I ran around the rear of Letchin’s fireteam. “Here’s the plan, Letchin. Two men and I from the second fireteam will go to their left flank and toss a cluster grenade each. What I need from you is to have the rest of the men in the squad throw grenades at the same time. I’ll give you the signal when I get into position. Check?”
“Roger, Sarge. I’ll pass the word.”
“Marsh,” he was my second fireteam leader, “give me Wilkes and Cason to hit the flank and the rest of you assist Letchin’s team.”
Wilkes and Cason caught up with me; double timing to gladly joining me for a chance to shine. We used thrusters a few times; one click to the East and half a click north to get into position, with the help of bio scanners.
“See that smooth rock hill at our two o’clock?” I asked them.
Both Legionnaires already knew my plan before I made the order. They both spread out and took a prone position.
“Don’t drop down so hard. Those fusion packs power your suits and you don’t want to damage them. Wilkes, go about five yards further from Cason and get back in the prone.”
The Jovian front line made for stiff opposition but they had no idea that the three of us were twenty yards away, facing perpendicular to their position. They had the higher ground, for a brief time, but the top of the ridge was of a concave nature-very lethal in a situation with grenades. Slowly, they advanced where I had hoped they would.
“Now, Letchin. Toss’em!”
It is my belief that every available man threw a grenade-some cluster, some not-into the enemy ranks. I heard a brief period of panicked yelling, then the initial grenades, then the secondary explosions, then silence.
“No readings, now, on my bio scanner, Sarge. I think we wasted them,” Letchin replied, relief in his voice.
“I don’t see any either, old friend.”
“We’ve got two wasted, Berry and Cone.”
A month before the mission, Cone had told me how excited he was to be an expecting father. I still wonder how Legionnaires with families and kids are killed and my salty ass remains spared for some ungodly reason. I had a lot of common sense and even more luck. It was always painful bagging up those young Legionnaires who looked to me for guidance and protection. I have never been numb to a pain that feels like my heart being torn out.
“Remain at your position until we get there, Letchin. I’ll personally help you get them back to the ship.”
I radioed the whole squad. “Good job out there today, Legionnaires. That was the last pocket of resistance in this quadrant and now we can get some rest for a few weeks. However, let us not forget the sacrifice that two of our brothers made today. They had a fighting spirit and are still Legionnaires as far as I’m concerned. To our fallen brothers: Semper Sollicitus.”
“Semper Sol,” came the echo from my squad.