Level 4Close Contact
By Rob Davis

For the fifth time in as many minutes, Fenrik checked his Personal Electronic Device. It still showed the same result it had the four previous times: his personal camouflage system was operating at 100% efficiency, making him invisible to most every major detection system on the planet. So long as he kept his head down behind the boulder that was currently his best friend, he was invisible to the naked eye as well.

He was nervous, and rightfully so, but the heft of his weapon always made him feel a little bit better. To take his mind off of the current situation he'd started to mentally recite its steps of operation when a low pitched beep sounded in his PED's earpiece. That was the early detection signal; their prey had just entered the canyon. He quickly glanced down at his weapon. Its caps were unlatched and the safety was off. All systems were go.

Another low tone sounded in his helmet signaled that the Fenris were beginning their approach run. His PED said they would be here in less than 40 seconds, which meant that their targets were moving faster than expected. They must have decided they were safer moving through the canyon as quickly as possible, rather than slowly and carefully. How typical of the Rach. They'd pay for that decision.

Rik could now feel the vibrations of the 100 ton machines stomping along the canyon floor. He could sense the rest of his section as they tensed, preparing themselves for the coming combat, even as his own adrenaline levels began to surge. He turned to his left and flashed a fang bearing grin at his teammate Jazzen, just as another beep sounded in his ear. Close contact. Almost time to spring the trap.

"Target confirmed" the voice in his earpiece spoke. That would be Cruz, their point man speaking from his forward position. "Slot five-five."

Their patience had paid off! They'd hoped to land a big target and they had; A KODA Works Emperor, a super heavy CAV almost as large as the Confederacy's own Rhino. And as luck would have it, it was last in line as the Rach raced down the canyon. This would be easier than he'd dared hope.

A quiet, low town emitted from his earpiece now. The first enemy unit had entered the kill zone. Now they only had to wait for the Emperor to move into place. Cruz spoke briefly over the channel again "Closing the door". Rik had to smile for a moment as he pictured Crazy Cruz in his head, preparing to ride his jet pack into the sky. Not everyone in the section liked Cruz, but Rik did, even if he was a Human. Cruz's parents worked for KDM and he had been born and raised in Dornheim. Despite his still pointedly Human mannerisms, he loved the Confederacy as much as any Ritterlich Rik had ever met. Naturally he was different from the rest of the team, but then to be a part of this team, you had to be a little different. It took a special kind of person to do what they were about to do, especially if you planned on surviving. Cruz had a knack for surviving.

The tone's pitch increased noticeably; the Emperor was almost in the kill zone. Rik tightened his grip on his weapon and steeled himself for action. A second later his AnderSchar spoke two simple words over the unit channel and a half-dozen men sprang into action; "Engage Target."

Hidden among the rocks and crevices of the canyon wall, Rik and his team were perfectly positioned for the kill. Spread out along the wall, the section mates had perfect angles of fire for each of their assignments. Rik's position put him almost eye-level with the 30 foot monster's "waist" as it came running towards him.

Out of the corner of his eye, Rik could see the action unfold. He held the last position in the ambush, which meant he was the last to fire. It also meant that the kill was his and his alone.

He could see AnderSchar Golte firing his Extinguisher. The Extinguisher is a unique weapon, some would hardly consider it a weapon at all, but no one doubted its effectiveness. The single-use weapon looked like a rifle with an overgrown barrel; a full foot in diameter. It was extremely awkward to carry in the field during normal combat engagements, but was perfect for an ambush such as this. Instead of a warhead full of explosives, or some armor defeating projectile, the Extinguisher's sole purpose was as a delivery system. In the blink of an eye, three gallons of foam were sprayed out of the barrel and onto the Emperor's legs, barely ten feet away. Embedded in the foam were Robotic Microengineers, microscopic robots that would quickly find their way between the Emperor's armor plating and leg joints and begin to destroy the vulnerable mechanisms that allowed the mighty CAV's legs to move. More importantly, they would attack the Emperor's own RMEs when they were deployed, preventing the CAV from repairing any damage to itself.

Everything was moving in slow motion for Rik now. Chunks of armor were popping off of the Emperor from his section mate's attacks. He sensed, more than saw, a flash of light as Jazzen's rocket launcher fired. At this range they didn't even bother with targeting systems, it was just point and shoot, but they had trained long and hard for just this situation and Jazzen's attack struck true, scoring a direct hit on the Emperor's hip. The warhead sliced through the heavy armor and bore into the Bellar Joint beneath it, locking the Emperor's hip in place.

Rik had to give the Rach pilot credit; he compensated with the CAV's other leg to prevent it from falling flat on its cockpit. But even still on its feet, it was too late for the Emperor and its crew. With the CAV temporarily immobilized, the remaining two men of Rik's section rose from their hiding places on the canyon floor. They each held a Nutcracker grenade, another weapon specially designed for this type of close combat. Too large to effectively throw more than a few dozen feet, the Nutcracker was shaped like a large tube. As the grenades arced towards the Emperor's back, the heavy magnets on the front of each grenade went active, attaching the grenade to the CAV like a nail sticking out of a board.

The Nutcracker wasn't a true grenade in the sense that it held any explosives. Instead, it was more of a one shot miniature gauss cannon. As soon as the magnets indicated they had locked onto something solid, the propellant at the opposite end of the tube was ignited, driving a foot long rod through the CAV's armor to rip into the soft components beneath.

The sight of two men out in the open on the canyon floor was too easy of a target for the Rach wizzo to ignore. He began to rotate the Emperor's massive Gauss Rotary Cannons towards them, which gave Rik the opening he needed. Standing up from his hiding spot, he brought his shredder to bear on the Emperor's large, protruding cockpit and fired.

The Thunderclap was yet another single use weapon that the Ritterlich had designed specifically as a point defense system, but Rik's unit had found another use for it. The weapon was nothing more than 36- one inch barrels bound together. While typically mounted on a tripod and remotely triggered, Rik's model had a handle and firing stud bonded onto it along with a pair of iron sights. Each barrel was four feet long and filled front to back with ten spikes, each one forged of barythylm and equipped with its own ignition and propulsion system. When triggered, the spikes launched in waves, front to back; the last one leaving the weapon a split second after the first.

Fenrik's position put him perfectly in line with the angle of the cockpit, so that his shot would travel up through the pilot's chair and continue on into the wizzo's seat. The first wave of spikes struck the Emperor's cockpit, significantly weakening it. The second wave cracked the polysteel canopy enough that the third wave shattered it a millisecond later. That still left nearly 250 spikes to race through the cockpit, shredding metal and flesh indiscriminately in a spray of blood, oil and shrapnel. Mission accomplished, Rik thought to himself.

AnderSchar Golte's voice broke over the commlink again, "Incoming! Take cover."

No sooner had Rik and Jazzen ducked behind their boulder than the space around the remaining Rach CAVs exploded as missile after missile struck both the CAVs and the surrounding canyon walls. That would be the Fenris making their approach run. "Time to go Fenrik," Jazzen shouted over the noise, even as Rik was rising from his position. They easily made the short jump down to the canyon floor as the Fenris raced over the Rach armor section, which was firing blindly out of the dust storm that had enveloped it.

The Fenris already had their bay doors open as they touched down and Rik's team raced towards the heavily armored gunships. Cruz performed a perfect landing right outside the Fenri's bay door, having rode his personal jump pack down from his position on the canyon's ridge, some 30 meters above.

Cruz flashed him a "thumbs up", just one of the many odd gestures that he used, to Rik as he raced aboard the Fenri. "Just another day at the office, buddy!"

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