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Guada System: Iron Triangle, Cardassian Empire

Stardate: 51243.6

The jungle was quiet. The only sounds echoing through the warm, humid night air of the battalion assembly area were the chirping of insects, the slow trickle of the stream on the eastern edge of the perimeter, and the gentle splashing of waves on the beach a kilometer away.

Corporal Navallo checked the power pack of his heavy pulse phaser mounted on its tripod. In this atmosphere, the connections between the power cells and the receiver could corrode, rendering the weapon useless if not constantly maintained. His assistant gunner, Lance Corporal Unar, scanned the treeline across the stream with his thermal goggles.

“Can you see anything?” Navallo whispered.

“Not a damn thing…but I know Jem is out there…”

“Of course he is,” Navallo replied. This whole damn rock is crawling. But between the dolemite in the crust and their sensor scramblers, we won’t know where he is until those scaly bastards slit our throats.”

“Foxtrot 2!” a familiar voice came out of the darkness behind them.

“Tango 3,” Navallo answered in the proper battalion password format.

A figure jumped into the rear of their fighting position and slung his phaser rifle across his chest.

“How we doing, Gentlemen?” Commander Tigranian, the battalion commander, asked.

“Staying frosty, Sir,” Navallo asked, not taking his eyes off the sights of his pulse phaser.

“Unlikely, Corporal,” he said scanning the dark treeline with his eyes. “Not in this heat, at least. What do you think?”

“I think Jem won’t let tonight pass quietly…” Unar answered.

“He never does…” Tigranian said lying down in the prone next to him.

“Sir, is that subspace array really worth all this?” Unar asked.

“That’s not really our concern, Unar,” Tigranian replied pulling out his own thermal goggles. “We fight here because that’s where Starfleet tells us to fight.”

The brass certainly thought the array was worth it. Apparently, intelligence believed the most effective way to ground down the Dominion was to gain control of their communication network, one node at a time. Guada, at the edge of the Badlands, would be the first to fall. Then, the marines would hop from remote planet to remote planet until all the Jem’Hadar troops in the outer Cardassian Empire were completely isolated. Campaigns were already planned for AR-558 in the Chin’toka System and Veral II after that. Of course, Tigranian wasn’t authorized to share that information with his marines.

“Hey Sir, I’ve always wanted to ask you something,” Navallo said.

“What’s that, Corporal?”

“Is that Klingon knife you wear on your kit just for show, or do you actually know how to cut somebody with it?”

Tigranian glanced down at the d'k tahg strapped to his waist.

“Piss me off one day and I’ll show you…Do you guys need anything?”

“A couple of beers and a shot of leg from a Risian pleasure girl would be nice, Sir.”

“I’m afraid the only panties you’re getting into tonight, Navallo, will be Unar’s.” The two grunts laughed.

“Get some, Marines,” Tigranian said climbing back out of the fighting position.

“Hoorah, Sir,” they whispered back.

Tigranian had a vested interest in keeping his pulse phaser gunners alert. They anchored the edges of his entire triangular patrol base. If they went down, then the only thing preventing the columns of Jem’Hadar hiding in the jungle from completely engulfing them would be a couple hundred phaser rifles and the battalion’s four 100mm plasma mortars. It sounded like a lot of firepower, but not enough to stop an enemy as fanatical as Jem. All they needed to keep going was a couple of tubes of Ketracel White and the occasional pep talk from their Vorta.

The starship U.S.S. Triumphant had arrived in orbit that morning to drop off the supplies his marines required, but they weren’t able to stay on station more than forty hours before the Dominion Navy arrived to blast them out of the stars.

After checking the rest of the perimeter, Tigranian returned to the tent that served as his Battalion command post. Inside, two signal techs were monitoring a bank of comm systems. They had to make constant adjustments to keep information flowing through the planet’s natural interference. The rest of Tigranian’s frazzled staff went over reports and analyses of all the day’s operations. Another officer stood over a white slab on the table in front of him. He banged his fist on it and cursed under his breath.

“Problem, XO?” Tigranian said coming up behind Major Hancock.

“No, Sir,” he said rubbing his eyes. “The holotable went out again. Must be the all the interference from the damned dolemite…”

Tigranian pulled a folded paper map out from his jacket pocket.

“You know there’s a reason why these have been around for five thousand years…”

“Yes, Sir…” Tigranian unfolded the map on the table and Hancock began his update.

“All our patrols are in. No signs of Jem around Old Baldy, the Bullpen, or Porkchop hill,” he said pointing out various terrain features in their area of operations.”

“G2 thinks Jem might have gone south to 3-3’s AO to find another supply of White before they run out.”

“G2 is a moron…” Tigranian replied, adding a few more colorful metaphors to his description of the Division Intelligence Officer. “No, the communications array is the only reason this planet is important to the Dominion. This is where they’ll mass.”

“Why the hell are we still here, Sir? Why don’t we just photon this entire hell-hole from orbit and move on?” Hancock said angrily. One of the signal techs looked up from his comm unit. Tigranian motioned for the major to come outside.

They went through the tent flaps into the darkness of night. Tigranian pulled over a crate of field rations and took a seat. Major Hancock took a second to breathe in the clean air.

“Tyler,” Tigranian began quietly. “I know you’re exhausted, but don’t you ever say that in front of the marines again. Lower enlisted complain, we don’t.”

“Yes, Sir…” Hancock said. “It was a lapse of judgement.”

“It’s alright…When was the last time you slept?”

“I got about an hour this afternoon.”

“That’s not good enough, Man. I need you.”

“Yes, Sir…” Hancock said with a smirk. “When was the last time you slept?”

“I’m a Klingon warrior that runs off of raktajino, nicotine, and hate. I don’t need sleep.” Hancock laughed.

“You’re full of shit, Sir.” Tigranian laughed as well.

“Yes, I am,” Tigranian said pulling a small orange tin from his pocket covered with Klingon writing. He tapped his finger on the cover a few times, pulled off the lid, and placed a finger-full of ground leaves in his lower lip.

“That stuff will kill you, Sir.”

“yIvjebol is a filthy habit,” Tigranian said before spitting into the dirt, “but it works.” He looked up to see Hancock staring at the can. “You want a pinch, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do…don’t tell, Mary.”

“Secret’s safe with me,” he said passing the tin to Hancock.

Just as the XO placed the Klingon tobacco in his mouth, a growing whistle echoed across the Assembly Area.

“INCOMING!” Tigranian screamed as he dove into the dirt.

Bright blue flashes appeared in the sky and burst in brilliant white light over the marine positions. Plasma burning at over 500 degrees Kelvin poured out of the sky. Anything it touched turned to ash. A marine in a nearby position was hit and began shrieking with pain.

“Corpsman!” Hancock screamed running over to the hole. He pulled the marine out and dragged him over to the CP. The marine was clutching his seared left arm and shaking as the shock sent in. Two medics with a medical kit and litter rushed forward and began treating him.

Tigranian shouted back into the tent.

“Spin ‘em up! Jem’s here!”

The signal techs began shouting into their comm systems to the company commanders. The entire perimeter came alive, awaiting the coming storm.

“FSO! RTO!” Tigranian screamed. A lieutenant and an enlisted marine carrying a portable comm unit ran out of the CP and knelt down next to him. Tigranian pulled out a pair of electronic binoculars and started scanning the jungle two hundred meters away.

“Brian, I want fire in the tree-line. Jem is getting into his attack positions.”

“Yes, Sir,” the Lieutenant pulled out the hand-mic of the comm unit and punched in a frequency.

“Haymaker, this is Frontrunner 95, fire mission, fire mission! Immediate Suppression, Grid: Charlie Hotel 36298 45783!”

“Frontrunner 95, Haymaker Acknowledge. Message to Observer: 12 rounds Plasma Quick in Effect, over.”

“12 rounds Plasma Quick in Effect, out!”

Tigranian heard the mortar platoon in their pit 75 meters to his west.

“Hang it! Fire! Hang it! Fire!” Loud booms echoed through the entire assembly area. Tigranian raised his binoculars to his eyes and watched the jungle again.

“Shot, over,” the mortar platoon leader said over the comm.

“Shot, out,” the FSO replied.

“Splash, over.”

“Splash, out.”

The bright blue flashes off their friendly mortars shimmered in the treeline. The foliage caught alight in brilliant flame, casting a sinister orange glow over the entire valley. Light glistened on the water of the stream in front of their positions.

“Repeat…” Tigranian said not taking his eyes off the jungle.

“Haymaker, Frontrunner 95, Repeat, over!”

Frontrunner 95, Haymaker, Repeat, out.”

More booms and more flashes…then there was only silence.

“XO, get in the CP. Need to know the second the company commanders get a break in their lines…” Tigranian said trailing off.

“Yes, Sir!” Hancock said running back into the tent.

The fires in the jungle illuminated the stream bed. Six hundred marines took their fighting positions, aiming their phasers in a 360 degree perimeter.

A roar echoed through the entire valley.

“May the Founders rule ten-thousand years! VICTORY IS LIFE!”

“VICTORY IS LIFE!”

Then, the jungle came alive. Hundreds of Jem’Hadar rushed through the trees toward the stream. Blue disruptor bolts poured out of the foliage and into the marine positions. They were immediately answered by thousands of orange phaser blasts from the west side of the water. It didn’t slow them down at all. They just kept coming.

“It’s a wave attack!” Tigranian said observing the movement. “They must be running low on White. RTO, get a hold of Bravo on the command net. Tell him to get enfilading fire down the stream bed. Cut them down before they hit the west side or Charlie Company is gonna break.”

“Yes Sir!” The enlisted marine grabbed a second mic of the comm unit and relayed the message. A minute later, pulse phaser blasts began slicing across the surface of the stream. The Jem’Hadar were being cut down from the front and the side as they pushed across the water. Bodies began piling up in front of the marine positions, but despite the hellish amount of energy being thrown back at him, Jem still kept coming.

A few Dominion Soldiers made it across the water and began fighting hand to hand with the Charlie marines. The amount of phaser fire meeting their advance began to dwindle as barrels over-heated, power packs were emptied, and marines starting fighting for their lives.

“Sir! Chaos 6 is on the line! He says he’s getting overrun!”

“Tell Assassin and Bushmaster to push Chaos a squad each, but continue to hold their positions, Jem might try to get around the flanks.”

“Yes, Sir!”

“FSO, get a hold of the Triumphant. I want naval phaser fire in that tree line, now.”

“Yes, Sir!” the lieutenant said punching in another frequency.

“Triumphant Fire Direction Center this is Frontrunner 95 on planetary surface! Authentication code: Whiskey Mike 67285, request immediate orbital bombardment 250 meters east our position, Four columns, Jem’Hadar in the treeline! We’re getting overrun!” A few seconds passed. “Sir, Triumphant FDC reports that they can’t get a lock. The dolemite under the surface is making it impossible to tell the difference between us and Jem!”

Tigranian turned around angrily.

“Then tell them to index manually!”

“Sir, the tactical officer is brand new. He says he refuses to conduct a manual mission because he’s not comfortable.”

“Qu’vath guy’cha baQa! Give me the Goddamn, hand mic!” The lieutenant handed the handset to Tigranian.

“Triumphant FDC , this is Frontrunner 6!”

“Triumphant FDC…”

“I got marines dying down here! You tell that piece of shit at your tactical station to put in exactly what I say: Index narrow band sheath, Level 3 steady burst, Starting grid: Sierra November 285 Charlie Hotel 36104 45650, 400 meter impact tract, azimuth 800 mils! Danger Close!”

“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, Acknowledged, standby.”

“Bring the rain, dammit!”

“Shot in ten seconds, over.”

“Shot in ten seconds, out!” He turned to the RTO. “Put me on battalion.”

“Battalion, keyed, Sir.”

“Frontrunners friendly incoming! Naval phaser fire coming in!”

“Assassin, Acknowledged.”

“Bushmaster, Acknowledged.”

“Chaos, Acknowledged!” Tigranian heard the sound of Jem right next to the Chaos CP.

“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, Splash over.”

“Splash out!”

A single beam of orange light flashed from the sky and slammed into the ground. The entire valley lit up as bright as day. Artificial thunder created by the phaser beam deafened them all. The air around the marines was instantly ionized and static discharges pricked at their skin.

The steady beam slowly tracked the course Tigranian had commanded. Trees, bushes, rocks: anything that came in contact with the beam was instantly vaporized. Everything else within a hundred meters was set ablaze from the intense heat. The eastern side of the stream was obliterated in a matter of seconds. Tigranian stood there, aghast at the power of the starship’s main battery. Then, the beam of light disappeared as quickly as it arrived, leaving a glowing trail of molten rock behind hit. The light of the burning trees casting a hellish red glow over everything.

“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, end of mission, over.”

That’s when Tigranian heard it. Screams…screams of terrible agony…Jem was screaming. Dozens of Jem’Hadar ran out of the inferno covered in flames. They threw themselves into the stream, collapsing into the water motionless.

“Frontrunner 6, Triumphant FDC, end of mission, what’s your battle damage assessment?”

“Triumphant FDC, Frontrunner 6…” Tigranian whispered in shock. “End of mission, four columns of Jem’Hadar destroyed…out.” He let the hand mic fall from his hands to the ground.

After a few minutes, the XO came out of the CP.

“Casualty reports, Sir,” he said handing him a pad. “Twenty-Five dead, 68 wounded. A lot of those are from Charlie…”

Tigranian scanned the list of his fallen marines. When he reached the bottom he stopped.

“CPL Navallo, Kenneth: KIA, LCPL Unar, Restig: KIA.”

Tigranian threw back his head and howled to Sto’Vo’Kor in rage to warn the honored dead of his marines’ arrival…

He bolted awake…alone in his quarters on the Pershing. The captain pushed aside his klongat fur and walked to the bathroom. After splashing some cold water on his face, he headed for the bottle of bloodwine he kept on his sideboard. He didn’t even bother with a tankard. On the nights when Guada came back to haunt him, he just wanted to be numb for awhile…


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