Sunday, 14 February 2010

Lt. Juhler

Lt. Juhler swaggered, well above average size for a Grymn. The standard jump pack wasn't even capable of compensating for his weight; he dropped too fast on assaults. His companions said, "By Sleiti engineers, he didn't need a modified pack. His legs were big enough to take the impact."

He came from Brontyr, a small, undeveloped, but fully self-sufficient settlement on a fringe world colony - a backwater's backwater. He hunted food for his family from the time he could lift a toy rifle and claimed he never missed a shot.

Having already served in two campaigns, Torsten described him "as experienced and skilled as a soldier can get and still be alive".

His comrades referred to him as "the Philosopher" out of respect and admiration for his deep convictions on the expansive nature of our actions and their consequences.

After securing the landing zone, Torsten ordered Juhler to ready his men for the assault. He grabbed his SMG and a half-dozen grenades and strode out with one pistol on his hip and another stuck into his boot top. He was going to do a one man recon job to form a plan of attack.

Juhler was going out into the unknown. He had spent a long time preparing for this moment, but he was not trained for it. In one of the greatest military intelligence failures of Grymn history, neither G2 at Army1 HQ, nor Strat-Com had ever warned the fighters of the dominant physical feature of the region where they'd be fighting. It was flat land laced with embankments bordering massive mineral recovery "pans". On top these little ridges, machinery and solar arrays jutted up and overhung the roads running between pans.

How could the various intel groups have missed such an obvious feature, especially as orbital recon clearly revealed these pans with their rims and bordering service roads? Because the data processors, looking straight down at them, missed the sunken nature of the roads completely. "We had neither been informed of them, nor trained to overcome them," was the comment of one platoon leader. The soldiers had to learn by doing, as Juhler was doing.

He and his fellow assault jumpers, like the famous assault groups from the 8th army had been well drilled in amphibious assault. They had done that very thing the day before, dropping in on ill-prepared enemy positions with courage and flair. But at dawn, they were fighting in terrain unexpected and unfamiliar to them, the pans.

The Bohkin, on the other hand, had been going through specialised training for fighting in this type of terrain. They pre-sighted heavy weapons on the access points into the pan system and individual pans. Behind the machinery or trees, they dug foxholes and tunnel openings for heavy automatic weapons to cover the open space of the pan itself.

The Grymn trained hard. "We threw hand grenades and got to know the overall pan layout and structures. The lines of risers, pits, and machines played tricks on our eyes. We trained to fight as individuals and small teams. We knew when the attack came we'd probably be cut of from one another. We let them come forward and cross into a pan, then blow them apart. That was our tactic: wait until they come in and then shoot," recalled Niehl of the Flaming 353d.

Juhler moved up the sunken roads, crossed into a pump field, squeezed through close-set condensers, and crawled through a ditch. Along the way he noted concentrations and positions of Bohkin he passed. Someone without a hunter's sense of direction would have got lost. He reached a point near the central throughway for the heavy loaders, this was the axis of the Bohkin deployment. Juhler, moving like the hunter he was, got to a place where he could hear the guttural noises of Bohkin on the other side of a pan rim. They sounded like leaders talking about map coordinates. Juhler vaulted over the rim with his gun at ready. "Still!" he barked at the 7 commanders gathered round a comm unit.

Six instinctively raised their hands, but one tried to pull a pistol from its holster. Juhler shot him instantly, between the eyes. Two soldiers in a trench 100 metres away to Juhler's rear fired automatic pistols at him. Two bullets ripped through his jacket and one took a bit of his ear.

Juhler dropped to one knee and began shooting the other six commanders as they attempted to escape. When he had used up his clip, he dropped into a ditch, put another clip in, and dropped the Bohkin with the pistols with one shot each.

Juhler made his way back to the company area to report on what he had seen. At the command post he came in with blood down his jacket, a big chunk of his ear gone, holes in his clothing. "Who's got more grenades?" he demanded.

Then he started leading. He put a mortar crew on the flank and directed fire into the sunken roads where the Bohkin were most concentrated. Next he sent A company into an attack down one of the lanes. The Bohkin broke and ran. By midmorning, the pan facilities round the LZ were secure.

The next day Torsten, Juhler and Sgt. Jinso went to the spot to examine the Bohkin corpses. Unforgettably, the bodies sparkled with brilliant crystals which reflected the morning light. Papers identified them as the commander for the main force in the region and his staff . Maps and other documents showed they had come to the pans to plan the counterattack against the Grymn landing.However, having lost the commander, the Bohkin retreat barely held together in the face of Grymn pressure in the subsequent days.

Torsten told me that when he commented on the blood on Juhler's jacket, he said, "They've been getting close to you, Juhler". To which Juhler, smiling thinly, responded, "but not as close as I've been getting to them, Sir".
At the scene of the action, Torsten noted that everyone of the dead Bohkin, including the ambushers in the trench, died of a single shot in the head. Later in the day, Sgt. Jinso commented to Torsten, "Sir, aren't you glad Juhler's on our side?"

The next day Jinso wasn't so sure. He and Juhler were crouched behind the rim of another pan, waiting for the end of a barrage falling on enemy in the next pan. Juhler wanted the barrage to stop so he could go in and clean up, but Jinso hoped that the barrage would continue until there would be no cleaning.

A story by Sagunt from the Forum of Doom. Thank you for permission to post this here.

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