The Euro Front #9: Soul of the Artilleries is a short story included as part of TSFIA.
Summary[edit | edit source]
“HQ to Doctor 1. Captain, you realize what you are asking, right?”
"Doctor 1 to HQ, I am prepared to face the consequences.”
“Let me confirm then, you understand that we are currently prioritizing the retrieval and recovery of all friendly forces in the region. With our main assault force in a full retreat at the moment, I cannot divert to you any of our fire support assets should you require them, nor can I promise you any combat resupply in any shape or form. Even if you survive, complete your mission, and make it to the rendezvous pick up point, we cannot refuel you, even if you are bingo fuel. So let me ask you again, do you understand what you are asking for, Captain?”
“As the commander of the 109th, I understand what it is that I'm asking. I say again, I understand. My men and I are fully aware of the tactical situation at hand, and we’ve all agreed to this course of action. We are loaded up with what we can carry. Now let us loose, sir! There are people in need of saving, and we got a lot of BETA to kill!”
“HQ, understood. Permission granted. Godspeed Captain.”
“Doctor 1, acknowledged. Commencing operation!”
“Scheisse! What kind of joke is this?”
A pack of noble Hellhounds rush along the most direct path towards the ocean, maintaining the maximum safe altitude for a Class 4 Laser Warning airspace. Utilizing a series of extended NOE flight and short boosted jumps through harsh terrain, they aimed to achieve optimum fuel efficiency versus distance traveled under the current tactical situation. Their smooth movements, formation, and their individual pilots' ability to seemingly circumvent the automated posturing feature of their TSF during landing, being able to begin jumping immediately again with no visible delays in between jumps, spoke volumes of the elite nature of this battalion.
“The timing couldn’t be any worse... Do they hate us in the UN High Command or something?!”
“Control yourself, Rot 11. No matter how much whining you do, our situation won’t change!”
“Leck mich! I'm not whining! I'm just tired of all this. If only they left the EU in charge of this mission like it was suppose to.....”
Both Lieutenant Wolfgang von Brauer and Lieutenant Ilfriede von Feulner are correct in their own way. Fired up as they are due to the adrenaline rush of constant, never ending combat, both of them are nevertheless feeling the frustration of today’s event. Even Lieutenant Helgarose von Falkenmayer, the newest addition to Rot squadron’s vaunted ranks of Storm Vanguards, and despite being a person ever so calm and collected, couldn’t help but feel the same frustration as her friends creeping into her heart. Still, Helga kept her silence; there is no need to clog up the net with more useless bantering.
Originally this was a simple routine operation aimed to relive pressure off the English Channel Defense Line. To accomplish this, the EU sought to launch a culling operation in the vicinity of Lower Saxony of former West Germany. Near the last stages of operational planning, the UN unexpectedly offered to take over the Op, thus sparing the EU a large amount of troops needed to maintain the English Channel Defense Line. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, the EU gladly accepted the offer, and instead left a small but respectable task force behind to be temporarily attached to the UN task force for the duration of the operation. Among that task force was the venerable 44th Tactical Armor Battalion Zerberus. Normally this would have been a good thing to happen for the 44th. However, after a series of poorly planned briefings, conferences, insufficient supplies, increased maintenance shortfalls, unexplained operational delays, and poor communications, including the lack of accurate and timely information being passed on between various assets within the battle group, it didn’t take long for Helga and other senior members of the 44th to quickly realized that the UN leadership assigned to run this operation are grossly incompetent for the task at hand. From high ranking armchair generals skilled only at manipulating symbols on a map and running simulated battles, to their entourage of promoted pencil pushers assistants/advisors, whose only real concern seems to be getting that check in the box for their next promotion rather than to actually advise their leaders with any real actual input, mostly they just seemed to only care about blowing smoke up their collective Arschlochs. Still, even then it was still hard to imagine the level of incompetence that could cause the disaster of the operation they currently find themselves in.
Despite the elite status of the much vaunted “Zerberus” battalion and their mighty giants of iron, the EF-2000 Typhoons, even they are powerless to turn the tides of battle in humanity’s favor on this battle front. With the ambush and the subsequent destruction of nearly the entire Front Line Logistic Corp, and the relief forces held in reserve are now suddenly finding themselves fighting for their lives, bogged down by the endless waves of the alien monstrosities emerging from the Earth itself. How anyone managed to park the entire rear logistic division on top of a major BETA branching tunnel and not even bother to geo-scan the area before hand was beyond them. Apparently they ignored an area that had been cleared already by the front line assault force, because this one was more convenient and apparently would offer terrain advantages against incoming BETA swarms, according to some so called experts. How ironically tragic that they died due to the same ground hindering their escape. Regardless, due to a series of sheer military incompetence at all rank levels, the Frontal Assault Force metaphorically found themselves running out of steam, quickly losing all momentum of advance, and the entire line collapsed in one area after another. With enemies to the rear, and BETA now pouring into their own forward emplacements, the Assault Force rapidly dissolved into individual pockets of resistance as all forms of command and control was lost. The only order that anyone seems to be actively obeying at the moment is 'Retreat!'. Aside from the BETA and the loss of virtually all supplies, the situation only deteriorated further when command ordered all fleet ships to depart the beachhead after one hour, falling back to beyond horizon ranges for fear of Laser Classes getting within coastal range of the carriers and flagships.
An unfortunate decision, which would undoubtedly mean the death of the TSFs who could not make the evac timings, as they would more than likely be running low or empty on fuel, and thus unlikely to reach a friendly ship beyond the horizon to land. For Zerberus, this is even worse than for most, for being the tip of the spear of the assault force, they and other West German Bundeswehr units bore the blunt of the oncoming BETA wave, and now after having finally dislodged themselves out of the BETA swarm, they have the farthest distance to travel through the 'No Man’s Land', back to a temporary safe zone where they might not even have enough fuel to lift off and return to their carrier.
Along the way, the 44th have responded to numerous distress calls, and saved whatever remnants of the surviving Assault Force they could. Still, it was becoming increasingly obvious that even if they make the evac timing, if they continued to fight and maneuver like they are right now, then no one among their ragtag of survivors would have the fuel left to make it to the carrier. Even Helga herself stared with ever increasing concern at her rapidly diminishing fuel gauge.
“New BETA group emerging at our rear, numbers increasing exponentially, wave pattern a match for a horde consisting of mainly Destroyers.”
Even in this situation, the adjutant of Zerberus, the Weißwolf -- Oberleutnant Sigelinde Fahrenhorst’s voice was calm and ever so professional, betraying little of what she thought of this most unwanted turn of events.
Abandoning their slower allies to the Destroyer horde and making a straight run for the beachhead is out of the question. With that in mind the choice to make was obvious, Major Aichberger gave the order:
“To all surviving friendly units within the area, this is the CO of the Zerberus battalion. Retreat towards the evac point with all haste, priorities conserving your fuel, and avoid combat other than necessary. My battalion will hold this position for as long as necessary.”
At this point, Zerberus Battalion is no doubt in the best shape compared to the other survivors, thus they would have the best chance of holding long enough against the BETA for their allies to make it to safety. Without a moment’s hesitation Major Aichberger, the Schwarzekonigwolf, made the decision that will potentially save the most amount of lives, at the cost of his own and the rest of his Battalion.
What?!... No, this is the right thing to do... But... I wonder, if I was in his position, would I be able to make the decision to sacrifice myself and my fellow subordinates for the sake of others, as quickly as the major has?
Having just as much respect, if not even more so, for Major Wilfried von Aichberger than her love struck friend Ilfriede, Helga felt proud for her Battalion and their leader, instead of fear. Griping her control stick tightly, Helga steeled herself to face the incoming threat, ready to fight and die alongside her friends and battalion, in a last stand worthy of the tales and legends of old. Just then, her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden voice on the radio.
“This is the 109th Independent TSA Squadron Leader to Zerberus Battalion. Your courage and selflessness to hold here is indeed worthy of those called the “Watchdogs of Hell”. But I must respectfully refuse that order, Major.”
Helga quickly glanced at her map display to identify the source of radio traffic.
'Kanonendoktor (Cannon Doctor)', a squadron of A-10Cs?! These guys are supposed to be part of the beachhead defense. What are they doing all the way out here?
“Further to my last. My men and I will hold here, and herd the BETA our way. Also, I respectfully request for you and your Battalion to breakthrough at point J7, back towards the beachhead, while our cover fire opens a path for you.”
His proposed action plan displayed itself on all Zerberus TSFs, showing the A-10C’s angle of attack, projected BETA movement, and suggested route for the Zerberus to egress through. Helga had to admit that she can see this working out well for the Zerberus, but the A-10s would be left in an even worse position than the Zerberus were originally in.
And of course, Oberleutnant Fahrenhorst was first to voice her concern.
“Doctor 1, this is Zerberus 2. The incoming horde consists of mainly Destroyers; the tactical situation here is very unfavorable for your A-10Cs without necessary support. While we appreciate the offer, I must respectfully recommend you to heed the major's order, and leave this area to us, Captain.”
While powerful, A-10s are notoriously slow and cumbersome. Their impressive forward firing firepower means that when deployed with adequate support, even a small number of A-10s can stop large sized BETA hordes dead in their tracks with a literal wall of depleted uranium and tungsten. However in this case, where the massive amounts of Destroyer Class in the front will definitely soak up the majority of the A-10’s fire-power and attention, thus leaving their flanks vulnerable, and without any support, the A-10s would either quickly be surrounded from all sides by the smaller BETA Classes and devoured, or they will deplete their ammo and be trampled beneath the Destroyer stampede.
“Hmm, you must be the famous White Wolf Queen. Sorry to disappoint you, my lady, but my battle plan has already been approved by HQ. At least some people at HQ are finally pulling their heads out of their assholes. Regardless, your orders have been overruled, if you have any complaints then I suggest that you submit a formal memo of complaint with HQ, Oberleutnant. I hear they have some very experienced pencil pushers hanging around.
Helga definitely wasn’t expecting such an answer from Doctor Leader, and apparently neither did the ever so calm Sigelinde, as the net remained quiet for several long seconds.
“Doctor 1... you realize what’s going on don’t you?”
“Oh come on, Zerberus 2. I’ve been asked that question enough times already today. For one, I'm not that stupid, lady, and neither am I suicidal. Look, me and my boys are packing you guys' favorite Mk-57s and extra ammo we lugged all the way here. If we only concentrate on shooting out the destroyer’s legs with the 57s, we should be fine for quite a while. Trust me, I have done this before, and survived far worse. I fully intend to walk out of this shit hole alive, and save as many people as I possibly can.”
Since the very beginning, Doctor 1's tone had been relaxed and cheerful, but his next words were spoken with an absolute sternness and certainty.
“Where I come from, no one gets left behind. And I promise, on the honor of a US Army A-10 pilot, that we will never abandon anyone!”
With those words said. Helga became shocked. This feeling of familiarity, that voice...That promise, it can’t be... Almost 17 years ago, amidst despair and fear, her family fled to that little town. While waiting for the refugee boats, she often played with other children on the dockyards. During those dark times, a group of American pilots from a unit charged with the defense of the refugee's ships had became the source of hope and excitement for a better future to the children, dazzling them with their outlandish stories. Truly they were the single ray of warm sunshine during those dark days of the children’s childhood. And one of those pilots said those almost exact words to cheer up the children he was so fond of protecting.
“1983, Hamburg! You were there, were you not?” Helga abruptly yelled out on the radio, holding back a tear in her eye.
Even though Helga spoke out of place and cut into a discussion of her superior officers, no one reprimanded her immediately, curious at her sudden and rather out of character display. Doctor 1 simply smiled in surprise.
“Rot 6? You are a survivor of the Defense at Hamburg as well? No, you look too young to have fought there, wait, the dockyards, you were one of the children... Truly, fate works in strange ways. Hmm... Seems like you have grown into a fine young woman, indeed.”
It was one of the legendary exploits of the US Army 54th TSA Squadron 'Pit Masters'. In 1983, the 54th was part of a American Battle Group, tasked with aiding their allies of West Germany in defending the fleeing refuges of both Germanys, so they may be safely evacuated to the British Isles. In the final defense of Hamburg, the 54th fought side by side with their West German brethren to buy time for the refugees to flee on their ships. Their actions and sacrifices that day have forever become the very image of the Guardian Titans of courage and hope in the hearts of countless refugees who survived that terrible day in Hamburg.
This man fights for the same reason as the Major, in his own way. Both of them would rather die for their comrades, than to leave anyone behind. Truly, both of them are heroes of the highest level.
Perhaps having realized who this man is through Helga’s conversation, Major Aichberger chose at that moment to drop his silence and acknowledge one of the unknown heroes of the German people.
“Doctor 1, this Zerberus 1. I salute you and your men, it is an honor to have met you. I have reviewed your action plan and will commence the operation immediately. Sigelinde, form up the Battalion, we are moving out.”
“Roger that, Major! Spoken like a true man, as expected of the Black Wolf King!”
Synching their data-links, the projected targets and path of movement was then shared in real time between the 2 different groups.
“Doctor 1 to all Zerberus units, beginning our barrage in one mike. Unlike part of our namesake, precise application of a scalpel to cure the infestation is not our specialty, though I do believe that few infestations exist in this world that a big gun and lots of bullets can't solve. So with that said, watch out for our arcs of fire, ladies, some of my boys like to get carried away when it comes to firing big guns.”
Surpassing the rivalry between individual units, unbound by time and generation, even beyond the limits of ethnic and national pride, camaraderie bounds all true soldiers together in war. Because in the end, all pilots realize they are fighting because the man next to them is depending on them, not for recognition, patriotism, or the flag of their country, but they fight so that they won’t fail the man next to them, and to know that the man next to him will do the same for him. Ultimately, the one wish all soldiers have is that somewhere out there, in their darkest moments of need, they won’t be left behind, that someone is willing to lay down their life to come and save you, no matter who you are. That is true camaraderie. When a soldier realizes this, their life and attitude truly begins to change, and thus heroes are born.
“All Zerberus units, lift off---“
“All Doctor call signs, spin them up----“
Lieutenant Helgarose von Falkenmayer threw her fears and uncertainty behind her. A hopeless retreat now turned into a rescue mission for the Zerberus Battalion to aid the Beachhead Defenders and assist survivors where ever they can. The ocean and fuel be damned, if there is a will, there is a way. Taking one last look towards the towering figures of the 'Sturmvogels', the 44th bared their collective fangs towards their hated enemies and took off in uniform as only an elite unit can.
“Blitzkrieg engagement only! Charge!”
Summer, 2000. Despite the operational failure of the culling of Lower Saxony by the UN, the actual casualty statistic for a large scale unorganized retreat after suffering such a devastating rout was surprisingly low, when considered from an operational stand point. Further investigation into the various after action reports and datalink recorders showed that the efforts of both the 44th Zeberus and 109th Kanonendoktor were crucial in rallying the survivors and holding the line until relief forces could be deployed.
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