16th September, 1973
Encoded transmission from Colonel Jacques Depaul of the 16th European Allied Reconnaissance Division to Field Marshal Robert Bingham
Regarding: Skirmish at Dunkerque
At 0900 hours yesterday, Soviet forces pushing towards Calais via Belgium engaged our forces present just outside Dunkerque. Our troops there were facing at least two Soviet tank groups of unknown number and composition, among other armor, supported by Dreadnaught bombardment vessels off the coast. They possessed inadequate ammunition, supplies, and were outnumbered greatly. Owing to the general treatment of civilians by Soviet troops thus far, our priority was evacuating civilians by any means necessary, either further west into the country or across the channel to Britain.
Despite the odds, our troops there managed to hold off incoming Soviet assault waves, taking heavy losses, and pulled out when the majority of civilians were evacuated. Following this, the Soviets proceeded to seize the town and at the time of writing are currently heading at a very quick rate towards Calais. With our defensive in Europe collapsing, it is my belief that they intend to stage an amphibious invasion of the United Kingdom at the first opportunity. If they succeed in this, Europe will be theirs and the war will be virtually lost. However, if our soldiers can display the same courage as the troops of the 16th Recon Division, they will not have the pleasure of doing so.
Private Jean-Paul Dupin dived into the mud as a mortar shell exploded several meters to his left, showering him with dirt and grass. The old stone wall separating two fields that served as his only cover began to fall apart as hails of bullets and shells chipped away it. Dupin desperately returned fire with his M4 carbine, spraying fire over the wall, with the knowledge that he wasn't likely to hit anything. But with what felt like the entire Red Army just across the field, at least he could go with the knowledge that he had died trying.
"Yo! Private! Get ya ass up and show some balls!" Sergeant Irving, US Marine now serving with Allied European forces, was kneeling by the wall beside him, firing back with an M2 Browning machinegun, the dirt around his feet covered in steaming ejected round casings. Typical American, thought Dupin. The wrath of Hell was upon him, and all he could do was shout like some gung-ho muscled fool out of a Hollywood movie. Holding onto his SPECTRA helmet, Dupin reloaded his gun and cautiously peeked over the field. Most of what he could see was obscured with smoke, with the field reduced to a brown, ashen patch dotted with burned, twisted skeletons of wood that were once trees. Inside the smoke lurked massive, bulbous shapes—no doubt Soviet tanks, that would crush them like insects in seconds. All he could hear was automatic gunfire, the occasional burst of a tank cannon, and yelling in half-a-dozen languages. He remembered when he had signed up upon the outbreak of total war last year, the slick video adverts, the beaming officers at the Parisian recruitment office, the opportunity to fight for freedom with the most advanced weapons in the world against the inexorable march of Soviet tyranny. What a goddamn fool he had been.
"Heads up! Heat, inbound!" Dupin looked up as the screaming noise of jet turbines drowned all other sounds of battle. He saw the distinctive shape of two Vindicator bombers zip overhead in the blink of an eye, and then seconds later an explosion erupted in the field, pelting him with dirt, hot metal and the occasional chunk of burnt flesh that no doubt once belonged to a hapless Soviet conscript.
"That brought us some time, but our air support here is too limited to totally stop 'em. Move back to marker B! We'll regroup there." Dupin took one last glance at the smoke-covered field as he scooped up his rifle and backpack and followed Irving down the country path, heading through poppy-filled fields that would no doubt be in the same state as that field within a few minutes. Even the Great War of 1914-18 hadn't inflicted such devastation upon this land. Looking ahead, he could faintly see the roofs and steeples of Dunkerque over some trees, with the odd column of smoke caused by sporadic Soviet artillery bombardment. Across Europe, this scene had been repeated a thousand times, with Allied forces collapsing under the weight of the Soviet juggernaut. With the capture of Allied HQ at Geneva and Germany fallen, it was only a matter of time before Cherdenko's portrait hung in every house. But Dupin would rather die in battle, than live to see such a nightmare world.
He and Irving slowed down as they reached 'Marker B', a single howitzer among a clump of wild grass, about a hundred meters or so from the town boundaries, with small clusters of trees to their sides and the path to their front. At the howitzer were Prideux and Lefevre, soldiers of the French army, Hollister, a British SAS commando, and Johnson, a Canadian Peacekeeper, his blue armor and visor splattered with mud and dotted with marks made by many a bullet grazing. All of them stood tense, weapons at the ready, apart from Hollister, calmly smoking a cigarette and sitting on a rock. With much of the rest of the tatters of the 16th Recon in the town trying to stop the citizens from completely shitting themselves at the prospect of Soviet conscripts coming in and looting their homes, they were all that was left to guard this side of the town. Irving had been screaming into a radio for reinforcements over the course of an hour before the Soviets had attacked; however, with the Reds blitzkrieging towards Paris and major Allied installations on the French North coast, command had understandably declined. That didn't change the fact that they were, not too fine to put a point, more or less fucked.
"Alright guys, let's review the situation." Barked Irving. "We have to the best of our knowledge a large Soviet armor and infantry force bearing on our position. Our air support is limited, and though we've got a tactical airbase down in the town Soviet AA will make things difficult. If we try and alter our position, we make ourselves available for a missile strike by Soviet offshore vessels. We probably won't make out if alive, but if we don't, then by hell let's leave something for us all to remember by." He paused as Prideux translated for Lefevre, who spoke little English.
"You heard him, guys." Growled Johnson, loading his shotgun. Dupin rolled his eyes. He could not understand why command was making 'Peacekeepers' such as Johnson so widespread. For crying out loud, that blue armor make them a bullseye for any Ivan with a gun and a sense of aim, and shotguns? In open battle? But with such a long line of fucked decisions from command, such as their refusal to launch counterattacks and restricting access to the Athena SatNet to mobile vehicles, he shouldn't have been too surprised.
"We got somet'ing." Murmured Prideux, readying his Javelin missile launcher. On the path ahead, a Soviet Hammer tank was rumbling into view out of the smoke, the turret swivelling from side to side. Instinctively, Hollister dived towards the howitzer, adjusted it and fired, the boom scattering dust around him. Dupin barely managed to cover his ears as the shell luckily managed to strike the exposed shell conveyor from the turret to the gun, blasting the tank apart.
"That'll probably be just a scout." Said Hollister through clenched teeth as he stood back up, adjusting his beret. "The rest will be coming soon, and they'll be pissed."
"From what I've got from tac-com at the town, the commies haven't got much in the way of ground attack airpower or missile launchers. As their conventional artillery crews have yet to grasp the concept of aimin', all we gotta worry about is an assload of armor and Ivans who'd like nothing more than to tear your balls off and ram 'em up your ass." Added Irving. "How many shells we got left for that thing?"
"Five." Sighed Hollister, indicating a crate beside the howitzer.
"Guess beggars can't be choosers. Now heads up!" Earth erupted into the air around them as mortars came down. Up ahead, Sickle anti-infantry vehicles, clattering on their spider-like legs, scuttled out of the smoke, with Hammers behind them. There were merits to the design of the Sickle—it was useful in its original purpose for crowd control, and it could traverse city streets and rough terrain with ease. What the designers who had approved the military version hadn't taken into account was that if you took off a leg, all you were left with was a useless pile of scrap.
Quickly rolling into position behind a pile of sandbags, Prideux adjusted the laser sights on his missile launcher, aimed and fired, just as the tank fired, the shell impacting just ahead of their position. Streaking forward, the projectile struck the joint of one of the Sickle's forward legs, causing it to topple onto the ground, blocking the vehicles behind it. At the same time, Hollister fired a magnesium grenade via the launcher built into his M16, striking the forward treads of the main Hammer tank. Skidding out of control, the tank was overturned as the one behind it pushed it aside. Soviet conscripts, yelling battle cries, charged forward. Calmly, Dupin and Irving aimed and fired, blasting them down into the mud. With smoke rising from the carnage ahead, and with the road blocked by the two ruined vehicles, Hollister loaded another shell and fired, impacting straight into the midst of them. More explosions came from ahead as engines and ammunition caught fire, creating a pile-up of wrecked, smouldering vehicles on the path ahead.
"That'll slow 'em down." Grinned Hollister. "Won't be surprised if they try flanking us now. Keep your eyes open, boys."
"Oui." Acknowledged Prideux, glancing to the edge. Dupin braced himself when suddenly a dark shape burst out of the column of smoke rising from the pileup, sailed through the air, and landed almost literally right in front of them. He found himself staring right down the six barrels of a heavy Gatling cannon fixed to the bulbous main section of a Sickle, with the gunner behind it grinning like a maniac. He froze in fear as one of the other three Gatling guns on the machine swivelled in another direction, with the others desperately blazing away at it. Revving up, the gun fired, making a noise that Dupin could only compare to some sort of demonic lawnmower. Poor Lefevre was the one who took the brunt of the burst, exploding in a shower of blood and internal organs as he was hit with hundreds of rounds at once. Seconds later, Dupin found himself being knocked to the ground as Irving lobbed a grenade through one of the hatches atop the vehicle, with the gunner's expression turning from an evil grin to a lock of shock as it landed on his lap, exploding seconds later. Collapsing to the ground, the Sickle began to belch smoke.
Stepping over the bloody pile of cloth and meat that was once Lefevre, Prideux clambered onto the wrecked Sickle and grabbed the rear Gatling cannon as another wave of conscripts charged towards them. He squeezed the trigger and mowed them down, as the others took cover behind the wrecked vehicle and picked off stragglers. Ignoring the deafening screaming of the Gatling gun and the shrill rattling of his comrade's automatic weapons, Dupin gunned down a conscript who was in the middle of opening a Molotov cocktail. Hearing clanking noises above the gunfire, he glimpsed a bulky, metallic figure heading down the road towards them, bolts of static dancing around it. A goddamn tesla soldier. Merde.
Prideux swivelled the commandeered Gatling cannon in its direction and figured, but paused as the rounds bounced harmlessly off its armor. However, moments later, the thing toppled into the ground as a grenade launched by Hollister exploded in front of it, knocking it to the floor, leaving it floundering like a beached whale. Abruptly, the suit short-circuited and exploded, spitting blue sparks of Tesla energy and fire. Dupin grinned as another Hammer pushing down the road ground to a halt as the EMP generator in the wrecked suit went into overload, with the commander sticking his head out of the turret shouting his head off. Aiming carefully, Dupin peered down his lens and squeezed the trigger, watching as his head burst open like a ripe fruit.
Suddenly, there was a rumble, and the blockade of wrecked vehicles ahead was blown away. Rumbling out of the smoke was a sight Dupin had only seen in news reports or briefing videos. An Apocalypse tank. A fucking Apocalypse tank. A beast that could decimate entire armor divisions and shrug off Vindicator bombs. Dupin watched in horror as the thing consumed the disabled Hammer tank with its forward grinders, and then pressed on inexorably towards them. Two flashes came from the muzzles of its guns, and suddenly the ruined Sickle was blown onto its side, sending Prideux onto the floor with several dozen pieces of shrapnel in his leg. Desperately, Johnson scooped up the Javelin launcher and fired the remaining rockets at it, then chucked it aside when they did little more than scorch the armor.
"Shit, shit, shit!" spat Irving as Hollister's grenades did likewise little effect on the advancing behemoth. "Well guys, at least we did good up to here. Pleasure serving with you all."
Hollister stopped firing as his last magazine ran out, with the guns of the massive tank bearing down on them. Dupin felt a sudden adrenaline rush as an idea got into his head. Yes, it was suicidal, yes, it was foolhardy, but...fuck it. If he was going down, let it be this way.
Tearing a grenade from his belt, he ran down the road towards the massive tank as it fired down on their position, blasting apart their howitzer, the blast knocking Hollister and Johnson to the dirt. Sprinting forwards, Dupin finally reached the tank, wondering why the Soviet designers hadn't bothered with something as elementary as anti-infantry weapons. Clambering aboard, he avoided the howling grinders at the front and climbed onto the main turret, unpinning the grenade with his finger as he opened the main hatch. Looking down, he found himself peering down onto a stoic Soviet tank driver, who looked up with a confused expression.
"Au revoir." Smiled Dupin as he threw the grenade down, and then leapt off the tank, as a muffled boom came from within. Hitting the grass straight on, he picked himself up and ran into the foliage, ignoring the pain in his body. Behind him, the tank ground to a halt as smoke came from within. Then, with a deafening and satisfyingly large explosion, the turret was blown off, reducing the behemoth to another useless wreck on the road.
"Great fucking job!" called Hollister as Dupin walked back. "And bang in the nick of fucking time too! Civvies are almost evacuated, and we've got a Riptide coming here to extract us, ETA two minutes."
"You were always the lucky asshole, eh, Jean-Paul?" grinned Prideux as Johnson tended to his mauled leg, injecting him with a needle of anaesthetic. Dupin looked down at the road, littered with vehicle wrecks and bloodied corpses. Although he could not help but feel proud, he couldn't help but realise that this little victory would barely dent the Soviet advance. Still, at least he had a story to tell his grandchildren...if he could survive the rest of this goddamn war.