The Youngstown Campaign...Day 1 by Rich
On the Southeast Front:
Elements of the 10th mountain division had moved up the Ohio Turnpike from the south, and were approaching the junction with I-680.
The Rangers had sent a mixed detachment of light mechs, hovertanks, and GEVs south from I-80 along route 616, and crossed the Mahonning river at N. Bridge street. When the "combined forces" had captured the junction of I-80 and hwy 11, the demons in this area had been cut off from the direct route to Hellmouth; they still attacked on sight, but it was harder to replace their inevitable losses. There were several skirmishes, but the Rangers won all of them.
Another detachment had gone around Hubbard, and through the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve and Lincoln Park, reaching the river at S. Center street.That would have been a short trip under ordinary conditions, but they'd had to fight the whole way, so it took several hours.
At The Mall:
Sonya had been delirious for two days, and too weak to get out of bed for a day after that. She could walk around the mall now, but had to stop and rest every few minutes. Like everyone else, she had found herself gravitating toward the food court.
As so many had predicted, the food had eventually run out. They were now living off of their own rations, plus whatever the HSC could send. So far there was plenty to eat, and the selection was all anyone could ask for. There were cooks, and menus, from four different units - the Regiment, the Gurkhas, the Republic, and the U.S. military. Although there was an official schedule for meals, there was also almost always somebody cooking something. Also, to everyone's surprise, the family that ran the pizza shop had come back to work - they lived in Warren and thought that they were probably safer at the mall than they would have been at home (and they were probably right about that). They were camping out in a store room and seemed to be treating the whole thing like a vacation.
On the Southeast Front:
The two groups on the river linked up quickly. The area along this section of river was zoned for industrial use on both sides, and was a junction for several railroad lines. There were a number of bridges, and the ground was flat and open, giving good fields of fire and ample space for maneuver, and for helicopters. It was easily defensible, and might provide a place for another Rally Base; "Rally Base River", perhaps(RBR III ?). Patrols had begun moving north and west along the railroad, probing towards the city center.
The section of river they'd taken was also surrounded on all sides by residential areas, and those were still occupied by the demons. The southeast section of the city had been cut into several bitesized pieces, but the pieces would be hard to chew. The routes the Rangers had taken were narrow, and they could easily be broken. Those neighborhoods would need to be cleared, and that could take days. Maybe weeks.
It would be easier to just contain them; if the Hellmouth could be closed, then the demons in those areas would simply die or disappear. Nobody wanted to think about what might happen if the Hellmouth wasn't
closed. Nobody wanted to think about the humans who might still be alive in those neighborhoods, either.
Tamiko and her team moved into the auto wrecking yard that stretched for acres along the north edge of the "cleared" area along the river. She couldn't guess how many cars were in here; thousands, for sure. The tall stacks were a natural hiding place for both humans and demons, although the heat sensors showed no sign of the former.
Her "Slaydar", however, said that there were a lot of demons hiding in this lot. If they didn't have heat signatures, that just meant they were the "dead" kind, and that meant they'd be harder to kill.
Generally, if a demon had body heat, then it had a functioning metabolism, which meant it had some kind of vital organs which could be destroyed, if you could find them. The "dead" demons, on the other hand, were sustained by mystical energy or the "Hellmouth influence". Some of those could be slain fairly easily if you knew how and had the right weapon; others had to be practically cut to pieces - and sometimes you had to destroy the pieces. Both types of demons were usually vulnerable to fire, or to beheading, but there was no real guarantee
Tamiko's demon radar was better than most. She had feeling that she knew what was in the lot. Whatever they were, they were roughly man-sized, and they were in several bunches. They'd run into something like that a few times in the last couple of days; they were like the hyena-things, but smaller, faster, meaner, and a lot smarter. Unlike the giant ones, these didn't just "roar and charge"; they crept, and hid, and struck from ambush. They also seemed to have a natural glamour, a kind of permanent "don't notice me" spell that made them hard to find and hard to hit. Plus, you had to almost dismember them to bring them down.
She gestured with her naginata and the team spread out; Gurkhas in front and the two jump troopers holding back a bit for fire support. They moved deeper into the lot.
At the Airfield:
Emmett Bregman was getting a lot of usable footage; he had close to two hours already, and he hadn't even gotten to the front.
Major Hailey had given his group a tour of the base. He'd been pretty skeptical about the whole business until they'd toured the second compound, which had a field hospital and a "refugee center". Talking to the people there and hearing their stories had opened his mind a little. Plainly, these people had seen and been attacked by something, and some of them had the wounds to prove it.
Watching the video of the Rangers' fight in the parking lot had also been enlightening. He knew better than most people how such things could be faked. But computer generated images, or stop-motion films with models, just had a certain look to them; a casual viewer might not pick up on it, but he and his team were professionals. If those impossible scenes weren't real, then whoever made them was better than anyone he'd ever met.
Now he was at the Youngstown-Warren airfield, which he and his team had reached by GEV. Evidently there was a regular shuttle run between RBR I (the school), the airfield, and RBR II (the mall). They were escorted by a state policeman named Randy, who'd been with the Rangers practically since they'd arrived and was a font of information. Bregman thought that if Randy wasn't telling him the truth, then he was suffering from the most detailed and comprehensive delusion he'd ever encountered.
There was a lot of activity at the field, and a lot of noise. A flight of Apache attack helicopters took off and headed southwest. A pair of A-10s were making attack runs to the west; they'd take off, return a few minutes later and rearm, then take off again. Bregman knew the kind of ordnance that aircraft could carry; if they were using it up at that rate, then something
was getting the hell shot out of it; and whatever it was wasn't very far away.
They interviewed some of the soldiers, and got some strange stories."We were completely cut off, and the LT ordered us to fix bayonets, and then these huge people just flew out of nowhere and started blazing away like something from a spaghetti western..""There were some doglike things the size of Clydesdales, and this Japanese girl just cut one of 'em in half with this sword-on-a-pole kind of thing. Then another one jumped her, so she just punched it in the forehead and knocked it back on its' butt, then she grabbed it by the ears and turned its' head like a steering wheel. Then she giggled
.""Picture a starfish the size of a house. Then picture a machine that's even bigger, and looks like a lobster on stilts with a cannon on it's back, blowing the starfish into little pieces. That's what it looked like, I swear to God."
There were also some large men in armor, apparently called "Jaffa". But they didn't have much to say; only that they were proud to fight alongside their allies, the "Tauri" - whoever they were.
When "Willow" had told him her fantasy story, he'd thought the entire group must be out of their minds. When she'd made a glowing pink light appear in the palm of his outstretched hand, and follow it's movements no matter what he did, even when he windmilled his arm until his shoulder was sore, he thought it was some kind of trick. But if this was a deception, it had evidently convinced a lot
On the Eastern Front:
The heavy wing was working outward from the intersection of I-80 and highway 11, but it was slow going.
Fetterman's detachment had gone south on route 711, and reached the river at Salt Springs Riverbend. They began working downstream from there. By sunset, they hoped to link up with the force in the southeast, completing the encirclement of the city center. Of course, no one was really looking forward to attacking into the city center, but they'd probably have to.
The Colonel had continued west until he reached the river, then began probing north up the Youngstown-Warren road, towards the Pine Tree Place Shopping Center. That was another possible Rally Base, for a drive to the northwest and the Hellmouth. The terrain was more open in that direction, but they expected that the opposition would get worse the closer they got.
Both detachments were augmented by U.S. Abrams tanks. The tanks normally used Armor-Piercing discarding sabot rounds, but for this mission were armed primarily with HEAT-MP ammunition - "High Explosive Anti Tank Multi-Purpose" - essentially a shaped charge warhead with an additional blast effect. This was similar to the ammunition used in the Rangers' own autocannon, and worked about as well. The tanks had the same problem with supply that the Rangers did; they had to carry their ammunition with them. In the case of the tanks, that was forty rounds, which was more than enough for most tank engagements but not nearly enough against an enemy numbered in the thousands. Their fifty caliber machine guns had a similar limitation; their "Raufoss" rounds did a great deal of damage, but they only carried enough for a about a minute and a half of sustained fire. They had to set up a convoy system back to the airfield to keep the tankers supplied.
THe Apaches and A-10s had been kept busy supporting both forces; and there was a limit to how much ammunition they could carry as well. How long the pace could be maintained depended on the supply situation, and everyone was aware that the supply line was dangerously thin in places.
Lieutenant Calvert's POV:
He watched the monitor carefully as he sent the drone on it's third pass over the residential neighborhood. As they approached nearer to the Hellmouth, the drone's densors seemed to become less reliable, which didn't auger well for the future. THe mechs used similar sensors, and the thought that they might not be able to see their opponents was disturbing. Morgan Kell had supposedly possessed the ability to cloud an opponent's sensors, and it had left his opponent helpless.
Multiple passes, however, usually resolved any discrepencies. In this case, he was fairly certain that there was a large family group hiding in the basement of a house about six blocks away. There was also a group of demons, of unknown type, about three blocks away. It would be possible to go around the demons, but that would lengthen the trip; and eventually the demons would still have to be dealt with. It would be simpler to deal with them now.
Sergeant Keogh was available, and the "roadrunner" still had two working pulse lasers. He'd send her and a GEV with a squad of Grenadiers - first they'd kill the demons, and then they'd bring in the people.
At the Mall:
Sonya had chosen a seat that let her see both the length of the mall and the front entrance; she was people-watching, something which she seldom got a chance to do. New Moab had a rather sizable settlement around it's only spaceport, but there wasn't much social life; and the kind of places that catered to miners and merchant spacers didn't have much appeal for her. In the back country there were those who tried to make a living by ranching, but they seldom came to town and when they did they didn't stay long.
She noticed Major Sanchez entering, accompanied by one of the Republican officers and a group of civilians. The civilians, for once, didn't look like refugees.
Emmett was overwhelmed. At the mall (and whoever thought of running a war out of a mall
of all places), he'd seen his first mechs, bristling with weapons. He'd also seen Walkers
, that were even bigger and looked almost exactly like the ones in the movies. There were Jedi Knights
here, and lightsabers, and blasters, and hovercraft tanks armed with a different kind of blaster, and people from two different alternate futures, neither one of which was his
future, and goddamn fictional characters
, and they were all here to fight against a horde of supernatural monsters
for God's sake !
He knew now that the General hadn't been trying to shock him - he'd been trying to break the news gently
, because getting all of this at once would have had him doubting his sanity.
He was a believer, and he needed to sit down. So he did. Then he looked up, and realized he was sharing a table with a woman who was a dead ringer for Aisha Tyler, and her hand was resting on a very large gun.
"I'm sorry," he said, "was this your table ?"
R.T. Crook's POV:
With Sonya out of action, he'd had to reassume command of the Recon lance, while still commanding the light wing as a whole; and his mechs were split in four
separate groups, so he'd been pretty busy for the last few days. He and Hannah had barely seen each other in that time. He'd been looking forward to a quiet lunch together. Instead, Hannah had her thinking face on.
"Remember," she said, "How I figured that our timeline diverged from this one relatively recently ?"
"Sure, " he replied, "and it made sense. Their history is the same as ours, as far as we can tell; at least until about... what, maybe twenty years ago ?"
"Yes," she answered, "But here's something that doesn't add up. Their ISWC had records of demonic activity going back to Babylonian times, and stories that suggest the demons have actually been around longer than humans. The SGC doesn't
have records of demons, but they do have records of a race called the Ancients, who supposedly go back at least a million years and probably longer."
"Okay," said Crook, "then their history isn't
identical with ours."
"But that's the thing, Rick", she said, "With all the similarities - events, dates, people - it is
the same. It has
to be the same. The two lines match up on every single point that we're able to verify. That can't
just be coincidence."
"I think," she continued, "that I was wrong. I said that demons were superstitious nonsense in our reality. But they can't be, because if they're part of the history of this reality, then they must be part of ours as well. If this reality has demons, then our own reality must have them too, or at least it had
them at some point. We just didn't know about it....And that's not all. If this reality has a Hellmouth...then somewhere in our universe, there's a Hellmouth. Probably in the same place as this one."
"It sounds to me, " said Captain Crook, "Like we need to talk to the Colonel."
this was mostly just a "setting things up" kind of chapter, until I thought of that last part. Now I'm not sure what it is.