Salty Fields Never End is a short story included as part of TSFIA.
SummaryEdit“Fuck, we just lost contact with the Sapper team pulling minefield duty.”
“Command just approved the Japs' request to emergency sortie. Orders are coming down the pipe for all available QRF elements to deploy and aid the IJA in containing the breach.”
“Jesus Christ! We already have multiple TIC in progress right now and we don’t even know what’s going on! How did this happen!? Where is our early warning net? What the fuck are our Navy’s sonar monitoring stations doing?”
“XO, Order the fleet to battle stations and bring weapon readiness to condition one. CIC, weapons tight until we know what's going on. Recall our Combat Air Patrol and I want the Alert Five up in the air. Tell the Marine Corps I want Force Recon TSFs on that beach and getting “eyes on” the contacts yesterday! I want every pilot in this fleet ready in their TSFs NOW!”
150 km west of the Seattle salt fields. Pacific Ocean.
Deep within the belly of the US Navy amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima was a scene of chaos as mechanics and pilots scrambled to get their assigned machines ready for war since the official code 991 was issued. A few of the TSFs were already packed and ready to launch. Onboard one such TSF, its pilot rested quietly with her eyes closed. Breathing slowly, she listened in on multiple radio net frequencies and their scattered radio chatters; despite the sheer amount of panic and confused radio traffic that was flooding the air at that moment she was able to comprehend the gist of what the main situation was through audio data alone, as only an experienced squadron leader could.
Unlike many of her fellow colleagues throughout the fleet at that moment, she was calm, she was patient. Her mind is clear and her will is focused. She didn’t question how the BETA slipped through their defenses, unlike the majority of the human population she know first-hand how utterly unpredictably the BETA can be, this is not the first time they surprised humanity and certainly won’t be the last. Now is not the time to ask questions like those. To Marines like her, the choice is clear; Do or die. Fight and win or die trying.
“Hey guys, Force Recon is in position now. They are relaying the data link from the IJA forces in contact along with their own recordings rights now. You might want to take a look at it.” Hearing the voice of one of her own on their squadron net, she slowly opened her eyes and viewed her updated map on her Retinal projections. Sure enough, like a bad viral infection; small red dots began to spread and expand rapidly on a corner her map.
“...Holy shit... Estimate at least ten thousand and rising just from what we can see. We got a goddamn division of the bastards out there!”
“Screwed man...We are so fucking screwed. How the fuck did the Navy not see this coming?”
“I don’t know man, all I know from looking at these old sensor data is that one minute the scope was clear and the next minute, this. I say the BETA either found a blindspot in our warning net or they dug themselves a REALLY deep hole.”
At this point in time, she was finally feeling the first signs of the “shakes” as her body and mind settled into a combat mindset, eager to get into the fight to protect that which no amount of gold and treasures could trade for; the last “eden” and “bastion” of humanity, her home and country: America.
“Regimental HQ to 318th Black Knives leader. We have your orders, standby.”
Finally hearing the words she wanted to hear. Lt Lilia Kjellberg, squadron leader of the USMC VMF-318 Black Knives squadron gave the voice on the other end her full undivided attention.
“Our CO’s intention is for us to make landfall at point G3. We will assault past the beach head and hit the BETA horde’s mid flank. According to force recon a sizable IJA force is on the other side of that horde. We are to link up with them and attack the beta ‘s flank from both sides effectively splitting the BETA horde into two. The QRF coming from the mainland areas will handle half of the horde we split and we get the other half to stop. Command also recommended that your squadron should lead the charge on this one. Any questions, Lieutenant?”
Getting the most dangerous vanguard position in an already reckless regimental advance into a division-size BETA swarm was certainly not a job any young squadron leader would want, but Lilia only allowed an almost feral grin to appear on the corner of her lips before she responded.
“Knives 1, no questions...correction, I do have a question. Out of curiosity who is leading the IJA unit that is engaging the BETA right now?”
The HQ operator gave a knowing smile at Lilia on the comm window.
“Kjellberg, I know you too well...By the way, I know you are going to enjoy this one. The IJA unit in contact right now is from the Japanese 1st Tactical Armor Wing. The “Mad Dog” Major Jinguuji herself is leading the charge from the front. Now go and have a good time, Lieutenant.”
“You bet I'm going to have a good time.”
That woman... I finally have to chance to fight alongside her on the battlefield... It' s only thanks to her that I am able to “tell and spread ” their last story.
Earlier last year, The US navy carrier John. F. Kennedy fell to the devouring alien horde known as BETA. In the aftermath of that tragic battle, the sole survivor found by the relief forces was the then-2nd Lt. Lilia Kijielberg. However, having lost all of her fellow Marines and everyone else that she had come to hold dear, Lilia lost the will to live. When Major Jinguji found Lilia in that desolate salt field, she was but a shell of her former self, having been swallowed completely by despair and hopelessness. At the time, it was only because of the helping hand that Maj. Jinguuji offered to her that Lilia found her path once more.
(That person...She showed me the path of a survivor and the rightful duty as a survivor. Her words saved my soul...
“Stand! Stand and Live! So that the world may never forget their sacrifices.”)
“VMF-318 Black Knives. You have permission to launch.”
“Knives Lead acknowledges.”
Under the banner of the reformed “legacy” squadron “Black Knives”, stood the current premier vanguard squadron of the USMC. A squadron formed entirely for the purpose of spearheading the main advance of follow on forces. For these Marines there were no stalemates they could not break, no line they could not breach and no ground they could not take. Despite currently only having 8 pilots to the roster, every Marine here was handpicked and selected for their role in the squadron, every single one of them being either a Babylon survivors, veterans of the US border war and having fought through numerous defense of Seattle deployments; and in some of them it was all of the above.
(Captain Daryl, Wilbert, I………………)
Her machine shook with the ignition of her boosters as the elevator beneath her machine raised her to the top deck. Taking a deep breath, Lilia willed herself into settling into a different mindset.
(In the name of the United States Marine Corps, I promise you that I shall fight on till my dying breath and spread the stories of your sacrifices and the name of this squadron for all to see. Until then, wait for me on the other side.)
On board the flight deck of the Iwo Jima stood 8 proud forms of the F-18E Super Hornet. Their navy blue paint jobs and their graceful yet majestic curves spoke of the beautiful yet ruthless ocean that all Marines have come to love. Truly they were once the conquerors of the seven seas. Now however, they are the precious commodity of the US Navy and USMC due to the horrendous casualty rate of the Marine and Navy in the disastrous aftermath of Babylon.
“Knives 1 to all Knives call signs! You heard the briefing, we are to break through the BETA lines and catch the horde in a pincer movement with the IJA."
Looking at her map, Lilia confirms that indeed, portions of the Japanese forces have begun to move towards the direction of the Marine’s proposed approach angle.
“All units prepare for takeoff! Target is point G3. Full afterburner! No Marine will arrive late when aiding our allies! Got that?”
One by one the Super Hornets assumed take off positions as they prepared to give the BETA some stings they won’t soon forget.
“All right boys and girls, time to keep hell packed with some fresh BETA souls. Follow my lead!”
Taking off one after another, the 8 Hornets cruised through the open sky. Like a burning tracer only their sensor lights marked their passing in the sky.
“Knives 1 to all Knives. Maintain speed and dispersion. Timing and speed is of the essence for today. Weapons free on first contact and do not stop for anything. We got the whole god damn navy coming in hot on our heels. Resupply will be there when we need them to be so ammunition is not a concern, let the BETA have it. The Air Force is also rolling in the whole strike package so it looks like it’s going to be a good show, so let’s do our part and show those Imperials how we Americans fight and most importantly how we Marines fight!”
“Aye, Aye, Big Mama!”
The response from the rest of the Knives was loud and immediate. The usage of her moniker "Big Mama" was common nowadays. She knows she does not deserve such a name but it was all she could do to honor the late Captain Daryl A. McManus; by trying her best to emulate Capt McManus’s unique leadership style, whether it be leading her own veteran Marines on a combat op or when training the fresh recruits back in California.
The blue ocean began to disappear rapidly behind the blue giants as they advanced, which was quickly replaced by salt fields that appear to never end. Dropping their altitude the Hornets hugged the ground, their jet exhaust leaving a trail of scorched salt behind them.
Seemingly a lifetime ago, she fought against all odds against impending death alongside her fellow Marines and friends, but while their journey may have come to an end here on this desolate salt field, it seems destiny would demand her time to be otherwise. Even now she often finds herself dreaming of nightmares where she is trapped in darkness to see her friends and comrades leaving her side one by one with herself powerless to stop any of it. Even in her waking hours, she is confronted daily of signs and examples of Humanity’s doom; from the horrendous crimes people would commit upon one another to seeing the desperate measure the military have to enact to sustain and preserve their now meager capabilities. Yet despite all this---
“Target swarm dead ahead!! All Knives! Rip them apart!”
1st Lieutenant Kjellberg roared, as the massive BETA stampede now occupied most of her view. As if diving off a spring board, her 8 F-18Es threw themselves down the massive salt berm right into the deadly raging river of mismatched colors. As they moved, their twin AMWS-21 assault cannons spit out an endless stream of red hot burning death. In a long whip like trail following behind the Super Hornets, the once white earth was now soaked with the blood of aliens.
“This is the USMC 318th TSF squadron to the Imperial Japanese Army combat team in this area, We have begun our advance through the BETA swarm. Requesting we initiate the pincer immediately.”
“IJA acting combat team commander to Black Knives. Thank you for your swift arrival. Looks like you Marines have proven your reliability to us once again, unlike those of the Army.”
“Haha, of course; first in, last out. Army Rangers lead the way? They can kiss my ass and fuck right off. Anyway sir, just make sure to spread the word to the rest of your fellows and to let your Wing Commander know who was the first here to bail her out of the frying pan.
Pilot bravado aside, Lilia knows that especially in times like this, it is good to keep herself and the Marines in general on the Japanese and their “Mad dog” ‘s good side. No doubt she will have to rely on the IJA increasingly in the foreseeable future, and it will certainly help to have a couple of favors to call on for both on the battlefield and off the battlefield situations.
Kicking a dead destroyer aside, Lilia scanned her surroundings. Her Marines are doing a fine job in keeping a steady production rate of more beta corpses as they advanced following her own impressive wake of destruction. After opening a path and linking up with the IJA, their primary objective was never the annihilation of the Beta horde, but instead to slow down the herd the horde’s advance with their own dead and dying. Buying time to wait for the Navy and the main Marine elements to arrive from the sea, while the Army and the Air Force came in from the main land.
(Well shit…… my ammo is running low…. Looks like I went a bit over board with my own command.)
Confirming the rest of her squad’s ammo status, Lt. Kjellberg sees that due to acting as the point man of her squadron leading the advance, she is the only one with the low ammo warning marked on her status indicator.
(There is still some time before the main force can arrive with the resupply…… everyone else seems to be fine for now…)
Logically, to conserve her ammo, there is but one course for her to take.
“Knives 1 switching to CQC! Knives 2, cover me!”
“Roger that! Covering………”
Adjusting her center of gravity upon landing from her jump, her TSF’s knee armor block opened to reveal her knife sheath. In one fluid motion she holstered her assault cannon on her rear weapon rack, and by the time her machine made its next jump, a pair of CIWS-1A Close combat knives were tightly gripped in her Hornet’s hands.
To most American TSF pilots, the knife is a last resort weapon, nobody goes out of his or her own way to go look for a knife fight with the BETA. Normal SOP for the typical American engagement called for fast and devastating attack runs before RTB, when a unit has to hold ground they are to switch out with a relief unit and return to resupply when low on ammo. Pilots of other countries could only shake their heads at how typically American this doctrine was, to always expect there to be a fully functional logistic resupply line set up when they go to war.
As a Marine who has lived through some truly brutal encounters with the BETA, Lieutenant Kjellberg could fully appreciate the tactical options and flexibility good knife skills offered to her and her squadron when cornered in a tight spot. Thankfully, unlike the rest of the US Armed Forces, the Marine Corps have always had a deep traditional background in the art of knife fighting since the bygone days of early 20th century. The importance of CQC has always been taught to every Marine but now, more than ever, each and every Marine had to become even more proficient and deadly with a knife... and possibly, with a sword; the latter were not yet standard on American TSFs.
Indeed, due to Lilia’s own efforts pushing for changes in the Marine Corps' combat doctrines, cross training CQC courses between the Marines and the IJA have been approved. Lilia’s own experiences from her combat tour in Europe pre-Babylon to the hard learned lessons during her short days aboard the John F. Kennedy and the many similar experiences of other veteran Marines have all been carefully studied and analyzed and incorporated into the new training regime for the Marine Corps.
(I will live on, to always improve myself and those around me, so that others may know of their sacrifices.)
2005, October. The unprecedented BETA assault on Seattle took a surprising and grim turn of events. Lieutenant Kjellberg survived once again, and by the end of the day she took note of another Japanese name to remember.
- QRF stands for Quick Reaction Force.
- TIC is Troops In Contact, i.e. engaged with the enemy, taking fire, just seeing the enemy, etc.
- Force Recon's primary role is to provide beach landing and battlefield recon, which is correctly shown here (and not hunting down tangoes, whatever Modern Warfare would say).
- Alert Five, also known as Ready Five, is a high alert condition. Fighters and crews are placed on standby on the flight deck or runway, ready to launch within five minutes.
- RTB is Return to Base.
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