Marcus' Pegasus helicopter circled Kalemie, a port town on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. A Congolese army barracks and naval administration base were stationed here, they were responsible for the government's military interests in Tanganyika Province. Marcus had been sent to check in on the local Providence Littoral Force station and III Corps barracks.
His helicopter landed at the III Corps barracks; he had left the LF station after an excellent inspection which would doubtless result in a glowing report. Marcus was received by the commanding officer of the barracks, a Captain Lukungu, and his lieutenant, Ndango. “Colonel Sewell, those reinforcements from Kinshasa, whilst welcome, are unnecessary,” boasted Lukungu, he pointed at the barracks garage; ten Buster APCs were parked there.
“We'll see about that,” murmured Clement to Marcus, Lukungu glared at the commandant, Clement stared him down. The captain glanced away, somewhat put out, and walked off ostensibly to speak with a sergeant – not tend to his wounded pride. Marcus bit down laughter; he didn't think it'd look all that fantastic for the general's senior aide to mock Providence officers.
Ndango cocked his head, “What do you mean by that, Commandant Ncube?”
“A rebel attack on Kalemie is expected fairly soon,” revealed Clement, that tired expression of his had returned, “I do hope we aren't here for that.” Marcus learned Clement found actual fighting rather distasteful, Ncube had come across as more of an analyst. The commandant agreed to come to Kalemie when Marcus had promised he would not have to accompany him anywhere else. Ndango nodded sagely, a good officer should be able to anticipate a major enemy movement, and definitely at a time like this. Marcus allowed himself to be guided around every corner of the camp; he even led several impromptu drills, as he liked keeping the troops on their toes. Clement worked on his SuperCom throughout – nodding and making noises of assent when his input was required.
“Colonel Sewell!” Lukungu shouted as he sprinted at Marcus. Marcus had heard that tone before, from Warrant Officer Washikala – something was FUBAR. Just once he would like to leave Kinshasa and not find himself vanguard a hastily drawn-up counter-attack.
“Rebels are coming at us from the lake. They've got armoured yachts and air-cushioned landing craft. A few craft have made landfall on the banks of the Lukuga River,” Lukungu had strapped himself into his SPDV and grabbed his weapons. His make of helmet covered his entire face; its electronic visor ensured he had still full visibility. The men Marcus had led in a drill sprang into action; Busters steamed past the gates of the barracks, a handful of helicopters went up in the air.
Clement shut off his interface and performed such a paradigm shift that Marcus thought someone had switched places with the commandant. Ncube weaved through the organised chaos of the barracks, and then ran back to Marcus. He and their chopper pilot had returned with a cache that contained both his and the colonel's combat gear. “Stop being surprised and get your kit on. I didn't get my job by standing around and looking pretty,” quipped Clement, aware Marcus considered him an apathetic pencil-pusher. Time to show his fellow aide-de-camp that Commandant Clement Ncube held commission for a reason.
MPO Rourke crouched behind an overturned market stall, fruit squelched at the press of his boot. His sergeant, Myers, was across the street, hidden in the shadow of a house. Rebels had struck so suddenly he'd barely had time to find cover, he might be with the army but Rourke wasn't a soldier. A body lay in the street between him and Myers, that was MPO Clark, or it would be more accurate to say that had been MPO Clark. Where Clark had stood probably saved his life, the spray of bullets which had commenced hostilities came right at Clark and Rourke. Clark was in front of him when it happened, his comrade's body had caught those bullets. Rourke had time to scramble for shelter in the few short moments of Clark's death.
That's where he found himself now, pinned down in the market, rebels bearing down on him.
Their helicopter had made straight for where the river ran through town. Clement spotted rebels motoring upriver, beaching their transports but eventually lost sight of them as they scattered. “Take us down,” Clement called loudly to his pilot, the chopper stopped circling and dipped low. It swooped down, right above the market, and then he jumped. He tucked as he hit the ground and rolled flawlessly into cover. Clement sprinted quickly from stall to stall, kept his head low, searched for those who had jumped alongside him. A screech, Clement slid onto his stomach; he anticipated the anti-personnel missile's trajectory so that it careened rapidly past him.
Clement sprang onto his hands and knees then bounded forwards, a practised tumble comfortably placed a house between himself and his attackers. He angled his Viper battle rifle around a corner of the house, a volley of gunshots blared at him. Clement fired blindly, his weapon's rate of fire easily outclassed any small arms that rebels fielded. Several panicked French exclamations and one call suddenly cut short told Clement he was on the right track. He turned on his heel and sneaked around the house’s other corner. As he suspected, his enemies thought they should try to outflank him. Clement opened fire; the rebels were caught in their own trap.
Marcus had come down not too far from Clement but wasn't nearly as fast as the commandant. Ncube had disappeared in a labyrinth of stalls, carts and poorly-built houses. Though none of that mattered right now, he had happened upon a pair of military policemen in a fix.
One crouched in of front an upended market stall; the other pressed themselves to the side of a house. A corpse lay face down in the street that separated them.
Marcus deduced the reason for their less than proactive attitudes – as he peered from his hiding spot inside of one of the few stores – a remote controlled turret menaced them. The gunner must be nearby, long-range RC turrets were too expensive for most national armies, and an insurgency certainly couldn't afford any.
Marcus crept out of the store and took up position behind a house. He knew the gunner was close, not in a place where the police could see from their current positions though. He edged along the wall and turned the right corner, the colonel tread carefully from behind one wall to be behind another. Soon he overtook the turret and assessed the street to its rear.
There they were, one rebel held a console in his hand, a pistol in his other. His guard had a sniper rifle over his shoulder and a sub-machine gun in his hands. The idiot who held the console wore a bandanna. Did these people need to be clichés? Marcus hoped the rebel gunner appreciated the irony of being killed by a single shot to the head; after all, he had chosen to wear a bit of cloth instead of a helmet. Marcus sheered through the other rebel's hamstrings; no one had thought to recover someone for interrogation.
“Officers, I've apprehended a rebel fighter,” said Marcus to the MPOs who hovered not too far from him, they had crawled out of hiding when the turret stopped, “Make sure he gets to Kinshasa.”
Clement had joined up with a squad led by Lieutenant Ndango as they approached where Boulevard Lumumba crossed the Lukuga River. The squad was arranged into two-man teams, each in charge of a PM-132 Hell Pike anti-tank missile system.
Ndango fielded a PM-Z108 OCSW, a belt-fed grenade machine fun colloquially referred to as the She-Wolf by most and the mother-in-law autocannnon by others – thanks to its sheer capacity for glorious destruction. Clement felt more than a little inadequate, until he remembered, rather joyously, he had a laser designator on his person.
Those rebels at the river had no idea what they were in for.
Marcus trudged along Boulevard Lumumba, he had helped clear the market place of rebels but had yet to hear any news from the south side of Kalemie. That's when he saw four Hell Pike missiles soar into the sky and arc towards the river banks. Flaming exhaust fumes powered out of the missiles, urged the ordnance onwards. Mushroom clouds bloomed, and a mechanical thundering that could only belong to a She-Wolf shook the ground under his feet. More black clouds of fiery smoke billowed into existence. Then an unexpected pièce de résistance, as a drone whizzed overhead and unleashed its payload. Six guided bombs pierced the water's surface, and moments later six monumental explosions tore to shreds every craft they touched. Asymmetric warfare for you, Marcus had no idea why the rebels thought they might ever win.