The 31st LLB

The one way drop vehicle shed ablative heat shielding in the atmosphere just like a meteor would, and the hundreds of thousands of space rocks hitting the atmosphere at the same time provided excellent camouflage for the relatively small craft.

“Five minutes to impact.” Lieutenant Colonel Horace E. Washburn called over the command net. “God speed and good hunting.”

Four more minutes and thirty seven seconds passed before terminal velocity was abruptly slowed by a the massive parachute opening, pulling the vertical thrust mast away from the gravity well and exposing the solid thrust rocket engines to the atmosphere. As each thruster lit off in in a succession controlled by the ground approach sensor net (optical, radar, passive EW mapping from civil radio emitters) allowed the entire vehicle to impact the dirt with an effective force of only three Earth standard gravity, the shock seats did the rest, and the 31st LLB was bottom side once more.

“Alpha and Bravo, form up abreast head 270 twenty clicks and emplace a screen. Charlie, Delta, occupy alpha alpha Spanner and Driver, local security with counter recon patrols to five clicks.” Major Hanz Zumwelter sent via digitally transcribed voice to text which then burst out with digital compression and encryption to each Company Commander, where the message was decompressed, unencrypted, and played back to the Commanders in the Majors voice by the helmet computer through the ear bud stuck into the left ear of each Captain.

The units moved, each Soldier updating the Soldier next to him by a tight beam laser data link as the optical sensors recognized friendly units. Bit by bit, the data network meshed, broke, meshed again, and let individual Soldiers know when they were drifting off course, or when they’d broken line of site for a timespan that might be hazardous.

Some planets didn’t employ Infantry units any more, just plopped the processors and software on mechanized killing machines. Some planets didn’t employ the processors or software, relying on EMP weapons to neutralize the enemies machines and leave the people relatively safe. The 31st LLB was a hybrid between those two extremes. Each Soldier had robotic shadows that he was responsible for controlling, and the command and communications software package made that simple. The machines protect the Soldiers, the Soldiers protect the Unit, and the Unit takes care of its own.

The insertion mission succeeded in getting the 31st LLB dirtside, but failed to conceal them from the interest of the rebels. The first wave of robotic mining machines attacked shortly after sunset. Giant scoop shovels led the charge, sacrificing their digging blades to protect the line of smaller, more nimble AI powered machines behind them. Improvised machine guns and cannons built from high pressure pipe and welded to the manipulator arms of the robots fired off long fin stabilized projectiles filled with blasting explosives from the smoothbore pipe barrels. The 31st LLB held their ground for three seconds before everyone began fighting in reverse, trading physical terrain to maintain distances that would degrade the accuracy of the oncoming horde and provide an advantage to the 31st LLB with their accurate long range fire.

The first engagement was over in twenty three minutes, and four seconds. Total human losses on each side stood at zero. The five hundred and twelve attacking robots were spent, slagged to scrap metal. The tactical AI updated the scenario with the assumption that 512 was the max size of the mobile network of improvised robotic warriors could field as a fighting group. That assumption led to a second assumption that the command and control system for the rebels was simply the open source software defined radio module that industrial systems had been using for decades. The auto-tune frequency hop feature allowed it to maintain robust communications even in crowded spectrum.

But knowing is half the battle. And the humans began digging through the databases searching for the weaknesses in hop prediction, encryption, and hardware handshake protocols that would allow them to exploit their attackers. They AI picked the solution from on Soldier as the most likely to succeed, and the electronic warfare cyber weapon was delivered to all units in the 31st. Because knowing may be half the battle, the other half is composed of violence and destruction.

The second wave was two 512 component unit wave from different directions. The cyber weapon worked. The data links were analyzed, and broken. Then the logic controllers of the robots were hacked. Some had been modified so heavily from the open source reference code that they simply stopped, frozen, and let momentum take them to the resting place determined by physics.

Others were fully pawned, and returned to sender with a much hardened communications protocol in place.

The rebellion surrendered two days later after it became clear they were only throwing their own livelihood away. Total human deaths for the war, zero. Total financial losses to Mega Mine Operations were written off as business expenses.

When a two way drop shuttle hit dirtside and the 31st LLB began packing up everyone cheered up. The Fest Tent was quickly erected, and large casks of Zimmerman’s finest lager were tapped. And the 31st celebrated their survival like only a Light Lederhosen Battalion can celebrate.

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