A bell rang across the space of the naval vessels' hangar, and with a clatter and rumble of machinery the hangar door rolled upward toward the ceiling. The salty gust of night sea air blasted into the hangar and chased out the lingering chemical smells of GEAR maintenance. The brief pause was taken away as the clattering thunder of rotor blades filled the space and a helicopter
touched down on the pad, bouncing lightly on its' skids.
"Let's go!" Silverwind yelled above the noise, leading the Hunters to the chopper as the cabin door opened. The loadmaster ushered them all aboard, the fox climbing aboard last.
The flight over to the amphibious assault ship was short, but gave them all a good look at the flotilla of vessels as they plowed through the waves. Even in the dark, their running lights lit them up like alien constructs in the darkness of the night-time ocean.
As the chopper angled toward the flat-top deck of the amphibious assault ship. A duo of heavier transport helos lifted off as their smaller helicopter angled in for a landing, heading in the direction they'd just come. "Going to pick up your GEARs, sir", the loadmaster said over the intercom.
The helo set down, and the GEAR pilots were ushered through the corridors and decks to a capacious briefing room. Officers, ratings and various other personnel were all clustered together, with numerous screens and holoprojectors set up at the far end of the room. Even as the Ghost Hunters filed in, more people followed. By the end, the room had about fifty people assembled. The murmur of conversation continued, and then died away abruptly in a shuffle of squeaking chairs on the floor and boots hitting the floor as the officer in command of the task group walked in.
A smartly appointed and stern-faced stag, captain Heartmann took position behind a lectern at the head of the room.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. You all know the jist of why we're here; hostile elements have taken control of Isenor; a remote island under Anthillan administration. The island is uninhabited on a regular basis, with only occasional visits from research personnel or military personnel. There is a small installation for defence and resupply; a paved emergency airstrip and heliport with a pair of hangars, an operations building, a concrete dock and associated facilities and accomodation".
The screens changed to show an overhead map of Isenor, pinpointing the facilities on the island. The island itself was roughly a flattened diamond shape, with the longer points to the North-East and South-west. The airfield was centrally placed, the runway running along from the south to north, and the dock in the middle of the island. It was a short mass of land, flat and only three miles along its' longest axis and a mile and a half through the middle, and mostly forested - other than where it was cleared, of course.
"Drone recon has shown that the vessels and aircraft noted as coming and going have been shipping in people and supplies. No heavy vehicles have been noted, but several light fighting vehicles up to the level of IFV's have been spotted, as well as fortified positions for containerized automatic cannon, anti-ship, anti-air and anti-armour missiles, as well as heavy weapon positions set up at key points. Armed utility GEARs have also been spotted. Utility aircraft have been observed, but do not appear to be armed, likewise with seacraft, though these may have been equipped with heavy weapon crews and small arms".
Heartmann's sharp, blue eyes zeroed in on Silverwind the the rest of the Ghost Hunters where they sat among the group.
"The main offensive force will be the 33rd; they'll be deployed by air assault to go ashore and take out the mobile defences and secure the structures and the airstrip for a follow-one strike team. The 33rd's assault will follow on directly from a missile strike against the fixed positions as cover. Jamming drones and countermeasures will also be deployed to shield the Ghost Hunters' assault."
The captain informed the rest of the commanders of their specific roles; after that the rest was general information: The weather would be cloudy, with no moon. The sea state calm and the tide going in. It was as good as they could hope for with an amphibious assault. After that, there was only time: a few short hours to prepare.
Silverwind adjusted the cuff and collar on his GEAR pilots' uniform and pulled on his gloves as he moved up the stairs to the amphibious ships' deck. The thunder of rotor blades and whining turbine engines filled the space from the pair of heavy twin-rotor transport helicopters, their stance like big predatory birds, crouching to leap into the skies. The red running lights gave them an even more threatening air.
The fox looked to the rest of the unit, about to speak, but was interrupted by a light-show as the ships launched their missiles, the streaks of light climbing into the skies and tipping over as they headed for Isenor
"All right!" Silverwind roared over the sound. "Mount up, it's time to go to work!"
He lead the squad across the deck in a trot, directing half to one of the hulking twin-rotor helicopters and the other to follow him. They bustled aboard, and were pointed in the direction of their GEARs, stowed in a crouched, ready to board position. All of them were now fully armed and tooled up, just waiting for their pilots.
Silver climbed aboard his machine and strapped in, before flipping the power to STANDBY mode. Moments later the hatch closed to the outside, and he was cocooned in the humming, readout-lit interior of the machine. All external noises were muffled, but he still felt the lurch in his stomach as the heavy-lift helicopter peeled itself away from the amphibious attack ship and banked hard toward Isenor.
"All units, check in," he said over the squads' comm channel. "Listen up; gonna keep this short. You were all in the briefing, so you saw what we were up against. Nothing too outstanding; some civ-GEARs mounted with whatever weapons could be scraped up or improvised - they won't have our C3 systems, drones, or targeting and other sensors. They won't have our armour, powertrains and high-grade systems. And they especially won't have our ECM GEAR or military-grade comms.
"The most effective vehicles and weapons they have are the small number of tracked or wheeled IFVs, and some light utility/combat vehicles. They can hit us hard if we don't move quickly to take them out. Same with shoulder-fired or crew-served heavy weapons. Those are our combat priority. After that; neutralising their power and communications. The objective is to eliminate resistance swiftly, so follow-on units can take the buildings and search them for intel or captives. Should be a walk in the park."
The GEARs mapping and navigation systems told him they were coming up on only two miles out.
"We'll be dropping into the shallows and wading ashore. Sprinsteam, Bastion; you two stick together. Bastion, I want you focusing on anything pumping out counter-jamming, or trying to break through the comm blackout. Sprinsteam, you keep any word from getting out, and fuzz their comms. Target the antenna farms and communications systems in the north-west corner of the island"
"Somachain and Sobrero - engage the hangars, as that's where I expect their heavy vehicles, and any aircraft to be. But stand ready for word from any of us as we spot high-value or high-priority targets. The cruise missiles might've missed something, and your heavy weapons and explosives are our ticket against those targets."
"Proudcrest, you get the short shitty stick; you get to stick with the old man while we take on anything else that comes up. Our main target will be the airfields' operations building, but we'll be aiming for any and all points of resistance en route".
"We'll split up as we head up the beach. There's a Big Eye drone holding above the island at seventy-thousand feet, it'll be acting as a relay for our comms."
A sharp buzzing tone sounded rapidly across the frequency, and the sensation of movement abruptly dropped away, as the view through the GEARs' forward camera changed, the ramp dropping down to reveal the sea below, churned up by the downwash from the helicopters rotors.
"GO GO GO!"
Rollers on the cabin floor assisted the movement of the GEAR to the rear of the helo, and Silverwinds' GEAR stood tall as it dropped for a few breath-taking moments, before crashing into the shallows in a spray of water and a reverbating thump. With elegant, practised, and deliberate movements he swiftly darted aside, 20mm rifle coming up to his machines' shoulder ready and covering for the next GEAR to follow.