Sunday 22 October 2023
Friday 22 September 2023
8793207X3 Named Man Owerr Wourbun,
Devos IV 2nd PDF Regt “La Guardia Presedentiale”
3rd Squad (Call Sign “Bright Shark 99”), 9 Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion.
His legs burned. He’d never run so far, so fast in his life. He crouched in cover from force of habit and the pain in his thighs brought tears to his eyes and an audible sob as he sank down. He was out of charged cells and not sure if his las carbine would even fire if he had a charged cell for it. But after four years with it in his hands day and night he couldn’t have thrown it away if he tried. His Personal Role Radio, noosphere linked to a comm bead in his left ear, was dead as well. “Bright Shark 99” might be still running but he wasn’t talking to anyone. Was there even anyone left to talk to ?
He reached up under the rim of his blue bowl shaped helmet and pulled out the comm bead, reflexively pushing it into one of his ammunition pouches rather than dropping it. They had been hard to replace in the first year of the war and now were all but impossible to come by. His grey uniform was looking a bit worn and he hadn’t eaten since before the battle broke out, when the smartly turned out Palladians assaulted the first positions. Their white trousers and cap bands made for pretty aiming points and the black IFVs with signal yellow trim were punished by the dug in heavy weapons.
His fingers fumbled with the lid of his canteen as his trembling hand barely got the spout to his lips before he spilled it. He remembered with satisfaction how vehicles and infantry in the killing zones of the deliberate ambushes tried to run and hide and fled straight into the minefields that he and his comrades helped lay. There was something to be proud of, not the destruction of the invaders, they were still men, after all. But a job well done. They had laid and executed a proper ambuscade and stopped the invading army in its tracks. Quite literally.
His legs still hurt. He was very hungry but the swallow of body temperature brackishly aluminium tasting water had stopped him jittering quite so badly. Once the Palladians had been stopped, he’d roused his team: Mincer, Gurge, Abze and Tunk. They’d moved silently, quickly, as intended, to their next position, confident that the emplacements they’d just left would be marked by the invaders.
The amount of artillery fire directed onto their former positions was truly humbling. They had cowered, hands over their ears, mouths open as clods of earth and the odd sandbag rained down on them from over a hundred meters away. The bombardment had lasted for ever. The noise and vibration had broken a few more men in the Platoon, even after four years under fire. And the skull-fethers were practically on them as soon as the barrage ended. Those insane bastards must have taken casualties from their own artillery fire, following it that close. And these were a whole different story to the rest of the invading armies. They were relentless, advancing regardless of casualties and even seemed to shoot straighter.
They had barely escaped that one. He didn’t know it, as his Personal Role Radio was losing signal and his ears were ringing from the bombardment, the 79th Tank Battalion had counter attacked and eventually found the invaders Leviathan and destroyed it. So whilst the skull-fethers were seemingly unstoppable and the Bright Sharks had gunned a fair few of them down, where they were on the line which had benefited from the counter attack by seeing the invaders slack off a bit. If he’d have known, he’d not have seen it that way. The squads either side had been picked off by the skull fethers and their sharp shooting.
Again they fell back, now to their prepared positions alongside their own field artillery. The last throw of the dice for the PDF manticores and basilisks before everyone would flee into the city. When the god machines appeared there was no hesitation, the word was sent down the lines of La Guardia Presidentiale by runner. They weren’t going to fight God Machines with bayonets and empty las guns. They, as professional full-time soldiers, already knew that the rest of the PDF were going to follow the preplanned evacuation plan and use the mag-rail tunnels to get into the city.
Without power for over three years, the tunnels were dark, confined and would rely on strict enforcement of discipline to prevent fatal overcrowding. The mag rail equipment was still in there, along with the odd abandoned train and under repair AFV, hidden from aerial surveillance. Add in a routing army and the chances of making it out the other end were by no means assured. But his regimental command had made a decision independent of High Command and had it’s own escape plans.
The men of La Guarda were already briefed, they would split down to their smallest tactical groups, squads and in some cases, even fire teams and scatter through the blasted suburbs and regroup in the city at pre-designated Citidef positions. There would be bunkers with charged cell packs, rations, water and rest. As the peacetime ceremonial unit they were familiar with the capital city, they knew where the caches were, knew which ones to go to. They expected to ready to stand and fight once more, much sooner than the rabble crowding through the dank train tunnels. If, indeed, any of them made it out at all.
He suddenly felt quite alone. The journey into the city had not quite been as smooth as he’d imagined. The skull fethers had chased them into the ‘burbs. Death Riders and the invader’s Salamanders seemed to be everywhere. With no grenades, maybe enough charge for six shots between the five of them, there was no chance of any sort of micro snap ambush. They had no comms with anyone else. But the terrain was the biggest thing. This was where Tunk grew up. They had expected him to be able to lead them through the streets double time and on to their destination.
One of the first things they came across was Tunk’s Scholae. It was smashed to blithereens and had obviously been occupied when it was struck. That must have been early in the war. So part of the aerial bombardment campaign then. Tunk barely held it together, unsurprisingly. Probably thinking of when he was a youngling and his parents would send him off every morning and be there for him when he returned home safe everyday. Blown to bits. After that, the destroyed infrastructure, the smashed bridges and roads that weren’t there any more disoriented Tunk even further. They seemed to spend far too long in each hab zone, with Tunk looking alternatively numb and on the verge of breakdown whilst they all took cover, waiting for him to save them.
At least it seemed that the skull fethers had stopped chasing them. But of course there was a reason for this. The god machines were now on the edge of the city and taking speculative shots into the outlying zones. Anything tall enough was being systematically reduced. God Machines using Titan weaponry to remove possible sniper positions before they advanced any further. Seemed like overkill, especially when you’re on the receiving end.
That’s when he’d lost the others. As they were moving through another ruined complex, a gymnasium, something shot the upper floors and the whole place fell down, collapsing like a house of cards. He’d run and not stopped. Now here he was, alone, legs spent, effectively unarmed, in a ruined city with little idea of where to go to fix any of his problems.
He heard a noise from his right. He had great cover to his left. He’d need to move forwards, as he was oriented, towards a small generator station in front of him, to have cover from anyone coming around from the ruins there. He was halfway across when the man who had caught him in the open burst around the corner. The skull fether who was going to kill him didn’t shoot. And in that split second, he turned out not be a skull fether. He hadn’t seen any bit of his life flashing before his eyes, and was too dehydrated to piss himself again.
Mincer didn’t shoot. He did, and would have definitely killed his target at this range, three blast burst from his Kantreel pattern Mk19. But the cell was dead. So his target wasn’t. He recognised Wourbun and immediately felt guilty at ‘shooting’ at his friend. Although no one could tell. So no one would ever know.
“I thought you were dead” said Mincer, more a breath than an exclamation.
“So did I.” Wourbun waved him and the others back to his cover, such as it was. They automatically turned out to cover their various arcs. “Where’s Tunk ?”
“In the ground. He was struck by a huge piece of masonry when the building collapsed.” Answered Mincer.
“He was having a bad day anyway.” Reflected Wourbun.