It was unusual to see the colonel in the enlisted berth, and from the look on his face, it was not for a good reason. He had the company sergeant tribunus with him.
“Got some word for you men,” he said, looking grim, once we were all at attention. “Yesterday the Privy Council declared a State of Emergency. The Fourth Fleet has retreated from Heimatar. We’ve lost control of the region.”
That got my attention for two reasons; firstly, my father was an officer in the Fourth Fleet. So, I was worried about my old man, but more to the point, Imperial forces do not retreat. In the entire seven millennia existence of the Holy Amarr Empire, no force had ever retreated. Imperial Military Law forbade it, and the penalty for violating that was steep.
“Lord Admiral Helican accepted responsibility to the Emperor in person and fell on his sword in penance. Heimatar is lost, and Metropolis is in open rebellion. The rebels detonated a nuclear device in Dam-Agrad on Hek V. The city was totally destroyed. Men, we’ve lost control of this.”
The colonel paused to let this sink in. “So, get everything ready to move in case command decides to put us closer to the front. Until that happens, we still have a job to do here. Sergeant tribunus, all yours.”
The sergeant tribunus told us to stand at ease. “First and second platoons get your gear on and head to the motor ramp. Briefing in ten minutes.”
They both left and pandemonium broke out. Every private asked his fireteam leader what the word passed by the colonel meant. Of course, I had as much clue as they did and my squad leader knew just as much as I. There was a lot of speculation though, and one of the men from second platoon pointed out the ugly fact that the Minmatar slaves outnumbered Amarr citizens. When he started talking about the downfall of the Empire, he was pointedly told by his sergeant to shut up.
There wasn’t a lot of time for random speculation, even of the kind that was not defeatist; we were on a time limit. It wasn’t really a limit. The berth was empty in five minutes and we were gathered around a small holoprojector set down on the ground outside the motor ramp within seven minutes.
I used to get nervous leaving the wire. Every time, I obsessed over the levels of the powerpacks on my chest and in the drop pouch on my left thigh. Five or ten times I would check the seating of the crystal in my V27 laser carbine, over and over to make sure it was properly in place. I used to get amped every time we went out, ready to take on all comers, itching for a fight. That was an eternity ago, at least three months.
Today though, I was too tired to be nervous or amped. A civilian might think that strange considering it was three in the afternoon, but I’d only been to sleep an hour and a half prior to the colonel waking us up. Sleep deprivation, however, was part of a Marine’s training. I’d stuck a packet of instant coffee—that horrible stuff might pass for real coffee, but only to a starving pig—in between my teeth and lip. Sure, it tasted horrible, but like nicotine in chewing tobacco, the caffeine in the instant coffee gets absorbed right through the gums. It’s the little tricks that make the difference between a boot and a Marine that knows what he’s about.
We were waiting for the company XO, also the first platoon leader, Lieutenant Sonderhale to show up and tell us what to do. He was Ni-Kunni with mocha skin and an icy blue stare. Most of the time he was pretty relaxed, but he had this uncanny ability to put a hard edge in his voice without raising it when it was time to get serious.
We’d already done our own checks; I had checked my fireteam before the corporal checked the squad. Each man had to have two rations in the buttpack, plus a full bladder of water on his back. Each man had to have a first aid kit on the left side of his torso armor and a tourniquet on the left shoulder strap. The power charge on the personal radio had to read ninety percent or better. We had the standard set of crystals, of course. As for powerpacks? Enough was how much each of us could carry; I usually carried power for six hundred shots.
By now, the pre-combat checks had mostly become pro forma. All of us were professionals; all of us knew what to do. The real point wasn’t to check the gear, but the sleepy looking guys in the ranks. Low-intensity operations takes its toll on the nerves. So the platoon sergeant, a Khanid named Nallerkh, but we all called Wrath, would make sure to look everyone in the eye to make sure we were not too frazzled to go out. It was not just a cursory check, given what happened last week and what the colonel had just told us.
Wrath stopped in front of me on his pass. “You awake, Dommac?” he asked me with a smirk. There were bags under his eyes, too. He probably hadn’t even caught the ninety minutes of rack time I had.
“I think so,” I said, with more enthusiasm than I felt.
“Well, look on the bright side. Sure, you’re not in your rack, but you might get the chance to shoot someone.”
“Just tell me who I have to kill to go back to sleep and point me in their direction, arch sergeant,” I responded. He nodded and moved on.
We weren’t joking about killing bad guys; the whole battalion was in a rage. Last week, two slaves had shot into a crowd coming out of church with homemade zip guns. The attack resulted in sixteen dead, including four children and almost double that number wounded. I had to hold a shaking mother back while the medic tried in vain to save her son. It was the worst day of my life up to that point. We’re supposed to protect civilians.
Finally, after the checks were done and fifteen minutes of kicking the dirt, Lieutenant Sonderhale showed up. Wrath and the squad leaders went over to him. Second platoon’s senior noncoms trotted over as well. Mere lance corporals like myself stayed back, so did the couple of corporals that were fireteam leaders. They conferenced for a little while, which led to more dirt kicking on my part. Finally they broke it up and Sonderhale called us over to the holoprojector.
“Listen up, men. Intel says that there’s a weapons cache in a village fifty-nine klicks north-northwest of the city, called, uh, Holt Town,” he said, looking at a folded bit of paper in his hand briefly while Wrath turned on the projector, and a three dimensional holo in gold tones flickered into existence to show us a cluster of about thirty buildings. Sonderhale looked at the holo to make sure it was right before continuing. “The colonel wants us to move on this quickly. Just a standard cordon and search, nothing fancy. We’ll approach from the south on this dirt road here.” He gestured to the road on the holo. “For transport we’re going to have six Bucklers. First platoon will dismount one hundred meters from this housing complex. Second platoon will move around the village with their vehicles and establish a perimeter. Once we’re dismounted, the transport vehicles for first platoon will join that perimeter.”
The holoprojector showed the blocky models for our Bucklers doing just that, with tactical icons for each fireteam dismounting and then moving up into the town.
“Lieutenant Granet,” Sonderhale said to the second platoon leader, an officer so new he practically squeaked when walking. “We’re going to be a little light on this; the rest of the company has to stay for back QRF. So, make good use of the tracks when you set up your perimeter.”
Lieutenant Granet nodded, looking unhappy. He wasn’t the only one. With the other three platoons of the company staying back to be the quick response force for the battalion, we were going to be operating on a tight budget. Oh well, improvise, adapt, and overcome, I suppose.
“From there, first platoon moves to the overseer’s office here. There’s a staff of about a dozen there: the town overseer, four constables, and the rest are administration. One constable will be assigned to each squad for the search and their corporal will be with me. After that, it’s simple; sweep south to north.”
“I know we’re all still angry about what happened, but we are not barbarians. The people in this town had nothing to do with what happened at Saint Lyydia. Do not take it out on them. We’re never going to reclaim the Minnies to God’s Light if we act like heathens. We’re Amarr, God’s Children.”
He raised his voice, put a growl in it. “That said, we are going to come home alive. If someone decides they want to die today, we’re going to oblige him. The real war might be a long way away, but you can wind up just as dead here. No risks. Engage your brain.” He looked over at Father Erajibanabas. “Okay, Chaps, all yours.”
We all knelt down while the company chaplain came over and said a nice prayer for us, the righteous paladins of Holy Amarr or something of the like. I’m just as religious and a believer as the next man, but the chaplain’s prayers seem to all blur together and wind up mostly the same. Besides, I had that rancid instant coffee taste in my mouth to distract me. I said amen just as loudly as the rest of the platoon, though.
When that was all over, we loaded up onto the Bucklers. By design, they were supposed to fit eighteen men, all with kit. Realistically, that was always pushing it. This time, we had two more than the minimum required, so it was one squad to a track. Our squad leader, Corporal Blue—a nickname that dated back to bootcamp—got the choice seat, with a hatch to look out of. The rest of us got to suck engine fumes in the dark.
Sometimes, we were lucky enough to get antigrav transports. That was always nice; the Aquilas were fast and comfortable to ride in. Bucklers though, were tracked, loud, and bumpy. Their saving grace was the thick tungsten carbide armor.
The lieutenant stopped me before I climbed in the back. “I asked command about Saint Ventrificus. It’s in one piece with Captain Dommac still in command.” I’m sure I looked relieved. “No slacking today, Lance Corporal Dommac. Keep making your old man proud.”
Once inside, with just the indicator lights illuminating the back, giving everything a green tinge, I said a quick prayer of my own, much more heartfelt and much less bloviated than Chaps’. If we got blown up on the way, there was nothing I could do about it; I was just a passenger. So, I let God worry about His part and the vehicle crew worry about theirs. I just put plugs in my ear, laid my head back and closed my eyes. I didn’t actually sleep, but stayed on the line between sleep and the waking world. Good enough for rest.
The track lurched to a stop with no finesse or gentleness whatsoever. Some drivers just don’t care about the guys in the back. I came to a passable state of awakeness and checked the crystal in my lascarbine again; only the third time today. I had in a standard crystal, visible spectrum, good for all around work. The ramp lowered and we all got out. I stretched, looking at the town, the low, squat buildings and more than a few Minmatar milling about. We were in Derelik, so it was likely not all of them were slaves; there were a good number of Imperial loyalist Minmatar here.
We spread out, my fireteam members fell into a wedge formation behind me, no use in getting sloppy. We were on Tanoo II, a mostly secure planet today, but tomorrow we could be shipping out for the war. A good quarter of our battalion were boots, just like Lieutenant Granet—not that we ever called an officer a boot to his face. These low-level security operations were supposed to give us time to shakedown and train as a unit.
Wrath’s voice sounded in the earphone for my radio, “Draki, Blue, get a team out on the flanks.”
They both rogered off and Corporal Blue keyed up the squad net, “Dommac. Take your team out around to the left of that housing complex.”
“On it,” I said, keying my radio and giving my fireteam a completely redundant hand signal to head to the left. They had heard just as well as I. One of my team, Private Hedron, was a boot and took a perverse pleasure in being the point man. He started running off; so I had to yank his leash a bit.
“Slow down, killer. This isn’t morning PT,” I said to him, gentle enough to not kill his mood. “And point your weapon to the deck, we’re not shooting anyone here.” Though, the unsaid ‘not yet’ hung in the air.
My fire team came around the corner of the long building. There were some of the locals milling about, a few outside smoking, kicking the dirt, chatting, the kind of stuff that people generally do outside their home. A few kids were out playing in the grassy courtyard, too, kicking a ball around. That last part made me feel just a little bit safer. When we were in Tash-Murkon, both times we got hit the kids had all up and vanished.
There was nothing to report, so I didn’t, and we made our way to the overseer’s office in the middle of the town and the lieutenant went in to conference. The rest of us kicked dirt outside, looking around. Technically, we were pulling security, but it was pretty lackadaisical; I even stuck some more instant coffee in my lip. It didn’t take long; Sonderhale came out, pointed to a housing building and told us we were going to search that one first. The constable attached to our squad mostly stuck by Blue, which was fine by me.
The rebels were using chemically powered projectile weapons, so the normal scanners wouldn’t work to find them due to a lack of energy signature. Since the energy scanners were out, we were issued handheld metal detectors—one per squad—that were prone to false positives when used inside a building. That didn’t matter too much as they were more to supplement the Mk. 1 eyeball—two per man—that were much more effective.
The constables kicked the slaves that lived there out into the hall and we split off to do our search. A fireteam from first squad stayed with the lieutenant while he talked to the slaves, mostly telling them that any confession would not be met with punishment; maybe it was true. My team wound up searching one apartment per floor and then two on the third. We didn’t wreck the place; it wasn’t our job to break things, but we did give it a thorough look. That did mean flipping over a couch or two and rolling up a rug. That sort of thing can get dull, so Sonderhale livened things up by promising his wine ration for the night to the first man to find contraband weapons, and the officers got the good stuff.
The first building was a bust, but when we walked out the front door something had changed. All the people that were milling about before, smoking and the like, were all gone. More worrisome was the lack of kids playing ball. I wasn’t the only one that noticed that, either.
Wrath keyed up the company net, “Wake up, things have changed.” Then he switched to the platoon net. “Head on a swivel, get dispersion. Make sure you check the upper floor windows. For building two, tactical entry. Squad one—”
He was cut off by a staccato of weapon’s fire. Dirt flew up and windows shattered. A guy in second squad, Olando, got hit.
Someone yelled out, quite unnecessarily, “Cover!” And we all piled back into the building we’d just left, through the door or the now broken windows. The latter was the route I took, a nice little flip to put concrete construction between me and the enemy rounds. I pressed flat while bullets zinged over my head and chewed up the opposite side of the wall in front of me.
Another Marine was wounded dragging Olando into cover, so there were two men yelling in pain, until the medic got over to them and gave them some frentrix. Our armor would stop most of the Minnie’s rounds, but we were not armored everywhere. The rest of us got our weapons up and started to return fire, Hedron especially. I’d never seen someone go through a whole powerpack in so little a time, except maybe in training. So, I told him to mind his shots and slow down. Boots.
Private First Class Shamshruck, my pulsegunner, brought his weapon up and propped on the windowsill. The V27 was a fine weapon, but the V106 was what we used when we wanted to really express our displeasure. High energy lasers don’t just shine a light on something, they impart all that energy at once. Each pulse lasted a fraction of a second and hit with the force of two kilojoules. The pulse laser emitted a high pitched whine as Shamshruck held down the trigger, sending five laser pulses a second at the enemy. Our lasers blew chunks out of the wall and shattered windows just as well as the rebel’s bullets did.
Wrath wound up in the same room as my fireteam. He didn’t do much shooting, but radioed for a head count. It came back three wounded now, which was reported to Sonderhale.
The radio squelched in my ear. “Second platoon, moving to assist,” Lieutenant Ganet said, with much more excitement than the situation warranted.
“Negative. Hold position. I say again, hold your position,” growled Sonderhale. Boots are prone to getting into trouble and getting themselves killed unless someone watches them closely. Boot officers though, they can get whole platoons killed. Scary thought.
Sonderhale called out a cease fire. The rebels must have missed that radio call; they kept right on shooting at us. Hedron, didn’t stop shooting. I had to hit him in the back of the helmet to get his attention. I didn’t blame him too much. If someone shoots at me, I darn well want to shoot back.
“Get a camera drone out,” Sonderhale said.
“On it,” Wrath answered and reached into his thigh pouch and pulled out a small spherical drone that zipped right up into the air on countergrav. Then, he got the command display out and fiddled with it. After a few moments, he keyed the radio, “Looks like, ten, maybe eleven of them, third floor; left four windows.”
Draki offered the expedient solution. “If we can suppress them long enough to get someone with a rocket a shot, we can end this right quick.”
“We’re not going to blow up the building and God knows how many innocents with it,” the lieutenant said and then he was silent. That’s not the best thing to hear: silence over the radio and bullet impacts on the wall in front of me. I found out later that he was calling in Aquilas to pick up the wounded, but at the time I was irate.
I looked over to Wrath as the bullets zipped over my head. “Arch Sergeant, what are we doing? Why in God’s name aren’t we shooting back?”
Wrath tapped his headphone, letting me know that he was listening to the radio. As the platoon sergeant, he had more channels than me.
“Just keep your head down and your mouth shut,” he said, looking unhappy. I got the impression he’d rather be shooting too.
After one minute of eternity, Sonderhale gave the order, “Hammer left, second and third squads. Wrath, you take the assault force. The hatchway on the left leads right into a stairwell that goes to all three floors. Breach that building and kill those hostiles.”
A hammer left was a pretty standard battle drill, but not one usually given for urban fighting. Though, the meaning was clear. The assault element would be the strongest and we were to go to the left.
Several orders were passed at once, Wrath’s first. “Second and third squads, ready to move to the hall, stay low.”
“First squad, third floor of the far building, left four windows, sustained rate, pulse lasers talking, on my command,” Draki said. His squad was ready to give us covering fire while we moved to flank the target. The constables would stay behind and in cover. Without our augments or armor, they’d just wind up hindering us.
“Go,” commanded the lieutenant.
“Fire at will!”
First squad opened up. The sustained rate of fire for the V27s was thirty shots per minute. Assuming that every one of them carried as much power as I did—a safe assumption— they could keep that going for about twenty minutes. The larger pulse lasers would go through power faster than that, but Corporal Draki had ordered that only one of those were to shoot at a time: talking guns. The cracking of energy discharges filled the air while I low crawled out the door into the hallway. First squad’s suppression fire worked, none of us got hit. The cease fire made sense in hindsight. After our initial bursts, the rebels didn’t actually have a firm fix on where any of us were.
Wrath signaled for us to stand and we moved with a quickness to the door. A knife hand front to back told us to stack up while he checked outside. Sometimes signals can be faster than yelling or the radio. He checked the command display for the camera drone to see about crossing to the next building. The rebels had started shooting back, fortunately not at us, but where first squad was shooting from.
“Bound by twos,” said Wrath, holding the door open with his foot while he checked outside visually.
My fireteam was closest to the door. Hedron was in front of me and looked ecstatic at the prospect of going first.
We darted across and rounded the corner into the other housing building. I waited for my team to get there, and stacked up on the door.
“Wait,” I said to my overeager boot, grabbing the strap on the back of his armor until we were ready. None of us had any idea what was on the other side of the door and if there were unpleasant characters there, we wanted to be ready. Once I felt Shamshruck pressed against my back and tap my shoulder I said, “okay, go.”
It wasn’t the cleanest breach we’d ever done, but it worked. There was no one unpleasant on the other side, just some scared looking Minnies.
“Get low, get to the other side,” I said to the slaves. One kid was curled up in a ball on the hallway floor. So, I kicked open a far door and unceremoniously tossed her in, behind a nice metal stove. I would be damned to oblivion before I saw another dead kid, Minnie or not. Sure I killed people, but never indiscriminately.
“Clear so far,” I told Wrath as we kept moving down the hall, pieing off the corners. Behind us, the rest of the assault team kept bounding across the buildings. It was going well til Perelia got shot in the leg.
“Man down. Medic!” was radioed and Wrath tossed smoke out to cover the movement of the last men. Not that any of us thought it was going to be a surprise visit, but they knew we were coming now.
We stacked up on the far door. The geometry meant that in order to get good shots at us crossing this time, the hostiles would have to lean out of the windows. I almost hoped they would try; exposing themselves like that would mean someone in first squad would have a good day.
Wrath signaled for us to move and we did, by twos again, just in case, no use in being sloppy. Corporal Brekin’s team from second squad got to make the first breach this time. The door was locked, but that’s not much of a problem to a Marine with combat augments. Wrath just kicked the door in; it darn near came off its hinges.
Brekin’s fireteam poured in and we were treated to a chorus of “Clear.”
The other team followed, holding the second floor landing. Second squad’s third team was reduced to two men thanks to the wounded, so I got to be the one to breach the third floor, the place we knew was unfriendly.
After we stacked, I took a good grip of the strap on the back of Hedron’s armor. We were going in, no matter what. If the pointman got hit—a likely possibility—I would be right behind him, holding onto his armor to keep him in front of me as a bullet shield. Pretty horrible if you stop and think about it, but that’s the cost of doing business for a Marine.
“Check the front first, and then track left. The rest of the squad is going to come in right behind us. Anything behind that door that you think needs to be shot, you shoot,” I said to Hedron. The other two members of my team were old hands and didn’t need the speech. I nodded to Wrath, who was pressed flat on the other side of the door.
“Stand by to shift fire,” Wrath said on radio. First squad rogered up. It was good not to worry about being shot by our own guys. He pulled out a flashbag “Switch to IR.”
I hit a button and the lasing chamber of my V27 opened up. I took out the yellow crystal and placed it in its pouch and replaced it with the red colored infrared crystal. It took more power per shot and lost twenty percent of its energy, but it had its uses.
“It’ll shoot through the smoke,” I said to Hedron.
“I know, lance corporal,” he replied. I knew that he knew when I told him, but by letting him respond, I reminded him of his training and boosted his confidence. I hoped.
Wrath cracked the door and then tossed in a flashbang. There wasn’t much point in using something high explosive if we were going to send men in anyways. We could have rocketed the building from across the courtyard just as easily with a lot less fuss. The flashbang should put them off kilter for just long enough to make a breach.
“Shift fire, breaching,” said Wrath.
“Go, go go!” I said, pushing Hedron through the door. “Check front-fatal front!”
There was one man there, with a weapon in his hand. Hedron or I lased him down. Little flashes of flames flared up on his clothes from the heat of the laser hits.
“Keep going,” I yelled. Once inside, speed is the key, speed and violence of action. Shamshruck kept a cover on the doors across the hall while the rest of us stacked on the first door with a quickness.
No grenade this time, Hedron pushed in through the door. He took a hit on his armor, but that’s what it’s for. The blonde Sebiestor woman inside wound up getting checked into the ground by me. Once she was down, I put a couple of shots in her head, and she stopped moving.
Lance Corporal Boltsing, the assistant team leader called it out. “Left, overhead, clear!”
I went to check on Hedron. The plate on his chest had a dent in it; it would have to be replaced, which was much easier than replacing a man. He just had the wind knocked out of him.
“You’ll be fine. God’s watching out for you,” I told him, taking out the back plate and swapping it for the front. I put the dented plate in the back pouch, better to have poor protection than none. “Buck up; we’re not done yet. Good job taking out that first man, just keep it up.”
I heard a yell as one of the rebels fell out of the window and landed in the grass below. I looked out in time to see him try to sit up and get unloaded on by all of first squad’s eager trigger fingers. His hair wound up aflame from the thermal bloom of the laser hits. Turns out, Wrath had taken point on the final room breach and kicked the rebel five feet out the window after shooting two others with his sidearm.
“Get this building clear and secure. Restrain and search. Top to bottom,” Wrath radioed.
“First squad, move to assist,” Sonderhale said. “And Ganet, send a squad to pull security on the detainees.”
One of my squadmates, Careli, had taken a hit in the neck. His buddy had pulled out the clotting nanites from the first aid kit and poured it into the wound and there was a bandage pressed to it, but there was a lot of blood loss aforehand. The medic was still sprinting across the courtyard, exposing himself to any possible fire in an attempt to get to us quicker. Medics do that, though, and God watches out for them.
Careli wasn’t on my team, and we still had a job to do. I let Hedron drop back—nothing dampens silly enthusiasm better than getting shot—and took point myself. We were less gentle than our first building, doors got kicked in. Who could blame us, with adrenaline pumping and fury awoken?
There was no playing after that. We breached every room. Anyone inside, kids included, got frisked and then cuffed. Once we were sure they had nothing dangerous on them, they got sent down to the courtyard where the squad from second platoon kept lasers pointed at them. Then we tossed the place. Every apartment got a thorough look over.
I did try and keep the breaking things to a minimum, and not just because of what the lieutenant said. The people that attacked us were all dead, so we had settled the score there. The other slaves maybe knew about the planned ambush, maybe not. I did know that wrecking what little they had wasn’t going to change things for the better, no matter how angry or justified we might have felt doing it. Still, I know some things did get broken in spite.
My fireteam found what we were looking for in the second room we searched. It was a metal box with a rubber seal filled with ammunition for the weapons the rebels had been using, definitely of quality manufacture. A more complete search of the apartment, including breaking open some fake cabinetry, yielded more boxes and more bullets. This wasn’t a backroom job, but industrialized manufacture, and Amarrian designs for powerpack and crystal containers are different. I had gotten shot at by Gallente Federation bullets. I called lieutenant over to take a look.
“Thank God they were shooting it at us and not a crowd of civilians,” he said, looking the find over. I agreed. We took some casualties, but nothing like what might have happened if they’d shot at civilians coming out of church with Gallente made weapons and ammunition.
He got called away by a pair of Aquila transports landing on the outside of town, come to pickup our wounded and get them back to the hospital. If they got Careli back quick enough, he’d probably make it. An Avenger gunship circled around the town, ready to rain hate and discontent on anyone stupid enough to shoot at the medevac Aquilas, but any rebel with enough fight in them to try was already dead. So, they flew off with a quickness back to base. I checked my chrono, only fifteen minutes since contact. Felt like a lot longer.
Word was passed down that the rest of the company, the ones held back for QRF, were in the air to us. Since the situation was upgraded from a possible weapons cache to a confirmed weapons cache, complete with hostile rebels, the town was going to be overrun with Imperial Marines and every inch checked.
So, we kept up our search; no rest for the weary and all. The adrenaline had started to wear off and the heart pounding fight or flight faded away. It’s a funny thing after a firefight. It feels good, euphoric, even. I was alive, unhurt; the bad guys were dead. I started grinning, so did Hedron, as we tossed the apartment.
That’s the most dangerous time, though. We were still outside the wire and not safe; safe being relative for a Marine. Wrath came in and told us to tighten up, so we did as best we could. Still, it’s impossible to get rid of that happy feeling. I wasn’t tired anymore and Hedron even joked about getting shot.
“Thank God the Minnies had good aim,” he said.
“How do you know they weren’t aiming for your grape?” asked Boltsing.
“They’re Minnies,” I interjected. “They’re not smart enough for that.”
“Yup. Stupid enough to take us on,” Hedron said.
“Right on, brother. Good job today. You’re not a combat virgin anymore. Now, if we could just fix the other one just as easy,” I said, ducking as he threw a cup at me. We all laughed, even Hedron.
It took us two more hours to finish our search of the town. We found some propaganda: ‘brothers and sisters, rise up and be free’ leaflets and such, two more weapons that looked like they were a homemade job, and several more boxes of ammo. The rest of the company got tasked to search the mine, but we got to go home.
“First and second platoons, load up on the vehicles for retrograde. Amarr victor!” the lieutenant said over the radio.
“Amarr victor!” we all echoed back as one, even the guys from the rest of the company that were not there for the actual fight. Everyone needed a victory, even a small one, after the Saint Lyydia attack and the colonel’s bad news. Twelve rebels down; God knows how many left to go.
Only after we piled into the back of the Bucklers did I say a short prayer of thanks to God for keeping my team safe through all that ruckus. Then, I put plugs in my ears and passed right out.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Sophia ‘Alizabeth’ S..