“Kel-Tek troops inbound! Keep your heads down goddammit!”
The roars of blaster fire kicked off the invasion of the border country Tenmar, ripping holes in many of the new recruits khaki-colored armor the moment they stood up from their makeshift seats, spraying the scorched grass of Tenmarian borders with crimson blood.
“I want that heavy ordnance up and running right now, Commandant!”
“Yes sir! Ordinance team, front and center right now!”
The three man team rushed to the front, their heavy repeaters slung over one shoulder and their Multi-Load Gauss Rifles slung over the other.
“Wolke, Vorn, and Ghelfi! Set the MLGRs up and rip those Kel-Tek fuckers to shreds!”
Wolke, Vorn, and Ghelfi all nodded in affirmation, hitting the grassy plains gut-first and deploying their weapons. Wolke was first prepared, dialing the flip up sights, lining up a column of the soldiers in their clanking, heavy Iberium armor. With the single pull of a trigger, the heavy bolt of magnetized steel shot forth and utterly obliterated the column of men, some exploding with the great force of the impact, and others left screaming and crying out in pain as they laid with amputated limbs and stumps of former body parts.
“Great shot Wolke! Vorn, fire!”
Vorn did as he was told, firing his MLGR and getting a similar, gory effect on a group that just departed their transport vessel.
“Nice and bloody, Vorn! Alright Ghelfi, line it up and the bolt will do the rest!”
The new recruit was softly shaking, so nervous about his first taste of real combat that he was frozen in place. Wolke realized first, looking over and shook the recruit’s shoulder.
“Alright kid, just like the simulations! Line it up!”
The recruit nodded, shakily bringing the weapon to his shoulder and aiming down the sights with short and panicked breaths.
“Finger it like it’s your sister, hayseed!”
Vorn chuckled and returned fire with his Model Eighty-Eight Repeater, slinging depleted uranium rounds through the Kel-Tek troopers and beyond. Ghelfi placed his finger in the trigger well, still shaking from the constant gunfire and the stench of blood filling the air.
“Now fire, Ghelfi! Fire goddammit!”
Within the second it took for the last syllable of “goddammit” to escape Wolke’s lips, Ghelfi sent a magnetized shot of steel downrange that put a seemingly insignificant hole through the transport ship hovering just above the plains. Once the flames began to gently lick the air through the new opening, the eardrum-shattering screams of immolation followed as the pilots and their soldier cargo began to boil in their armor and jumpsuits, some running out of the back for a quicker death in the hail of bullets that kicked up the grass and dirt all around. Even a smaller few met this fate, the rounds ripping through their armor and flesh and freeing their souls from the burning torment. The others rolled around hopelessly, setting the surrounding areas aflame as the concentrated fuel just couldn’t stop burning and wouldn’t do so for hours.
“Jesus Christ! That was an absolutely perfect shot, Ghelfi!”
“One for the books!”
The young recruits softly chuckled at their victory, scoring their first kills in their first combat without catching any rounds themselves.
“Good shots boys! Fall back to the defensive line and set up for another wave of attack.”
“Sir, won’t you still need us here?”
“Just fall back corporal! The second line will need you more!”
The ordinance crew each took varying degrees of enthusiasm in their responses to the Sergeant’s commands, knowing that it was a destined shitshow heading their way the second they made it to the lines. Regardless, they listened like the good soldiers they were expected to be and humped their way back nearly a kilometer back to their deep defensive lines, dodging bullets and artillery the whole way.
Their line was a very crude, sudden erection of concrete, barbed wires, and a small minefield on either side of the ever important flanks. Heavy machine guns dotted the walls, spaced about twenty feet apart in hopes that any artillery or tank shells wouldn’t completely collapse their defensive capabilities when the rounds fell hard upon their targets. Wolke, Ghelfi, and Vorn made it to the line about twenty minutes later, sweating and panting from the weight of their kits and the ordinance they had slung over their backs or their shoulders.
“This is the line? Looks like someone shit on the ground and told themselves it was a good time to fuck off and get a drink.”
Wolke chuckled at Vorn’s remark, shaking his head as Ghelfi looked at the engineers sitting on the tree stumps and smoking, rolling his eyes as they continued towards the shit heap that would serve as their best hope of survival.
“Hey, Wolke, you got any of the good cigarettes? Not the shit they hand out at supply.”
A few hours had passed, being around noon with the twin suns high in the sky.
“I think I might, let me look.”
Wolke, the oldest of the recruits, rifled through his pack and exclaimed in joy, pulling out a pack of Marshall’s Finest Cigarettes, tossing one to Vorn and putting another in between his lips. He looked around and saw Ghelfi, the youngest, walking back with at least five bags of ammunition to their makeshift fox hole, jumping in and setting it all down.
“Aw, when did Wolke get Marshall’s?”
“Greedy fuck had them in his bag! Not sharing with his ruggedly handsome friends.”
Wolke laughed and gave Ghelfi a cigarette, lighting it for him and took a drag of his.
“Yeah? And where are they?”
“Can't help being this fucking ugly, can I?”
The three chuckled, sitting down and putting their bags on their heads to shield themselves from the unforgiving sun.
“I thought the commandant said we should have been attacked by now.”
“Maybe our boys are kicking ass and keeping the Tekkies at bay?”
“Maybe the Tekkies are just waiting for heavier support.”
“Well all I know,” Vorn said looking at his watch, “is that it has been five hours since we shot at anything or had anyone shoot at us, and it makes me really uneasy.”
Wolke muttered in agreement, reading a book he had in his pack while Ghelfi tinkered with his weapon.
“Maybe you can go say 'Hi' to the Tekkies and ask them why they are taking so long?”
“Hello my Tekkie friends, my name is Jan Vorn and I would just love to know why you're putting my lovely War on hold?”
Wolke snickered at the nearly dead on impression of Vorn made by Ghelfi, gently punching him in the shoulder.
“Anyone tried the radio yet?”
They looked up and saw light green armor, signifying the Technical Corps, staring down at them.
“When did we get a radio?”
“Had it this whole time, smartass. C’mon, one of you with me.”
Wolke set his book down and grabbed his repeater, slinging it over his shoulder and getting out of their hole.
“Lead the way, oh great technical one.”
The Tech Corps trooper shook his head and lead him to the radio outpost, about two minutes walk away from the front line.
“How do you use this thing anyway?”
The Tech Sergeant looked at the grunt before him, “Did you not pay attention while in basic?”
“I paid attention! I'm in ordinance, different shit than you guys.”
The Sergeant sighed and pressed a few buttons, plugging in the commandant’s radio number and waiting for a connection, handing it off to Wolke when it finally did.
“Chancellor 1-1 this is Viceroy 2-1, what's your status, sir? Over.”
Only static and a soft, droning hum came through the radio, making Wolke’s neck hair stand on edge as he slammed the receiver down.
“Shut it off.”
“Shut the fucking radio off!”
“On what authority are you-”
“Kel-Tek radio operators are trained to tap into dead officer radios. That soft hum? Them leeching every damn word from us.”
The Tech sergeant looked to his comrades and nodded, the radio being shut down.
“Now we can't talk to command, what happens if we get attacked?”
“Gunfire isn't quiet, but you have runners right? Use them.”
As Wolke disembarked from the radio station, he turned around to ask a question that quickly slipped his mind thanks to a tank shell ripping through the metal shed and sending him flying a good five feet, landing against the hard dirt and coughing, shaking his head and looking at the rounds whizz past him.
He groaned and looked to the line, seeing men try to scramble and prepare for the incoming attack. He saw his own foxhole prepare their MLGRs, struggling to get them dialed in on the targets they couldn't see yet. He struggled to stand, feeling a sharp pain in his lower leg that he decided to ignore, rushing to the foxhole with his repeater locked and loaded.
“Holy shit, where the fuck did they come from!”
“I don't know, Ghelfi, just fire!”
“Wolke, what the hell happened to you?”
Wolke looked down, seeing a majority of his armor all banged up and ripped, bleeding in a few spots from shrapnel.
“The tank shell sent me fuckin flying!”
“Yeah no shit! What happened over at the radio station?”
“Tekkies were leaching our radio! Commandant must’ve been dead for hours!”
“Wait, how the hell do you know they were leaching-”
The whizzing rounds caught Vorn in the shoulder, making him drop and yell in pain.
“Aw shit! I'm hit! Mother fucker!”
Wolke returned fire, dropping two Kel-Tek troops and called out for their medic, ducking a very close encounter with a bullet as he did so. As their medic, adorned in white and red armor, charged over, the loud crack of a bullet penetrating a helmet sang to the three men in their hole, the medic dropping dead a few feet from their foxhole.
“Wolke! Medic got his head taken off!”
“Fan-fucking-tastic! Ghelfi, grab his medical kit, I’ll cover!”
Ghelfi poised himself at the edge, ready to run as fast as he could to grab the supplies.
As Wolke opened fire, he burst forward the few feet, dropping to the ground as he heard an artillery shell fly overhead, coming face to face with the dead medic. He couldn't have been older than eighteen, bright green eyes, clean skin and light blonde hair. He also had a hole the size of a dime in his forehead, blood seeping from the wound and covering his face. Stopping the vomit he felt rise, he grabbed the kit and ran back to his hole as instructed, panting heavily and trying to catch his breath.
“You get hit, Ghelfi?”
“Nah, I'm fine!”
“Then help Vorn dammit!”
Ghelfi moved to their hit comrade, holding him still and opening the kit to begin working.
“Hold still, Jan! Christ!”
“It fucking hurts!”
“I know it fucking does, but rolling around makes it harder to begin cleaning you up! So stop being a pussy and hold still!”
In this moment, Ghelfi exerted pure strength in being able to pin his squadmate down, even though he must have weighed at least half of the much heavier and well built Vorn. When he was almost thrown off by the wounded member, he dared clock him as hard as he could to knock him out, working on his shoulder in relative peace.
“Ghelfi! He stopped bitching! You fix it?”
“Nah, just knocked his sorry ass out so I have a stable working space!”
Wolke laughed, ducking more gunfire and returning it tenfold, dropping a few troopers that he was able to see with fantastic accuracy.
“Christ, they definitely got reinforced!”
The battalion sized force they encountered a few hours ago was nearly tripled in size, with nearly 2,400 men hitting their line, backed by five heavy tanks and mobile artillery. Wolke spotted their tanks, groaning and yelling to the other ordinance teams.
“Your MLGRs will just bounce off! Save your rounds for the troop transports!”
He turned back around and continued to fire, rounds kicking dirt up around him. He could only see the soldiers that dared push up with their tanks, without a doubt, he knew the others were waiting to charge when they all had to reload. In this moment, he slung his rifle over his shoulder and panted heavily, rushing over his foxhole’s lip and half ran half limped along the line with his head tucked low. Rounds whizzed past. His leg hurt like hell. He saw more men move up to try and reinforce the line, seeing some make it to the foxholes while others were ripped apart by gunfire and artillery.
Wolke had made his way to one of the machine gun nests, leaning against the cover as the gunners put fire into the treeline and any enemies that found themselves exposed.
“You,” Wolke shouted as he pointed to one of the gunners, “you got any visuals?”
“I can’t see fuck-all pal! Stragglers are the only things I got eyes on.”
“Then might I suggest staying down? You're wasting ammo!”
“What the fuck you mean?”
“I mean,” Wolke yelled out, “they're waiting for you to reload and have their tanks keep our heads down until they can move their troops out to utterly fuck us!”
The gunner, who had about a year or two on Wolke, kept his head down, but raised it on this occasion to try to see who is yelling at him.
“You read too much, grunt! So shut up and-”
The crack of a bullet snapping through the gunner’s helmet shook Wolke slightly, seeing the man's body drop like a lifeless doll onto the ground, a small splash of blood covering Wolke’s jaw and neck. The assistant gunner was smart and kept low to the ground, Wolke crawling over to him and looking around.
“You believe what I said? Bout the ‘wait for reload’ shit?”
“Good, then load a fresh box and tell the other crews to do the same.”
The assistant looked confused, “Sir?”
“Do you have your boyfriend’s blood in your ears? That's the only way we can draw the bastards out! Pass it along the line!”
The assistant reloaded their heavy machine gun and sent a message over their connected “phone lines,” each crew suppressing along the tree line as the other reloaded, then stopped firing, until the final crew was reloaded and prepared. They waited nearly half an hour of constant shelling and machine gun fire until they saw the troops move out of the trees, all 2,400 of them in their iconic columns, all marching like dumbfucks into the literal firing squad in front of them. With one yell of the order “OPEN UP,” the crews took their pent up hate and anger upon their fleshy targets, ripping apart troop formation upon troop formation. The surviving troops, having lost nearly a fourth of their number in a matter of minutes, attempted to retreat and scatter only to be cut down by the gunners, the very pissed off troops in foxholes, or their own men in the confusion and chaos of the “wait and bait” tactic. With the enemy troops scattered, all that remained were the tanks, still harassing Wolke and his men.
“Ghelfi! You still alive over there?”
“Sure thing, Wolke! You get hit?”
“Nah, but those tanks are starting to piss me off!”
The two laughed and looked at the tanks. Pitch black with symbols painted along their hulls and turrets.
“You think we got anything that can pierce them?”
“Unless you got the bolt of the gods, nah, but if we can get close we can put a few grenades down the tail pipes and hatches!”
“You'll need cover, Wolke.”
“Then cover me! Ready?”
Wolke slung his repeater over his shoulder and prepped his grenade, ready to hop the sandbags at any minute. Ghelfi calmed his breathing and charged his weapon, nodding to his comrade.
Ghelfi rose from his fox hole and sent round after round down range, distracting the tanker directly in front of their line. Wolke hopped over his cover, landing on his wounded leg and hobbled/ran at an alarmingly fast rate, reaching the tank in moments. He primed the grenade on his kit, pulling the safety pin and smacking it on his chest, then pulled the main hatch open, and threw the highly explosive projectile down into the metallic coffin. He rolled off the top and landed stomach first, covering his head and vital organs as he heard the muddled explosion from inside the tank, watching it slowly veer to the left and tipping onto its side. He looked over and softly panted, a sick grin on his face as he felt pride wash over his being. Ghelfi was proving to be a reliable shot, putting heavy fire down range, and hitting every target he gunned for.
“Good shit, Wolke! Come back!”
When Wolke tried to stand, the tank finally exploded, sending shrapnel into his already wounded leg and dropping him in seconds. Ghelfi noticed and threw his repeater down, hopping over the foxhole and running the nearly two hundred feet to his injured friend. Wolke’s leg was totally shredded, oozing blood at an alarming rate.
“You got fucked up, Octavi!”
“I know, Ghelfi! Fuck, I can't move!”
“Looks like I’ll be carrying your sorry ass back then!”
“Just leave me—”
Ghelfi just chuckled and picked the wounded man up, slinging him over his shoulders and ran back, much to the protests of Wolke. He made it back to their line, hiding in their fox hole for a moment to catch his breath.
“That was goddamn stupid, Ghelfi!”
“I don't feel like getting a new team lead. Vorn!”
Ghelfi kicked the man regaining consciousness, Vorn groaning.
“The fuck you want, little man?”
“Help me carry Wolke off the line. His leg got fucked up.”
Vorn looked at their comrade’s leg and visibly winced.
“Yeah, sure thing. Up and at them boss!”
He moved over to help up Wolke, taking an arm to lift him up and evenly distribute the weight. They all three said little prayers, then moved out again. They moved as quickly as they could, having to move nearly half a kilometer while their leader bled out. Around five minutes had passed, and they finally saw the back aid station.
“We have a corporal coming through! Make space! Help us goddammit!”
Two medical officers prepared a table and hoisted the barely conscious Wolke onto it, stopping the bleeding on his leg and grabbing the appropriate blood bag from their stock.
“What unit are you from, private?”
“288th Infantry Battalion, E Company.”
“Elia Ghelfi, Sir.”
“Well,” the medical officer spoke as he looked the dirtied man over, “Private Elia Ghelfi of the 288th, did you know your left side is bleeding?”
Ghelfi looked down, seeing all of the left side of his armor was ripped away, showing exposed flesh and a pretty decent gash from a tank shell.
“No, sir, I did not.”
“Nurse, stop this young man’s bleeding and stabilize him, if you'd be so kind.” He was led away from the rest of his team, getting attention in a different tent.
“At the end of the day, neither side had gained ground, yet experienced heavy casualties on both sides. The Tenmarian Army, comprised of the men of the 288th “Hell Dancers”, the 536th “Mud Jumpers”, and the 83rd “Tunnel Rats”, had lost north of 540 men to the ferocity of this surprise attack, yet held their ground in the valiant defense of our great homeland. The Kelmeria-Teknican forces, known as Tekkies to our boys in the armed forces, lost a staggering 900 men and an unknown amount of troop transports and tanks. With their forces withdrawing, it is now our land’s opportunity to attack our traitorous neighbor with the fury of one million suns!”
Vorn shut off the radio and sighed, lighting a cigarette and looking up into the ink black sky, dotted with soft grey clouds and sprinkled with bright stars. Jan Vorn, aged twenty eight, was a man of quick and decisive action. Standing at six feet and two inches, he was built like a tank and had the tattoos to compliment his well built figure. He carried the typical traits of the Tenmarian people, dirty brown hair, bright green eyes, and rounded facial features accented by the stubble he grew upon his chin. He also smoked like a train, much to the chagrin of his fiancé back in the Capital of their homeland. He kept a picture of her in his helmet, which he always kept slung on the back of his kit.
“Jan! There you are, I've been looking all over for you!”
Vorn chuckled and pulled Ghelfi over to his little camp site, and gave him a cigarette from his pack.
“They ripped your ass up, little man.”
“And I knocked yours out, big guy.”
The two laughed, so exhausted that they couldn't even think of clever comebacks to each other.
Elia Ghelfi, aged twenty four, wasn't actually that short at all, standing at the nation’s average five foot nine. He had a slightly angular face with a more prominent nose, broken a few times from his father and his drunken rages. He was average build, yet proved more than capable to carry men more than twice his weight or knock out a man at least twice his size. He carried sandy brown hair, light blue eyes, and had a few small scars on his lip. He didn't smoke as heavily as his squad mates, but he still happily took a cigarette whenever they were offered.
“You hear anything about Wolke?”
“Yeah, they stabilized him, but he’ll be down and out for at least a few weeks until he’s all healed up.”
“I still can't believe he ran the line with a piece of shrapnel in his leg, ran back to our hole, and then ran to a goddamn tank and knocked it out.”
“You're fucking with me, that's gotta be bullshit.”
“I can confirm, it isn't.”
Wolke was being rolled up in a wheelchair, trying to keep all pressure off his still very wounded leg.
“Well as I live and breath, Octavi Wolke didn't bleed out on a table like a butchered pig!”
The group laughed and Wolke shook his head, “Oh I'm not done with your asses yet, and by either medical intervention or some god with a fucked up sense of humor, they seemed it fit that I live.”
Vorn shoved his shoulder and gave him a cigarette, lighting it for him as they were huddled around the small fire they built up.
Octavi Wolke was nearly thirty, and was named the resident "old man" of their combat group. His hair was the color of straw and his light blue eyes were almost always looking sleep deprived, traits he inherited from his parents at a young age. He was about six foot one, with an athletic build. He studied to be a teacher before his draft number was called up, and he always held a small annoyance with that system.
“Did we get a report of the casualties from today?”
“540 on our side, 900 on theirs. Not including their tanks.”
“Fuck me, that's from just one day?”
Vorn nodded and took another drag, “And we aren't even technically at war yet. Imagine how nasty it'll be once we are sanctioned to use fighters, bombs, and flamers from the Special Warfare Brigades.”
“Oh it'd be a goddamn spectacle then. I'd pay to see that.”
Ghelfi got a can thrown at him, laughing as he dodged it.
“So did anyone see the actual list of casualties?”
The group went silent, turning and seeing a medical officer.
“I have the list for your company here. Mind taking a look? I'll need to start writing letters and may need help.”
Ghelfi was almost taken aback, feeling an unexplainable, almost rage filled sorrow fill his stomach.
“The fuck did you just say?”
The officer tried to rephrase what he had said, but Ghelfi had already gotten nose to nose with him.
“C’mon, Elia! Sit the hell back down and leave the poor guy alone. He just wants to help in his own way.”
“Desk jockey,” Wolke said, “run before he beats you senseless.”
The officer nodded, apologized again, and ran so goddamn fast you wouldn't have been able to tell he was there.
“There you go, Elia. Scare the fuck out of the higher ranks, make friends that way.”
“Fuck you, Vorn. He didn't have the right to ask that shit.”
“Will both of you shut up?”
The two bickering men silenced after a moment, just sighing defeatedly and nodding.
“We’ll all be stuck here for a month or two, okay? So don't fight like little bitches on a playground whose ‘boyfriend’ just kissed little Susie.”
The two couldn't help but laugh, “Aye aye, Captain Pedophile!”
Wolke scoffed and shook his head, resting his eyes as the two of his men conversed and bickered over which girl was cuter, Vorn’s fiancée or Ghelfi’s girl in the Capital.
As morning broke, so did their line. The Kel-Tek army had been reinforced almost tenfold, reaching double digit thousands and overwhelming the almost skeleton crew defending the border of Tenemar. The three wounded men were awoken by the yells of orders, the crashing of artillery cratering the ground, and the smell of bones and blood filling the air.
“Something tells me those aren't our rounds.”
The mortar landing on a nearby transport made the smart ass comment by Ghelfi almost too obvious.
“Well fuck, I know for certain now.”
“Fall back! I repeat, fall back!”
“Get the wounded out of here goddammit! It isn't safe here!”
“No fucking shit pal!”
The transport ships were loading their wounded men as fast as they could, a few handfuls of soldiers staying back to try and at least help hold the behemoth of an attack force at bay. The three men of the 288th were loaded first, much to their luck. Wolke had to be moved to a stretcher, the wheelchair being too cumbersome and too likely to fall out the back of their ship. When he was loaded, Ghelfi and Vorn followed, sitting on the little benches that every trooper found to be the most comfortable seat of their lives after being shot at.
“Where are we headed, sir?”
“Our luck? Dropped off at a back hospital to heal up for a few months.”
Vorn sighed and scratched his jaw.
“So we’re gonna come back to an inherited shit show?”
“Seems like it, Jan. Now shut it.”
Vorn just shook his head and leaned back into the walls of the carrier.
They took off, only a few stray rounds catching the paint on the carrier and dinged a few of the windows, but they still made it out relatively safe.