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 Post subject: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:19 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Okay a while back I posted some mechs that were part of the New Terran Republic. Well here is the start of the short story I have been working on that ties them into things. For those who will note that this "Jihad" story does not quit fit with the official version of the events, please note that I never have had any plans on making it fit and do not really worry about the official version of the fiction call the Word of Blake Jihad. So really what I am saying is this, I am having fun with the stuff and tying some of my stuff together for others to use if they want and to give them some background. As always, use what you want, toss the rest or do not use any of it. That is the fun part of this game.

ALSO NOTE, I DID NOT WRITE THIS AS A NICE SUNDRY READING, IT IS NOT PG NOR IS FAMILY FUN READING. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE REALITY OR AT LEAST REALITY BASED LANGUAGE THEN PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS. Remember I am also using my experiences of being in the military for 17 years, soldiers are not cute and cuddly.

Comments, thoughts and help are welcome.

So here is the beginning Chapter...

Whitehall
Jacobs Rest
FedSuns/Chaos March Border Region
17 July 3082

Three months, three long bone weary months, Lt. Col. Maladone sighed, as the thought went through his mind. Looking at the amount of paperwork and other items needing his attention, it would seem more like three years worth, rather then three months. Ah…the joys of running one’s own battalion.

Glancing out the window of the farmhouse, now being used as their forward operations center, Lt. Col. Maladone could see his pride and joy, 2nd Battalion of Hell’s Hammer Heavy Tank Regiment, nicknamed the “Bonecrushers”, a combined arms battalion made up of a reinforced ‘mech company, one company of medium armor and a heavy armor company. Or what he liked to call the “best gods damned group of Joes ever”.

Smiling, he looked back down at the paper work, the thought of “well no time like the present to get the paperwork done”. Since landing on Jacobs Rest, the Hammers had pound on the occupying Blake forces, along with 2 battalions of the Hammers; Maladone had on his right flank the 28th Demi-Regiment “Righteous Ones” of the ComGuard, a good group of warriors, who had come in hot and landed on top of the Blake supply farms on day one of the operation to re-take Jacobs Rest. They were made up of two companies of mechs and a mechanized infantry company, who had the new fangled power armor. Col. Maladone snorted at the thought of the power armor, one more wonder weapon to break when needed most. While on his left was the merc unit “Battlin Bastards”, composed of one company of heavy mechs, all veterans of the Clan Wars and the FedCom Civil War. Maladone had a lot respect for the commander of the Bastards, Major Carl “Wham” Jones. The man had been in some of the thickest fighting on New Avalon and then when the Blakist attacked the FedSuns his boys had been one of the few units to stand fight back when all hell was breaking lose. Rebuilding, his troops wanted payback and the Blakist forces would pay for their savage ways. Adding to this force was a couple of mechanized infantry companies and some local militia units, all that was left of the once proud FedSuns garrison of the Jacobs Rest Militia. They had plenty of drive and the heavy weapons teams gave them a nice punch.

Well so far the Blake forces had been in full retreat, since losing the fight for the New Gallowglass Spaceport, as well as the loss of their main supply depots, thanks to the daring drop by the boys and girls of the 28th ComGuard. The Blake unit, 37th “Hailfire” Division had ruled the planet with an iron fist. Along with several units of the Inshallah, one of the most feared and hated groups that the Blakist used to control their holdings and bring enlightenment to the masses. A special passion, some would say hatred, Maladone had for this group, ever since he watched his daughter-in-law and grandson gunned down for not turning in her husband, who happen to have been on leave when the Blake forces landed on Helen. Maladone rage was one of the things that kept him going after that and even though his son had died gaining a small measure of revenge, Maladone had sworn that when he got the murders in his hands no punishment would be enough to pay back what they took, but he make sure they would feel the pain he did.

The 37th had been in full retreat, adding to their ranks were the renegades and collaborators that had worked with the occupying forces in order to make their lives easier, now whom feared for their lives as the fortunes of war had turned once again. Their retreat was taking them towards the foothills of the New Drakon Mountains, a region know to be both rugged and unforgiving, a perfect place to hold out and wait for relief. The route they were taking took them through and crossing the open savannah and scrub land that led to the foothills. Perfect horse and cattle country, mussed Maladone, father would love it here, gods rest his sole. Looking up from the report, 40 years since his passing and here I am talking like he is waiting to land planetside. Smiling at the thought, he returned to the paperwork.

Just as he was approving a court martial request for charges of looting and rape, his vid-phone buzzed loudly, cursing under his breath as he answered it. “Dammit Walters! Didn’t I say hold all of my calls till after my lunch?”

The sunburned face on the screen nodded and replied “Yes Sir ya did, but this just came in from Hammer Command, marked Urgent Reply Waiting.”

Fuming, Col. Maladone said “Well man out with it then!”

“Roger Sir! It says that there has been or was a coup on Terra. Blake Forces are fighting amongst themselves. All commands are to move to insure that Blake forces currently engaged do not lift off planet. It also states that ComGuard units as well as ComStar HPG centers are to be watched for any signs of pulling out as well. Colonel Bardey office stated that they are contacting the AMC for more on this. I am now sending you the warning order and the signed copy right now sir.”

Maladone quickly grabbed the facsimiles as the printer spit them out, scanning the orders, he smiled, then spoke out loud “Full use of all elements of command” Now that’s a colorful way of saying your ass if it fails. Well then it won’t.

Walters, get me all commanders in my office on the bounce, then alert the CAP and Comanche crews, I want them prepped and ready to move in, glancing at the clock on the wall, in 15 mikes. We have two birds in the air currently, (Walters nodded to confirm this), have them being to another sweep of their sectors and get the rest ready to go.

Now send this to HQ. “Received orders, my regards and good hunting.” Now get me the commanders and let’s get this rolling.

“Yes Sir!” Walters replied, already sending the last request out to the different commands that came under Col. Maladone’s control.


Whitehall
Jacobs Rest
FedSuns/Chaos March Border Region
17 July 3082
Battalion Conference Room

Twenty minutes later, all of the Bonecrushers commanders were in the battalion conference room, the one time master bedroom of the farm house.

Okay listen up, Joe (nodding towards Alpha Company CO) I want you to get your boys ready, since you are equipped with the newest weapons and armor, those Pershing tanks are one of our aces in the hole, they are faster then our Rommels or Pattons, so don’t be cocky. You will move to phase line orange at 1500 local.

Turning to face the Charlie CO, Betty you take your boys (Rommels and Pattons) out at 1400 hours for phase line Gold, Johanna make sure your mechanized infantry are linking up no later then 1500 hours at the same phase line. Maladone turned towards the air support commander, “Lance, your fly boys are going be our cavalry. Once airborne I want the Comanches to stay NOE (Nape of the Earth), until we call for them. They are going to be our surprise card, to play only when we have the advantage to do so. The White Angels can stay high and they need to be ready to swoop. Smiling, Lance replied “You can count us sir.”

Nodding, Maladone noted with pride that his officers were more then ready to take the fight to the enemy, he then turned to face his last commander, Mike ‘Howler’ Roberts, who commanded his mechs, and the force consisted of 4 Archer, 4 Longbows, and 4 Hitman mechs. All one needed to be mobile fire support. Knowing Roberts, these mechs were already ready to move and only needed the word to start moving, well mused Maladone; they are going to get the chance to earn their pay. “Mike your role is to rain death on what ever is painted for your boys and girls and I want these misquoting sons of bitches to find out that they are not welcome or wanted.” Nodding Roberts asked for the list of first target groups, again noting that his commanders were all business, he told Roberts that they will be forwarded to his mech and commanders.

“Okay that is the basic plan, to recap, we are to engage, cut off and destroy as many of the Blake forces as we can, forcing a surrender or a collapse and then we can spend the rest of the time running them to ground. Seeing how they have no place to run given that the Blakist have had themselves a falling out” reaching for the facsimile, “and I quote ‘a coup as placed in power the New Terran Republic’ as to who or what this group is or can do is still up in the air at this time. As to what it means to us, nothin’ but trouble. The Blakist have no bolt hole to run too. So they will likely stand and fight. Seems that our friends over in the ComGuard are taking this in an odd way, seems these same friends over in the 28th have declined to come over and visit for our friendly chat about all of this. So far they haven’t moved an inch.” Turning to a junior lieutenant who was sitting next to the door, “Sally send out your trackers (referring to the two teams of scout hovers waiting to shadow and report on enemy movements), I want them to shadow the 28th, reporting back with anything that suggest they are going to aid or attack the 37th. The other group I want to actively scan the 37th’s line, no firing, retreat back if they run into any thing, I want information not heroes” turning back to the other commanders, (Lt Sally Garner ran out of the room, calling for her command to mount up move out), “Okay we move out for the phase lines in the order I gave you. Do it quickly, but don’t push things. Our left flank is already moving to screen the local militia forces. Once on line we ask for the surrender of the Blake units, if they don’t surrender then, we will do everything we can to keep them from leaving this planet. Any questions?”


“Sir!” Joe Thelen, Alpha Commander, “Are we to fight or engage the ComStar unit?” Nodding as he moved around the room to look at each of the commanders, “That is a good questions. The orders don't say, but if they fire at or upon you, then engage them with everything. I will push this up to the top, but for now, follow that as standard operation procedure.” answers Maladone.

After answering a dozen questions on resupply points and time tables for any fall back points along with other basic questions that come up during planning stages. All the commands were moving forward. Maladone was quite happy that everything was running with out a glitch. “Well Walters, tomorrow we will know for sure what is going on.” Looking up from his computer screen, Walters' replies to his commanders' comment “Yes sir, we will.” Nodding again, Maladone moved to the window, looking out at his command as it moved into combat, yes the dye is cast and we move forward, how this will end is the question.


Dual Ridge Hills
Town of Holly Fields
Jacob's Rest
21 July 3082

Lioness Pride, the 25 ton Meercat hovertank, moved forward, skirting around a clump of trees, moving in a manner to suggest a slow causal patrol or outing. Sitting in the command hatch/cupola, Lt. Garner swore about the heat, the colorful and often damming use of words to describe the heat made her crew laugh and she took that as a good sign. To her right, was the second Meercat known loving to its' crew as “Tender Cat”, and Sgt. Wilderby, who gave her the thumbs up. Smiling, she noticed that comm traffic between Blake units was picking up. Touching her own com-mike “Tender Cat, this Pride Actual. Over.” Hearing the reply “ Roger Pride, Tender Cat here.”

Nodding, she begins to pass on the new information, “Okay comm traffic is up between our neighbors. I need you to be watching for any and everything. Move to normal patrol distance, time now. How Copy?”

Wilderby, stood straighter in the hatch, “Roger that. Good Copy. Will do. Tender Out.” Switching over to the internal com, “Normal operations, lets' do this!” As the Tender Cat dropped back to a distance of 80 meters off the rear of the Lioness Pride, gave him good covering fire of the other vehicle and allowed him time to react better to events. Keying his helmet mike again, “Molly, eyes on the BAP Scope and fire up the L and R. (LADAR/RADAR) screens. Leave ECM on passive for now.” Molly quickly began her routine, “Roger! On it!” She began to slave all the requested screens to her main console, while being new to the Cat, she was not new to her job as ELINT specialist. “Sergeant! Up and Ready!” Smiling to himself, Wilderby was glad that Molly was fitting in, “Copy! Good work!”

Moving forward both vehicles crested a small rise, which was not the best spot to be in, but a quick goosing of the accelerator and they over it and heading into the small hamlet that was in front of them. The computer told Garner, as well as Wilderby, that it was a neutral town, and had a population of about 300. “Neutral.” Garner snorted “What a joke.” She began to turn the turret slightly to the left as the “Pride” started down the main street.

CLAP! BOOM!

The “Pride” jerked violently to one side, skidding into a store front and stopping with enough force to toss Garner around, causing her to duck to avoid being hit by flying debris. Keying the internal coms, “Mike! You okay?” “Bob! Mari! Are you guys okay?” Both Bob and Mari replied back that they were fine and wanted to know what happen. “Get clear of the “Pride” and let me get Mike and we'll figure out what the hell happen!”

Yelling loudly and with more emotion then she expected to show at this point, “God dammit! Mike! Answer me! Damn you answer me!” Worry and panic were starting to set in as was fear that she had lost one of her own. Moving around the main gun and into the driver area, she stopped cold. “Damn them! Damn them all!” She screamed. Moving what was left of Mike out of the seat, she checked the display. It told her a lot, it was dead, nothing that was left of the drivers compartment was working. Fighting back the tears and the anger, she pushed her way back out of the compartment, grabbing the ID tags of Mikes', she stuck them in her breast pocket, she grabbed her carbine and assault pack. She made a mental note, find who did this and make the pay.

CLAP! BOOM!

“What the.......!” screamed Sgt. Wilderby, as a bright flash and lots of dirt and dust flying into the air caused him to lose sight of the “Pride”. Dropping down into the hatch more, he begin to react to the events, mentally checking himself and then calling for his crew to check in, he began to rotate the command turret around to fully cover the rooftops, while at the same time watching the civilians scatter for cover. “Steve! Load up the main gun! Be ready! We may have mechs or armor to deal with!” “Todd! Move us in to cover the “Pride”!” “Molly! What can you tell me?!”

Double checking her screens, calling back to Wilderby, “Sergeant! BattleComp says its' some kind of improvised explosive or anti-tank weapon of some kind. That is all I have right now.”

Swearing and fuming Wilderby, keep scanning as the “Cat” moves into a covering position of the “Pride”, spotting Lieutenant Garner, “LT! Get your guys on board! We need too...!”

BOOOM!

A second explosion goes off at the intersection in front of the two scout vehicles, this one is bigger and rains down more debris around them, small arms fire begins to ricochet around them. It seemed to be coming from all directions. Then Wilderby noticed that it was only coming from the building kitty corner to the intersection. As the LT and her crew clamor on to the “Cat”, Wilderby, catches part of Molly's call into headquarters about what had happen and where. He begins to return fire when his whole world goes blurry and fuzzy. KARK!, goes the main gun as Steve fires the 50mm caseless round into the building that the enemy fire is coming from. Wilderby watches as a several windows blowout and crumple to the ground. Feeling the “Cat” beginning to move he pours more rounds into the building, hitting the smoke dischargers, he hopes this will confuse the enemy enough to allow him to get out of the town and to safety.

As they pull back around the corner the original took on to the main street, Garner noticed a high pitched whistling sound, Oh Frack...not that...yelling out loud “INCOMING!”. Wilderby slaps the CBR button, hoping that it can give him something useful, CRUMP! CRUMP! Explosions are going off around the “Cat” has it speeds out of the town, seeing four guys running out of an alley, all carrying tubes of some kind, Wilderby and the crew of the “Pride” don't take the chance they are civilians, all of them open fire on the targets, the hail of rounds turn the four men into hamburger. A secondary flash explosion tells them that they were right.

Trying to control the shaking and the bile taste in his mouth and praying to all the gods he can think of, that they will get through this, his com beeps. “Sarge! HQ just called back! Whole town is black! Seems to have gone over to the Blakist! Spec Ops and line troops are reported to be in the area!” “Shitfire! Todd get us the hell out of here now!” Wilderby yells at the driver.

“Sarge! HQ wants us at Phase Line Yellow ASAP!” Molly tells him. Nodding, he turns to Garner, “Well LT, seems we are going to be needing some pay back.” She nods...saying nothing as she begins to plan for the next fight. Behind them, Holly Fields burns.

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:41 pm 
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Major General
Major General

Joined: Fri Mar 21, 2003 10:31 am
Posts: 776
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Some of the paragraphs are a little long for me, but overall I like it. It feels authentic and any story that involves the possibility of blowing large holes in the Blakists gets my vote!

I also like the unit names that you used. (One of my long-time pet unit's is named "Hell's Hammers", a name that I've always liked.)

Thanks for posting this. I'm looking forward to the next one.


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:00 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Thanks. I will get the next installment up soon.

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:34 am 
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General Know it All
General Know it All

Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 1830
Location: Stafford , England
Very Interesting, I would like to see more, when you have time to post them.

Dave. :wave:

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:02 am 
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Commanding General
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Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
I would enjoy a few more chapters myself Karagin. Keep them coming(as time permits.....)!


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 12:16 am 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Will do guys. I have the next part almost finished typing and will give it a good proof read. Right now I am also in the process of house repairs and remodeling, the joys of home ownership...

_________________
Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

[img]http://www.heavymetalpro.com/countries/mil-army.gif[/img]


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:17 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Okay here is few days I will be posting the second half of this, my main issue right now is character development, I feel some of them are too generic, so I am trying to figure out how to improve them, if you guys have ideas or tips please let me know.

Thanks.

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

[img]http://www.heavymetalpro.com/countries/mil-army.gif[/img]


Last edited by Karagin on Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:46 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:22 am
Posts: 2198
Quote:
my main issue right now is character development, I feel some of them are two generic, so I am trying to figure out how to improve them, if you guys have ideas or tips please let me know.
You could take examples from writings of Mohammed As Zaman Bey: small-talk, joking, grumbling, drinking (who likes what kind of beer), gambling (who likes what kind of games) etc. Give one soldier pair of dices, for other cards, for another Chess board and someone with pocket game console or music player.

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[i]You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights errant, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.[/i]

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:54 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
There is always the Saving Private Ryan/Pearl Harbor approach. Give some of the characters a quirk of some kind that becomes their stereotype. The redhead who stuttered in Pearl Harbor, who was also the guy who lost his hearing in Blackhawk Down.


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:51 pm 
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Freedom Fighter
Freedom Fighter

Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 8:00 pm
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Location: Ft Lauderdale Florida
Dislikes are also fun, and give the opportunity for comedy. The guy who can't stand Asian food gets the sesame chicken and rice MRE's and everyone is cheating him for the entree.

"Seriously Eightball, you want this beef stew, i want the chicken and rice PLUS your peach cobler!"

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:52 pm 
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Freedom Fighter
Freedom Fighter

Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 8:00 pm
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Location: Ft Lauderdale Florida
also detailing the activities of the unit scrounge can ALWAYS be fun

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:10 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
There is always the red and white primer mixed together.


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:30 pm 
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Freedom Fighter
Freedom Fighter

Joined: Fri Jul 12, 2002 8:00 pm
Posts: 3483
Location: Ft Lauderdale Florida
Quote:
There is always the red and white primer mixed together.
It's LIGHT RED! :angry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adaM1AwloSo

_________________
Big Nick, the Chainsaw Assassin
[i]Making Bad News Worse since 1980[/i]
[b]What... There's only ONE of you?[/b]


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2009 12:24 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:22 am
Posts: 2198
RvB, I loved that show! I've seen all episodes of it! I hope Rooster Teeth does something out of MechWarrior or even Mech Assault series :rotate:

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:02 am 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Once my desktop arrvies I will be able to get the next chapter up. In my rush to get things moved and packed, I forgot to copy the files over to the desk, which I am also discovering that I forgot to grab some other things as well.

Once it is here I will post it and then looking forward to the comments and suggestions.

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:42 pm 
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Commanding General
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You should be use to Army moves enough to know you need 5 copies of all your files, which all need to be sent by different methods, up to and including the Pony Express.


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:55 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Quote:
You should be use to Army moves enough to know you need 5 copies of all your files, which all need to be sent by different methods, up to and including the Pony Express.

I know...this time around I had enough copies of my orders and important military paper work, trust me someone killed a few trees to give enough copies. It was all of the other stuff that is taking for every to get here. Slowest move since I went out to Lewis. For once I am only behind the power curb on the personal stuff, not the military side. Which is a good thing or I have been into long...I know that Pony Express is still running, I think the Army uses them for the mail delivery system they have.

_________________
Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

[img]http://www.heavymetalpro.com/countries/mil-army.gif[/img]


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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 5:37 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Part 4:
Harasaw,
Jacobs Rest
Fed-Suns

Harasaw was burning. The cone shape of it was a ruddy glow on the darkening eastern horizon, matching the huge copper disk of the setting sun in the west. Even at this distance the firestorm gave a smoky taste to the wind, a hint of that sulfur-tinged darkness, the taste of death. The flicker and rumble of artillery was feint, no louder than the hiss of grain stalks against the steel flanks of the Blake armor hull-down on the low crest overlooking the village. Four dozen of them, squat massive shapes in mottled green-yellow camouflage paint with the mailed-fist symbol of the Blake's Own Guard, a Level IV sized unit, stenciled on their bows. Their engines thrummed, the roar of free-piston gas generators blending with the power-turbine's hum. Air quivered over the exhaust-baffles on their rear decks, and the whip-antennae swayed erratically in the breeze.
Blake take the heat, Adept Nyla Hornen thought, and rubbed a gloved hand over the wet skin of her neck. She glanced back over the rear of the command tank, through the narrow gap left by the hatch cover poised over her head like a mushroom steel-cap.

Behind them tracks stretched two kilometers south to the wood-line, where the unit had last paused. Wide parallel stripes where the treads had mushed wheat grain and stalk into the ground, arcs and circles across the rolling plain showing where the fighting vehicles had maneuvered. Ten minutes of combat, and the taste of it was still in her mouth, salt and iron and copper, acid in the stomach, ache in the muscles of neck and back, the trembling of limbs. Training helped, zen-breathing and muscle control, the simple knowledge that the job had to be done whatever the state of your emotions… and still, every time, you knew a little something was gone. A little of whatever it was that kept you functioning; while you waited for the armor to buckle under the brute impact of an antitank shell and send metal spallings flying like supersonic buzzsaws, for the millisecond flame of exploding ammunition, for the slower trickle of burning fuel as you hammered at a jammed hatch. You survived, and lost a little of yourself from within, and knew that one day if you kept coming the well would be dry…she knew this and yet she could not let it effect her.

The mercenary armor was scattered back there among the ruined corn, burning with the sullen flicker of diesel oil in circles of blackened straw, or frozen with only the narrow entry hole of a tungsten-carbide penetration arrow to show reason for immobility. The pakfront, borrowing a term she had picked in the command and staff school so long ago on Gibson, of the unbelievers antitank guns had been dug in along the crest of this….not really a ridge, more a gentle swelling.
The Adept shook her head; they were expecting to lie low as their armor pulled back past them to the village, then hit the Blake tanks as they pursued, no doubt. A good trick, but one she had met before; the unbelievers were like that, fine tacticians but a little inflexible. Artillery to suppress the antitank, then a slow advance to force their armor to engage at ranges where Blake APDS shot would punch through the unbelievers tanks the long way. Bodies lay hidden in the tall grain or draped around shattered armored personnel carriers; her infantry had hunted them down from the turrets and firing-ports of their armored personnel carriers. Two Blake Banesword III's remained; victims of shells fired point-blank through the thinner armor of flank and rear, the blanket-shrouded corpses of their crews showing victory could kill you as finally as defeat.

Moisture trickled out of the sodden lining of the communications helmet as Nyla turned from the wreckage to her rear and made a slow scan of the wheat field ahead. The thick armor of a Banesword soaked up heat like a sponge under direct sunlight. There was a lot of that in the heat of summer, and she would swear firing the main gun racked up another five degrees with every round. The ventilation fans continued their losing battle; the Belle had been buttoned up for more than ten hours, in the line for over a month with scant time for anything but essential maintenance. The inside of the tank was heavy with the smells: lubricant, burnt propellant and scorched metal, old sweat; an empty shell-casing off in one corner of the turret-basket was half full of urine with a couple of used menstrual pads floating in it… She ignored it, as she ignored the salt-itch of her unwashed uniform and the furry texture of her teeth and the ground-glass feeling under eyelids from too little sleep and too much exposure to abrasive fumes. The long hard feeling of being in combat.

It could always be worse, she mused, glancing down at the swivel-mounted map tray on the left arm of her reclining seat, past it into the white-painted gloom of the tank's interior. There was not much open space; the huge breech and recoil-mechanism of the main cannon cut the turret's interior nearly in half, flanked on either side by the coaxial pulse laser and grenade launcher. Dials, gauges/screens and armored conduits snaked over every surface; the gunner lay to the right of her weapon, nearly prone on a crash couch that raised her head just enough to meet the padded sights. Behind the gunner's head was the sliding armor plate door that blocked off the ammunition stored in the turret bustle, ready to the hand of the loader on his swivel-seat below.
Economy of space was the formal term; it took considerable training to move even in a stationary tank without bruising yourself, and there was barely enough open space to tape snapshots of her husband and children below the vision blocks of the commander's cupola. Still, better than the infantry…

Could be much worse; WE could be using that crused nerve gas again. Which would mean everybody into those damned cursed rubber monkey suits, and that would mean casualties from heat-exhaustion, even among Blake's Blessed Own. She rapped the heel of one hand against the pressure plate beneath the vision-blocks, and the hatch cover snapped upright with a sough of hydraulics. The lift-brace-step motion that left her standing on the turret deck with boots astride the hatch was nearly as unconscious as walking, after two years in the field. Wind blew into her face as she raised the field glasses, warm and dry, dusty and much, much cleaner than the air in the tank; the sodden fabric of her overalls turned cool as the moving air let sweat evaporate.

Still alive, she thought. On a fine summer's day, in the odd alien beauty of the twilight, like a world seen through amber honey and soft golden light; and it was good to feel the faint living quiver in the sixty-ton bulk beneath the soles of her feet.

Reliable old bitch, she thought affectionately. The Belle had carried her a long way since the landings on Jacobs' Rest. North from the Davenport landing zone, over the Don, west across the area the locals called Kevinite, through the murderous seesaw winter battles around Lwow. It was a long fight wherever the command staff thought the Blake's Own was needed… Eighteen months, a long lifetime for a tank, even counting weeks in the Level IV's repair-shops and a complete rebuild; there were scars and gouges on the sloped plates of the armor, two dozen victory-rings on the thermal cover of the long 120mm Gauss cannon, a Fed-Rat skull still wearing its helmet on a spike welded to the fume extractor.

The reverse slope to the village was gentle; this part of the Vistula valley was water-smoothed, sandy alluvial loam. Ripe wheat, a big field of it, fifty or sixty hectares, bordered by a row of poplars; more of those lining the country road or serving as field-boundaries beyond. The grain was overripe, gold turning brown in spots and the overburdened stalks falling in swales, and the field was scattered with wildflowers and thistles.

Damned waste, a corner of her mind noted. Lost if it isn't harvested soon. Three thousand meters to the north a white dirt road crossed the river, a single stone bridge with steel reinforced, that wound tree-bordered through the dry amber colored summer landscape, and the junction had spawned a straggling farm-town, the kind that had given them trouble before and would likely again as they fought to keep this damned world. Trees, unpaved streets lined with fences and gardens and whitewashed log homes, barns, a few brick structures around the flamboyantly painted stone church, snorting she knew that would be the last place anyone would be right now. Past it….heat haze and dust cut visibility, so did the long shadows of evening; woodlot, could be a manor house, hedges and gardens. Beyond were more fields, patches of forest, vanishing northward into the dusty horizon.

Hmmmm, question is, was that half-hard feint their idea of a rearguard, or is there more in the village?, Nyla pondered, this was a question she needed answers to. Orders were to consolidate once she met solid resistance. Then the Level III motorized infantry would pass through and establish a perimeter; the Level III soldiers were good enough at positional warfare, and the Level IVs were supposed to save themselves for shock and pursuit. It was a big war, too big to be won in a single rush; you got weaker as you advanced away from your bases, and the enemy stronger as they fell back on theirs. The mercenaries had been soundly beaten east of the Raizal, but they had withdrawn in good order, their mechanized forces screening the foot-infantry's retreat; von Mehr, the commander of AMC Group Center, was a master at luring an attacker to overextend and then catching him with a backhand stroke. It was time to halt, refit, and bring up supplies for the next leap and rest before the next round.

It never paid to underestimate the mercs tactically, either; they tended to fight by the book, but the one they used was excellent since they kept re-writing it, and there could be anything ahead. Nyla tapped a meditative thumb against her lower lip, and then returned attention to the hum and crackle of voices in her ears; habit strained it out, unless her call-sign came through. She keyed the intercom circuit:
"Call to Skyguy, Sparks (her comtech)," she said. A click, a warble, then the sound of an airplane engine.
"Check, Groundpound to Skyguy, that's negative on movement, over."
"Affirm'tive, Groundpound. Nary nothin' but dead cows an' that-there wrecked convoy I spotted earlier today, over."

And the convoy had been moving away from here, northwest toward the merc hedgehog around Chelmena, when the ground-strike aircraft caught them.

Worth it, she decided. Plaster the village with HE, cut in with a pincers movement, then halt. The low ground along the river would make a good stop zone. Damn, I wish I wasn't so tired, ran through her. Hard to make proper decisions when body and mind and soul together whined for rest; harder still when the lives of friends and comrades depended on it. No tremendous hurry, she reminded herself. The village looked deserted, no human movement at all, which meant everyone there had already gone to ground. She blinked again, fascinated for a moment by the quality of the light, the wash of a… faded gold? Bright, but aged somehow, as if the view had been worn down by the impression of too many eyes. Tired light.

Back to the work of the season, she thought. No point in getting too fancy, but just in case…hitting the send button on the microphone "Command circuit," she said. That would cut into the headphones of all her officers. "Orders mark." She flicked up the mapboard hanging from her waist, glanced at it, sideways at the turret less observation tank with its forest of antennae and episcopes; they would be in constant touch with the fire-support level-two. "Level II Alpha…" she began.

The village was thick with smoke, smoke from burning thatch and chemical mist from the 180mm mortars; high-explosive rounds were mixed in, shrapnel, cluster rounds full of miniature antipersonnel bombs that spread and bounced and exploded to mix their shards of notched steel wire into the lethal stew of the air. The ground quivered under the bombardment, shook from the hundreds of tons of tread-mounted metal moving through the lane ways, cast itself up as dust and fragments; the sounds of lesser weapons were a counterpoint, machine-gun chatter and the ripping-canvas sounds of grenade launchers spewing out their belts of 40mm bomblets.
The explosions were continuous overhead, seven rounds a second from the Flail Mk IVs automortars, 40 ton tracked vehicles with a heavy mortar on a hydraulic lift allowing for enough protection and still able to have good fire-support, four kilometers to the south. Their proximity fuses blew them at an even six meters above the ground, the rending crang of explosive and overpressure thumping like a drum against the sternum. Nyla kept her mouth open to spare her eardrums and ignored the occasional sandblast rattle of fragments against the armor of the Belle; the odds of something dangerous flicking through the narrow gap between the turret deck and the hatch cover over her head were too small to be worth the effort of worry. Besides, if you let yourself think of danger in a situation where it was everywhere and inescapable, you froze. And that was dangerous she noted with a sigh given how worn out she was feeling.

The Blake fighting vehicles ground down the street in line, tanks and personnel carriers alternating; a fairly wide street, mud mixed with cobbles—more mud than cobbles, and those disappeared under the treads with a tooth-grating shriek-like squeal of metal on stone. Nyla kept her eyes moving constantly, probing the dense gray-white mist for movement; anybody waiting with a buzzbomb was going to have to stay under cover until the last minute, or be scythed down by the mortar rounds; and at ground level, their visibility would be even worse than hers. The Belle had a round of wasp up the spout of the main gun, like a giant shotgun shell loaded with steel darts, but the twin-barrel small pulse laser in its servo-controlled armored pod beside her hatch was better for this work.

Flickers, adrenaline-hopping vision, presenting each glimpse as a separate freeze-frame. Roof collapsing inwards, sparks and floating burning straw. A crippled pig, shrilling loud enough to hear as a tread ground it into a waffle of meat and mud. A square of ground biting and spilling dirt off the board cover of a concealed foxhole, a man coming erect, blond hair and gray uniform and white-rimmed eyes stark against dirt-black face.

And the tube of a rocket-launcher over his shoulder. "Target, six o'clock, Infantry with buzzbombs," she rasped, her voice too hoarse to carry emotion. Her hand was twisting at the pistol-grips on the arms of her seat, and the twin-barrel pivoted whining above her head; she walked the burst toward him, the heavy 20mm slugs blasting fist-sized craters in the mud. Too slow, too slow, she was close enough to see his hand clenching on the release…..

CRACK.
The main gun fired, and sight vanished for a second in the flash. The whole weight of the tank rocked back on its suspension as the trunions and hydraulics transmitted the huge muzzle-horsepower of the cannon's recoil through mantel and hull. There was a whining buzz as the flechette rounds left the barrel, like their namesake wasp magnified a thousand times. The merc infantryman vanished, caught by sheer chance within the dispersal cone. Not ten meters from the muzzle, blast alone would have killed him; the long finned spikes left nothing but chewed stumps of legs falling in opposite directions, and hardly even a smear on the riddled wood behind him, a circle of thick log wall turned to a crumbling honeycomb by the passage of the darts.
The rocket had already been launched. Deflected, it caromed off the slope of the sow-snout mantlet that surrounded the tank's cannon, the long jet of flame and copper reduced to plasma gouging a crackling red trough along the side of the turret rather than spearing through the armor. The blue-white spike hung in afterimage before her eyes, blinking in front of the sullen red of the wounded metal.

That was a brave man, she thought. A brave man who had come within half a second of trading five Blakist lives for his own. Odd, fear really does feel like a cold draft as if death is hover'n near. A flush like fever on the face and shoulders and neck, tightness across the eyes, then cold along the upper spine. Deliberately, she suppressed the memory of burn victims, of calcinated bone showing through charred flesh, and equipment melted onto human skin, the burnt pork like smell. No practical thickness of steel could stop a square hit from a shaped-charge warhead.

"Nice," she said over the intercom, forcing an overtight rectum to relax.
"That there iron was just pointin' right," the gunner drawled.
"Load—" Nyla began.
"[crap] [crap]!" The voice came tinny through her earphones, override from Level II Alpha's commander back on the ridge. "There's somethin' still firin' from in theah, and whatevah it is, still goin' too fast over my head! Permission to return fire on the muzzle flash."
"—load APDS," she continued on the intercom circuit, and switched to broadcast. "Permission denied." That would be all they needed, a hail of armor-piercing shot at extreme range from their own guns. Below her came multiple chunk-clank sounds: she glanced down to see the round slide into the breech, a two-inch core of copper-tipped tungsten carbide, wrapped in the circular aluminum sabot. "Sparks, general override circuit. " She heard the radiotech's voice calling for attention, and spoke into the hissing silence.
"Groundpound talkin'. Support battery, cease fire." Silence, as the noise dropped below the level she could hear through ears ringing with blast and muffled by the headset. She looked to either side, at the burning log huts; down the empty curving road that lead to the straggling green along the river and the only substantial buildings in this shithole of a town. Mist curled, patchy as it caught the gathering evening wind, touched with gold in the long slanting rays of a northern-hemisphere twilight.

"Everyone in the village, back yourselves into some cover. Adept Aroche," she continued. Nyla had brought a Level II worth of mechanized infantry with her; four Tetrarchies, a little over a hundred troopers at full strength.
"Yo, ma'am?"
"Johnny, un-ass your beasts and scout the square. Look-see only, I think there's something big, mean an' clumsy there."

There was a series of muffled thungs as the powered rear ramps of the personnel carriers went down, and she could see helmets bobbing into the fog. Only six from the Hoplite behind the Belle, when there should have been eight; every unit in the Level III was under strength, casualties coming in faster than replacements… She reached down and flicked a cigarette out of the carton in the rack beside her seat, lit, drew the warm comfort into her lungs. There had been very little in the village by way of resistance, probably no time for the mercs commander to set it up. Whatever was firing at Alpha up on the ridge had been left behind, waiting for her to advance downslope, and had been unable to reorient enough to engage the Guard's tanks as they came in from each flank under cover of smoke.
A Jagdpanzer, again she was using terms learned at the war college, then, a limited-traverse antitank gun in the bow of a turretless tank. They were less flexible than a real tank but well suited to defensive action and much easier to manufacture, a quick cheap way to get a heavy well-protected gun onto the battlefield. This was probably one of the bigger ones, a waddling 70-ton underpowered monster mounting a modified anti-tank gun.

A typical unbelievers improvisation. She snorted smoke and patted the armor of the Belle lovingly; at least the Word Of Blake, Blessed Be His Name, had taken the time to get this design right.
"Johnny here," the infantry officer's voice replied.
"Yo." She snapped alert and flicked the cigarette out between hatch and turret. An infantry backpack radio, you could tell because the receiver let through more background noise than the shielded microphone of a CVC (combat vehicle crew) helmet.
"Got as close's Ah could. There was lookouts, we's went in and took 'em out quiet. Three big buildin's in a row, north side over from the church, look-so maybe brick warehouses; rooflines out off the view of the ridge we jumped off from. Holes in the walls, treadmarks comin' back to a common point from all three; whatever it is, it heavy. Big smeared place where the tracks meet."
"Good. Pull back now, meet me here."

Nyla pinched thumb and forefinger to the bridge of her nose, concentrating. An VNL-K70 modified for sure, the only merc vehicle with firepower and protection in the same class as a Banesword III, but limited by the lack of a rotating turret, painfully slow, even more painfully difficult to turn in tight quarters. The three buildings formed the base of a triangle, covered fire positions commanding the open country south of the village. By backing out to the triangle's apex the Jagdpanzer could switch quickly without having to do more than a quarter-turn; her respect for the probably deceased commander of the certainly defunct mercenary battalion increased. He had had the sense to use the VNL-K70C as a self-propelled antitank gun, rather than as a fighting vehicle, which its designers had intended it to be and which it most manifestly was not. If she had simply blasted through the first line of antitank guns up on the ridge and come straight down the hill, there would have been a very nasty surprise waiting.

Now, what would the VNL-K70C commander do? Run away, as Blake, again Bless His Name, said any rational army would, she thought wryly.

That was easier said than done, though, in something that could do maybe forty kph on a good level road; also, their back was to a soft-bottomed river. That was a problem Nyla Hornen could empathize with wholeheartedly; the Banesword III had range, it had speed, it had broad tracks and a good suspension that let it cover any ground firm enough to hold a footsoldier's boots, but the only bridges that could carry it safely were major rail links or the Word's own Combat-Engineer units. The VNL-K70C would be even more of a pain to move any distance, and across a soft-bottomed riverbed…There had been a lot of rivers to cross, coming west.

Better to catch him while Alpha back on the ridge kept his attention; that Jagdpanzer was nothing to meet head-on at point-blank range in one of these lane ways. She looked up again, whistling soundlessly between her teeth and wishing she had not thrown away the cigarette, wishing the Belle was not best placed, less than two hundred meters from the church. Not that anyone would doubt her courage if she sent someone else: a coward would not have achieved her rank; the Blakist had a firm unwritten tradition of seeing that such did not live long enough to breed and weaken the Order. The trouble was that they had an equally firm tradition of leading from the front…
The infantry Level I came trotting back up the lane way, keeping to the side beside the fence with his comtech at his heels; he bounced up onto the glacis plate of the Belle without breaking stride and vaulted to the turret with a hand on the cannon. Nyla popped the hatch to vertical and handed him a cigarette. "Don't suppose yo' could tell which of those three buildin's the Jagdpanzers in now?"

"Not without we send in a lochos'r two, or they move position, Nyla." He puffed meditatively. "Could try an' get a rocket gun team in close, likely to cost, though." A grin. "Prefer to let yo' turtles butt heads with it. Fuckin' nightmare, eh?"
"Isn't it always," she replied with a sour smile. Adept John Aroche was two years younger than her twenty-five, but he no longer looked like a young man. Not just the weathering and ground-in oily dirt and caked dust; there was something, a look about the eyes, a weariness that no amount of rest could ever completely erase. A familiar look; Seeing it in the mirror more than I like, lately.

By the Scared Word of Blake's Blessed Wisdom, were we ever that young? she thought briefly. The infantry officer lit another cigarette from his and handed it back to his radio-operator; the comtech followed him to the turret deck, a short dark-haired woman careful to keep the set within arm's reach of her commander.
"Ride me in, Johnny," Nyla said. "As near to the brick buildings as you can"—that would give her a chance to take the Jagdpanzer with a flank shot as it backed out—"and I'd like to be inconspicuous." Which was difficult if you knocked down houses. "But don't forget to dodge out when we get there."
He snorted laughter and rang the back of his hand against the turret. "Surely will," he said. "These movin' foxholes attract the eye."

She touched the microphone before her mouth. "Sparks, command circuit." A click. "Noise, everybody; rev the engines and move in place." Another click. "Sammie, yo' take the western approach to the square behind the buildings. McLean, yo're north, we'll all three go in together, that ways somebody should get a good flankin' shot."

"Groundpound to Alpha," Nyla whispered, and cursed herself for the tone; nobody was going to hear a voice over the racket. The Belle was only one house away from the green, a house whose caved-in thatch was still smoldering; the VNL-K70C would be there, under cover, still facing south for its inconclusive duel with the tanks of Alpha, hull-down on the ridge… Three Blakist tanks would advance into the square where they could pound the mercenaries vehicle cover or no; hers from the east, two more from north and west, any more and there would be too much chance of a shot going astray. Point-blank range, no place to be on the wrong end of a Banesword's 120mm Gauss rifle.

"He's in the center buildin'; commence firin', HE," she continued in a normal speaking tone. The Level II worth of tanks back on the ridge to the south opened up; she could hear the whirring crash of high-explosive shot bursting along the fringe of the village. Her teeth clenched; now she would have to move, out into the open… Almighty BLAKE!, but I don't want to do this, she thought. Not fear, so much as sheer weariness and distaste. The pictures of her children caught her eye, there down below the vision-blocks. both in their school tunics, Marie with her red-haired cuddle with a mask of sun-bred freckles across her face, Tommie tanned dark under his butter-yellow curls; she had promised them she would come back.
I'll have to kill every living thing between here and the center of the galaxy to do it, she thought grimly, took a long breath and spoke:
"Sammie, Mac! Now!"

The engine howled behind her, and she felt the tank lurch as the driver engaged the gearing, rocking her shoulders back against the padded rear surface of the hatch. The Belle accelerated smoothly, then slammed into the thick log wall, the bow rising as the tread-cleats bit and tried to climb the vertical surface. Her braced hands, which kept her from flinging forward as sixty tons of moving steel clawed at the wood, and it gave with a rending, crackling snap. The tank lurched again, rocking from side to side as the torsion bars of the suspension adjusted to the uneven surface. A brief glimpse of tables and beds vanishing beneath tumbled logs, and a shuddering whump as the surface caved in a few feet; a clash of gearing and the engine snarled again, a deeper sound under the turbine's whine.

The front wall burst out from the Belle's prow in a shower of fragments, and she ducked her head as a last surf of broken wood came tumbling and rattling up the glacis plate and over the turret. Splinters caught on the shoulders of her uniform. The tank pivoted left and south, the turret moving faster than the treads could turn the hull; to the north and west the other two Baneswords were grinding into the churned mud of the square. The muzzles of their cannon moved like the heads of blind serpents, hunting for prey. Nyla scanned the center building: that had to be it. Two stories of brick, square windows, a gaping hole where the main door had to have been. The roof had settled, sagging in the middle; but it was the entrance that mattered, there where the trackmarks emerged. Nothing, and—

An explosion. Not loud, a sharp cracking from the northern edge. Her head turned: the center tank of the trio had lost a track. It pivoted wildly, the intact loop of metal pushing it in a circle as the broken tread flopped to lie like a giant metal watchband on the mud, curling and settling as gravity and tension unlooped it.
"Shitfire, mines! McLean, bail out! Sammi, back under cover." [crap], [crap], they must've turned the Jagdpanzer around to face north; the donkeyfuckers out thought me! Nyla's mind ran through a brief litany of disgust as the Belle slammed to a too-swift halt, nosed down and rocked back. The engine bellowed, and the driver reversed along their own tracks with careful haste; it did not take a large charge to snap a tread, and a stationary tank was a deathtrap.
McLean's Jenniesue's Sweetheart stopped, and the hatches opened. "Coverin" fire," Nyla rasped. Two dozen automatic weapons opened up on the buildings across the square and the whole facade erupted in dust and chips and sparks, slugs punching holes through the brick and gnawing at the wall, like a time-lapse film of erosion at work. Then the infantry weapons, assault rifles and the white-fire streaks of rocket guns. From the ridge south of town came a multiple whirrrrrcrack as the reserve-Level II opened up with high-explosive shell, most falling well short. Then a shadow moved within the black openings of the building, a long horizontal shadow tipped with the bulky oblong of a double-baffle muzzle brake.

"Sue, can you take him?" Nyla asked, voice carefully controlled. Somebody else was trying; she could see the cannon of a Banesword moving, then the flare and crack.
"Mought." McLean's crew were crawling back into the shadow of their crippled vehicle, two of them dragging a third. "Tricky." The main gun moved in its gyro-controlled cradle, a feint humming whine as the mantlet moved, the breech riding up smoothly.
The Belle's commander slitted her eyes against the flash of the main gun. There was a metal-on-metal sparking from the darkness where the VNL-K70C waited, a high brief screech of steel deforming under the impact of tungsten traveling at thousands of feet per second.
Nyla opened her mouth to speak, but before the words passed her throat there was another crash; louder than the Blakist tank-cannon, less sharp, a lower-velocity weapon. But the mercs' antitank round was still moving fast enough when it struck the Jamiee's Sweetheart at the junction of turret and hull. The Blakist tank lurched, and the turret's massive twenty-ton weight flipped backward like a frying pan. Nyla watched with an angry foreknowledge as it dropped straight down on the two crewmen hauling the wounded driver. A leg was left sticking out from under the heavy steel, and it twitched half a dozen times with galvanic lifelessness.
"ALPHA!" she barked. "Target the center building an' knock it down, HE only. Everybody here in the village who's got a vantage, load APDS an' stay undah cover." The VNL-K70C would have to come out sometime, or be buried under rubble. Thick armor on the front, heavily sloped, good protection; too good, as long as it had cover. Out in the open… Just a stay of execution, unbeliever just a stay of execution, she thought grimly.

Acolyte Seena saluted as she came up to the Belle. Nyla had been leaning back against the scarred side-skirts of the tank, looking with sour satisfaction at the burning hulk of the mercenary Jagdpanzer; she came erect and returned the salute. Seena was like that, a long-service regular. Forty, old enough to have started her military service back before the schism that split Blake's Blessed Order in two; green eyes in a leather-tanned face, a close-cropped cap of grey-short shone black hair.
"Ten fatalities altogether since morning roll call, Adept," the NCO said, in a faintly sing-song accent. Srinagar region, Nyla remembered "Fifteen wounded seriously enough for evacuation. Three tanks and two APC's are write-offs…"

The Adept cursed. Seena shrugged.
"We took out better than two hundred of them," she added. "A complete armored battalion."
"The usual odds and sods?" Nyla asked.

"Mixed group, accordin' to the prisoners; bits and pieces from here and there." Nyla nodded; the battles that broke the AMC's Army Group Center east of the Vistula had left shattered units scattered over hundreds of kilometers, and far too many had made it back to the mercenaries lines through the Word's overstretched forces.
"Put in to hold us up whiles they pulled they infantry and armor back," Seena continued. "Oh, Adept, about those prisoners?"
Nyla paused, clenched the fingertips of her right glove between her teeth and stripped the thin leather off. The sun was still throwing implausible veils of salmon-pink to the west, and the breeze was cool on the wet skin of her hand. She removed the other glove, slapped them into a palm, looked at the enemy fighting-vehicle half-buried in the ruins of the building her guns had brought down on top of it. The saw-toothed welds had come apart along their seams, and the six-inch thickness of armor plate was twisted and ripped like sheet-wax. Melted fat had pooled under the shattered chassis, congealing now with a smell like rancid lard.
"How many?" she asked.
"'Bout fifty, mostly wounded hav' of which ain't gonna mak' it."
"Hmmmm." Nyla looked again at the wreck of the Jenniesue's Sweetheart. Then again… "They fought well, hereabouts. We'll have to keep two or three fo' the headhunters; yo' pick 'em. Give the rest a pill, do it quick." Militia slang for a bullet in the back of the neck, and utter mercy compared to the attentions of ROM's interrogators. She tucked the gloves into her belt, yawned, continued on addressing the Acolyte.
"HQ's word is to get out of the way, we're to freeze in place; the VIIth is movin' up into the line north of us, an' the mercenaries are still tryin' to break contact."
"We're goin' to let them?" The acolyte inquired
" 'Bout dams' time. Blake's Holy [crap] we's should've done bettah today; the troops are tired an' they need rest. Remembah, we've got to win the war, not just beat the mercs, a victory yo' destroys yo'self to get is a defeat. Anyways, that fo' high command to decide. Meantime, we set up a perimeter an' wait until they can spare transport to pull us back, minimal support till then. Prob'ly refit 'round Rublin, they've got the mag-rail/road net workin' that far west by now."
She yawned again, nodded toward the little stream that ran behind the churchyard half a kilometer north.
"Call TOE support, get the scissors forward." That was their bridging equipment, a hydraulic folding span on a tank chassis. "We'll laager on that-there clear spot just north of the river, less likely to be unpleasant surprises waitin'. Standard perimeter, no slackin' on the slit trenches."

She sighed as the troops moved to being digging in, going to be a long fight and she wanted to make it home, to see her children again, her husband and nothing was going to stop that.

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Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

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 Post subject: Re: Laughter of the Guns
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:12 pm 
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Stratego
Stratego

Joined: Sat Nov 10, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 10855
Location: Ft. Hood Texas
Still feel this chapter seems to need work or so I think, I am tinkering with the next chapter and trying to get a better follow on things.

_________________
Karagin-

Darkness is a friend of mine. Sometimes I have to beat it back, or it would overwhelm me. Shirley Meier

[url]http://karagin12.livejournal.com/[/url]

The Wookiee, he's not wearing any pants!

[img]http://www.heavymetalpro.com/countries/mil-army.gif[/img]


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