I carry my gun because with my gun, I am safe and free. Nobody knows who came up with the sentiment, or on which side it originated, but both sides of this war make claim to it. Both realms use it. But unlike the Northern faction, we adhere to it. 5:58pm We wait in a mess of mud and paper, our lookout position only 200 meters from the nearest of the NF’s camp. From what we’ve seen, this facility, if these savages can call it that, is for production of their vehicles and weapons, but it also appears to have some inhabitants which makes it more of a town. I stare through military grade binoculars at children running in the dirt. And with the rest of the two hundred and seventy second recon group, we wait. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1:45am Children fade, Darkness falls, lights, patrols and sound emerge. The once muffled sound of machinery sounds loud in the night, whose only other sound is the humming of insects. I lie in the dirt and listen, next to our radio man, ‘Chief’. I alter position in the bush and look left at him. He only stares through the binoculars. I’m thinking that this shift has gone on for far too long, so I open my mouth. A snap. I know what made that noise, but I hesitate to move because I know that that which made the noise with effortlessly kill us if I do. Another crunch. Heavy boots land right in front of us, and for a couple of seconds, we hold our breaths. The slightest movement could give us away, but the boots do not move. My pulse races and I feel as if the boot in front of me can hear this rushing heartbeat. The head radio in Chief’s helmet crackles and comes to life, audibly so, and an aging voice begins: “Two seven two recon, do you read? You have immediate orders to move in and attack. Repeat, move in and attack. Two seven two do you read? Do you read?” slowly, the boot turns. I look up, through the branches, at the head of the northern faction soldier. He looks around, and I realise that he doesn’t know where we are. I see his gun, a simplistic musket at most but have no delusions of what it could do. A flashlight taped to the barrel like a bayonette sweeps the undergrowth around us, piercing, probing. “TWO SEVEN TWO, REPLY NOW.” I look down, act still. White light suddenly beam onto the ground beneath me. I am dead. I know this. All I can hope to do is not raise the attention of the camp long enough for my body to allow my troops to escape. At the moment at which you die, you don’t see your life flash before you, you cower and cry. Hot and wet, I screw up my face. A muffled grunt. The soldier falls forward onto the bush. Hot and viscious, liquid drains onto my neck. “Happy to see me?” I hear my commanding officer mutter. I look around and see the Officer behind us, holding a silenced pistol in one hand, and the corpse of an NF ontop of me. The soldier’s weapon points directly at us, and for a brief moment, I see my arms and clothes covered in clotting blood. Shatter, and the light is extinguished, another use for my commanders weapon. I shiver. The commander whispers again “You’re off, I’m on this shift. Jackson isn’t waking up, he might have been poisoned. I can manage on my own, you two need sleep. See you in two” “No.” chief replies, in a deeper voice than one would expect from a man. His origins are believed to be northern, but he denies it, and his blood test proved to be central Brenodian. Otherwise, he would never have been allowed into the academy. We know full blood transfusions can be found in a downtown back alley, but fortunately for Chief, the Empire refutes the existence of crime in major cities, so no proof of this could be made. “We just got the order. Wake up the troops” Wake up wasn’t exactly the right term. Each troop would be injected with 150mg of hydroglyocotamine, a drug that re-awakens the nervous system and feels like being shot in the back of the head. Keeping the troops in down-time prior to combat means they operate at 150% once they start fighting, but the ritual isn’t popular, and is the reason I didn’t go into combat division. We’re back on watch. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2:02 am Our platoon currently has 4 fighting units with it, and ‘units’ it all I can describe these soldiers as. Through use of sleep-photogenic training, these machines of people have effectively each been training for eighteen years, and are now cold, unemotional, efficient killing machines for the Empire. From our view point, I watch as three of them move in, directly for the nearest building. The forth, I cannot see, but from tactics training I assume that it’s either about twenty meters ahead or twenty meters behind. Their guns are always ready, and in an arrow head formation they move forward together. I watch them as they move, unified, only one of them facing the direction they are going and others facing the other corners of an imaginary triangle. Soundless, silhouette, they step closer. Only twenty more meters left, they freeze, and drop into a crouch. The crunch of gravel and tyres spreads through the air, and a tank slowly crawls around the corner of the building they were heading for. The barrel of the tank swings to face the trio. A man walks around the side of the tank, and looks out into the darkness. They haven’t seen us, not yet. Surely not. The man puts a pair of binoculars to his eyes, ones that appear to end in just one central lense. I spy the forth man. He moves, slowly, along the wall to behind the man. Slowly. Slowly. The man takes a step back, takes the vision piece away from his eyes, peers into the darkness, puts the binoculars back up again. The forth unit sneaks up, step by step towards the man. Now in the brightness of one of the lights, the forth unit appears to be wearing much less than the other heavily armed units, wearing skin tight camouflage and only a belt full of ammunition. He creeps closer. Binoculars away again, the man opens his mouth to speak, the forth unit is behind him “BRENODIIIIIIIIII!” the forth unit grabs the man and snaps his neck, but silence is replaced by sirens. The tank’s turret lights up and a shell arches across the ground to the trio of brenodi soldier units, who have just jumped up and began to run towards the building. Precisely four tenths of a second later, the shell detonates. A fireball bursts into life, consuming two of the units, the other is flung forward towards the tank. Men begin the pour out of the building, flashlights glaring, and me and the rest of the recon unit turn, looking to escape. More flashlights. Surrounded on all sides, we crouch in the bush and pray for luck. Rodger Harris, the Commanding officer grabs me. “see there? On the left! We have one chance, we have to make it to that building. The patrol behind us is going to close in on this position, and we are going to be shot. MOVE.” He jumps up and runs towards the buildings. Chief grabs his rifle beside him, and sprints after Harris. I wait, I don’t want to go. Close my eyes for a second, grab the gun and jump up. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2:09 am My legs are straining to keep up, and this two hundred meters seems to take hours. I breathe, look down at my feet and continue to run. I glimpse up at the two shadows I am chasing, see Chief, athletic, increasing the distance between us. A NF soldier is suddenly directly in Harris’ way, the strapped on torch illuminates the commanding officer for a second. Rat tat tat! The NF’s rifle cracks, but Harris keeps running and in one swift movement draws his pistol from his belt and shoots the man in the head. As he runs past, he smacks the corpse down with his elbow. I look down again. Fifty meters left. In the darkness, I pass the corpse, then look up to find myself face to face with a soldier, one without a flashlight on his gun. “Northern faction?” he inquires. My answer is lead. The tank now rolls along, along the side of the building, about to go just in my path. Ten meters left. I can make it in front, faster, faster I sprint. My lungs can’t take any more air, but I push myself on. I tell myself to move, to stay alive. I lean forward, too far forward, trip. The gun spills from my hand, skidding away in the grass and into the wall. The tank keeps rolling, my legs are weak. I can’t get up. I grab a tuft of grass and pull myself an inch forward. I know I can stand, I just… can’t…. do… it…. Grabbed, I am pulled against the wall and then dragged into the shadows of an entryway. Chief smiles and slaps me in the face. But commanding officer Harris is leant against the wall, cupping blood with his hands, oozing from his stomach. My mouth is agape, but words are not comming out. I collapse down to the floor. It’s going to be a long night.