Empires: The Story

Discussion in 'Worldbuilding' started by DonMegel, May 10, 2006.

  1. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    -- High Tide --

    More akin to torpedo boats than armored vehicles, legions of Jekotian tanks sped over the sprawling sand seas of Eastern Bactra. With sand too unstable for the slower, more awkward heavy tanks, light and medium armor composes the majority of the fleet with liberal smatterings of APCs and Anti-Air half tracks mixed in for good measure. Armored columns, while impressive to see and terrifying to hear, are little more than cumbersome bomb magnets without the support of infantry and artillery. Further to the rear, proceeding at a much more leisurely pace, drove 180mm field pieces, light mobile artillery, rapid deployment AT guns, engineering trucks, medical transports, supplies, more APCs, half tracks, construction vehicles, and ammunition ferries. Without any of these, the armored fist of tanks barreling across the rolling dunes would get no more than fifty miles before running out of fuel, less if engaged or inflicted with mechanical malfunctions. Armored columns, while fierce, were but one component of a complete war machine. Unfortunately, for the resurgent Northern Faction, that machine was woefully outdated and, even at its prime, no where near a match for Brenodi technology and armor command.

    Unbeknownst to the rallying soldiers in red, a full three divisions of Brenodi armor and artillery lay concealed behind natural and man made defensive positions. The gambit had been carefully orchestrated by several High Commanders in an attempt to break the stale mate in and around Köln Pass and thus bring a swift end to this embarrassing war. For weeks building up to this final stage of the assault, the Brenodi had managed to thin out, withdraw and otherwise diminish their forces along a single stretch of the front through redeployments, feighed sickness and more than one suicidal charge into Jekotian lines.

    Further legitimacy was given to the muse through careful Imperial misdirection in the form of sloppy intelligence, tidy handling of agents, intentionally tied up supply lines, apparently inept local commanders and higher up logistical officers. Every effort was given to cover up the thinning lines locally and extort the shortness of supply further behind the lines. It was through this alone that Northern Faction Intelligence was willing to label the events legitimate and not an attempt at misdirection. After all, why would the Brenodi try so hard to cover up their problems if they were actually feigning illness?

    Convinced that a break has finally come that might allow them to break the lines and race into the open plains on the other side of Köln, the Northern Faction pooled divisions of armor, artillery, infantry and conscripts from throughout greater Jekotia; none of which could really be spared. To mask these movements the Jekotian Commanders employed security of their own to ensure their foes would not catch wind of their build up and rectify the “problem” with their lines. In only a little over one month the greatest offensive force yet assembled in the war was gathered and unleashed on seemingly under protected static defenses.

    As per Brenodi design, the lines crumbled almost instantly with high casualties and heroic defenses by soldier unaware of their intentional sacrifice. Through this rupture poured crimson bathed armor and vehicles electrified with the hope of attainting the upper hand on their despised enemies. Commanders and their sergeants below raced to out perform their confederates in other units. Letters of kill counts, vehicle captures and miles covered flew on local wireless networks. For almost two days letters home proclaimed the writers as part of the most important battle of the war or as the saviors of Jekotia. Some even promised to be home within months.

    Historians would later describe the Brenodi artillery barrage that halted the Jekotian advance as “the most lead poured onto the smallest area of any place at any time; ever.” Wanting to inflict the greatest number of casualties, Brenodi artillery was arrayed far behind the dug in armor so that their shells might land just before the lines. Another ring of artillery was set slightly closer so as to cut off any retreat that would surly come once the Jekotian’s realized their folly. What had been an endless sea of rolling dunes ignited into a towering inferno of sand, fire and steel. Geysers of rainbow browns sprung up from the location of each shell impact, their terminus sixty feet above the dessert floor. Such was the force of the combined weight of lead that near by dunes cascaded into sand-avalanches and fell by more than fifteen feet.
     
  2. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    More than a few Brenodi soldiers, hardened from campaigns in other theaters, turned and ran at the sight, the sounds, the very feeling of Armageddon before them. Propelled forward by their momentum, Northern Light tanks and Jeeps disintegrated into man size chunks and tumbled end over end like some sort of nightmarish tidal wave regurgitated by hell itself. From the Imperial lines that’s all you could see, hurricane force winds heavy with ash and flame and, beyond that, wall after wall of fiery artillery reports. Hairs stood up to be singed, nostrils burned and the contents of stomachs were loosened and brought forth only to be blown and scattered in the continuous man made wind. Even smells turned against the onlookers as what had been a typical medley of gun oil, sweat, nylon and sand broke into heat, sulfur, burning plastic, excrement, flesh and fear (for in the heat of battle, an intangible emotion such as fear acquires its own unforgettable aroma).

    This was only what the onlookers experienced. For those whom the barrage was intended words can not really convey the imagery, the sights sounds and emotions. When life goes from the tingling highs of hope and joy to the heart stopping stabbing pain of panic and death with but half a moment to transition, one fails to understand and begins instead to see their surroundings in swirls of color. Reds, oranges, pastels of brown and magenta, everything melts into an endless rainbow, all life, all death, all events or motions are morphed by the bewildered mind are seen, experienced, only in blobs of color. Survivors of the initial strike, there were five, recalled nothing of the event itself, professing only to have been racing through the open desert and then waking up in a field hospital. One solider went so far as to insist the story of how he arrived there was a Brenodi plot and demanded to be set free.

    Needless to say the Brenodi strike was a success. After twenty minutes of artillery and antitank fire the bulk of the Northern Faction armored column had been transformed into a sea of billowing black metal hulks. With vigor and a little bit of shock the Brenodi armor raced from their dug in positions only to discover their path blocked by the sheer number of vanquished foes. Like lines of ants whose orderly path had been blocked by a fallen twig, the Brenodi light, medium and heavy (Imperial heavy armor was fast enough to keep up with an advance) armor squished into a tangled mess of confused individuals. The leading elements, and thus those hopelessly trapped at the front of the jam, groped their way through the maze of flaming steel, trying to find a clear path out the other side. To the rear, arriving soldiers were able to spot the mass and divert around it, a ten minute detour through their own defenses.

    Within minutes the complete Imperial victory had turned into what one Commander described as a “cluster fu*k” Leading elements of the Northern Faction support regiments made an immediate withdraw, leaving layers of anti tank emplacements and light artillery to cover their retreat. As one position was set up, the forward emplacements would quickly pack up and fall back. Still lost in confusion, the few Imperial tanks that were able to make the pursuit were greeted by withering fire and forced to hold position. By the time a sufficient number of armored beasts had gathered to make a serious pursuit, their enemies had put the better part of ten miles behind them. Cursing their unexpected delay but still electrified by their triumph, the Imperial column immediately moved forward in hopes of running down what was left of the Jekotian forces. There was even talk of brining up the sole operational bomber wing with its super sonic Rapier aircraft.

    For the Jekotians the event had been a disaster, but not a complete one. Brenodi delays allowed nearly all of the support vehicles, including artillery, anti-tank guns and heavy tanks, to beat a hasty withdraw and fight another day. Their main armor, however, had been completely wiped out. Out of the 312 light and medium vehicles committed to the push, only 51 were limping behind their retreating comrades. To compound the problem, many of the “destroyed” Jekotian vehicles could and would be repaired and put into service under the black cross of the Empire. What had been over 400 angry Brenodi tanks would soon swell to over 500 with two entire elements gleaming silver and red.
     
  3. Carbon Copy

    Carbon Copy Member

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    Brilliant, just read though all of this story and #2.

    Got anymore coming anytime?
     
  4. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    Ah, well, I wasn't sure anyone still read it. I am working on something new, yes, but its for Perdition's Flame, that nice thread that has nothing in it.
     
  5. blizzerd

    blizzerd Member

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    Are you kidding me? make this into a book, even if they are only short stories
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2008
  6. Carbon Copy

    Carbon Copy Member

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    Yeah this is great, some one needs to add all the latest bits up on the wiki i think.
     
  7. Carbon Copy

    Carbon Copy Member

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    Want more =[
     
  8. Jessiah

    Jessiah Member

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  9. Wertbarg

    Wertbarg Member

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    Please say this is not the end!
     
  10. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    “It’s just not any good sir" the engineer reiterated whilst shaking the grease soaked gear assembly. "You can only nano-lathe something so many times before the molecules break down. That happened with this one" he held up the dripping gadget for his superior to see, "three times ago. The whole lot of these things are running on layers of filth and their own stubbornness."

    Lt. Commander Brocks took a long breath as he examined the defunct component. Those not familiar with the nano-lathes, or calculators as the engineers refereed to them, would think that anything could be fixed an unlimited amount of times; a sentiment Brock had shared until moments ago. But the recent race across the hills and mountains forced by the catastrophe at Köln pass had put more stress on the old Jekotian heavy tanks than they could bear. Already more than a third of the surviving behemoths had been scuttled or, if the weaponry was still in working order, incorporated into layers of defense covering the NF withdraw.

    Take what you can and put it in cue to be Airlifted to the nearest-"

    "That's not the issue" the Sergeant interrupted, dropping the part down by his side. "At the rate we're going-" he paused, shaking his head slightly. "We need more equipment or the line won't hold."

    The line the engineer spoke of was the brainchild of supreme commander Patterson himself. Without any hope of halting the Brenodi advance, what was left of the Jekotian armor had begun racing deeper into the interior of NF territory towards the Carpathian Mountains; the only barrier between Jekotia proper and the Brenodi Empire. There, backed by naturally defensible cliffs and prepared defenses, the Imperial forces would have no choice but to swing wide to avoid a head on confrontation. Moving north, the blue and black would be drawn into ever increasing labyrinths of swamps, cliffs and forests until they reached the Northern Faction’s ancestral home; the Badlands.

    Agreements had been reached with the local tribal leaders who would assist in harassing the over extended forces, drawing them deeper into the quagmire and further away from an increasingly delicate supply line. By the time brandy realized her mistake, the Jekotians would have regrouped and returned to the offensive.

    That is, of course, assuming the line held.

    “That shouldn’t be a problem” Brock offered, his eyes drifting off towards a line of brushy hills in the distance. He really hated this part of the country.

    “Know something I don’t Ell-Tee?” The Sergeant inquired without shifting his gaze. He had been to this region many times, always enjoying the hot dry air as it blew through the thick scruffy vegetation.

    Brock folded his arms and let out another sigh as his eyes once again found his guest, “Ever hear of the R-14?”

    The engineer scoffed, “The Beast? I’ve heard stories…”

    “They’re more than stories” Brock replied with a slightly dramatic draw, “a couple of months ago we discovered a small cash of them west of here. Just before Köln-“ He jerked his head back towards the site of the horrific NF defeat, “we were finally able to get one fully mapped for production. What few working models we have are already at the line.” Again his head gestured in the direction of his subject, “and others should be on their way.”

    The scruffy sergeant, as if clean cut sergeants existed, shook his head in disbelief. The R-14, or “The Beast” as it was commonly known, had been a terror of mythic proportions in the last Great War. At nearly 85 tones she was essentially a rolling slab of steel. In combat, two decades ago, a single Beast was known to have stared down no less than twelve Brenodi attackers and then only withdrawing when it had run out of ammunition. Its main canon was capable of hurling a 105mm shell through several inches of armor plate from thousands of yards away. Her slow speed and hefty bulk made an appealing, but frustrating, target for Imperial bombers who, try as they might, usually failed to halt what became known as a force of nature. Of course, that was twenty-five years ago and Brenodi technology had advanced but still, The Beast would be a powerful asset to the Faction.

    “Don’t worry” Brock offered after letting his news sink in for a moment, “by this time next year we’ll be standing on Brenodi soil again.”

    -- Krag Island, Imperial Command Vehicle--

    “We have to hit them here!” Borodin almost shouted, his figure jabbing a glowing area on the map, tiny discolorations radiating out from every blow. “It’s our only real option.”

    The older General, in the Imperial Army leaders who weren’t in the field carried different designations, scowled into the warmly glowing display. Borodin had become a rapidly rising star in a sky that had long ago established its constellations. The island hopping assignment had meant to snuff out the Commander’s glow before it began to over power those around it. Instead, with impossible victories coming one after another, the shine had only intensified and gained the attention of the Senate’s Master of Arms, the civilian authority to which the military must answer. When Borodin got wind of the events at Köln Pass and the build up of Factional forces in the Carpathian Mountains, he wasted no time in using some of his new found clout to gain a conference with the clearly displeased General.

    “It would be a blood bath,” He spoke with the kind of distain one generates when talking to someone who could never understand your point of view. “And their position has left open a massive lane into which we can move.”

    Borodin dropped his head in disgust and leaned forward on the consol, resting his weight on out stretched fists, “Of course it has, General.” He replied with apparent restraint, “We are meant to follow that lane and get lost in its swamps. Six months of hit and run attacks is all our supply lines could take before our entire force looses its cohesion. It’s exactly what the Jekotians want.”

    “The Imperial Army is more than capable of defending its supply lines against marauders and bandits!” The white haired General spat with offense.

    “Like it can keep the Jekotian populace in line?” Borodin snapped back with distain laced words of his own.

    For a moment it looked as if the insulted, but silenced, older man would simply cut the transmission and leave the insubordinate officer to rot in the island jungles. Instead, a deeper sense of duty, or perhaps fear of the Master of Arms, took hold. “What you’re suggesting is suicide.”

    “What I’m suggesting,” Borodin replied quickly, not wanting to loose his momentum, “will end the war in a year.” He paused for effect. “We hit them hard, right here.” Again his outstretched finger jabbed the glowing blue map before him, “right at the center of their line. They won’t expect it and, if we hit it hard enough and long enough it will shatter. They simply don’t have anything left to replace the losses we inflict. They are betting everything, sir, on our weak stomachs.”

    Clinched teeth and a long breath betrayed the wrinkled man whose image was flying from hundreds of miles away. A tiny ray of wisdom had begun to chip away at the darkness of tradition, skepticism and pride that dominated so many military mean after they reach a certain age. “It’s not about numbers Commander,” When he spoke, the Generals voice was several degrees cooler and boasted a sympathetic, almost grandfather like tone; the same voice he no doubt used with his own grand children. “These are men with families, not pieces on a game board to be gambled away.”

    “General,” Borodin responded, much of his own fever having drained away. “How many more lives would we save in years to come if we end it now? One massive blow and its over. How many lives would you wager to end it all?”

    The stocky older gentleman took in a long breath as he sat up and then leaned back in his plush black leather chair. His dark blue uniform, which always seemed to be too big or too stiff on older people, pushed forward and gave the illusion of a massive barrel chest bristling with metals and awards. The General had seen his fair share of combat in his time- a time many years before Borodin had even been born.

    “I’ll discuss it with the General Staff.” Was all that Borodin heard before the monitor blinked off and filled the busy room once again with an ocean of darkness and pale blue light.

    In a corner, leaning against one of the three map tables, Charles, his arms folded and a smile on his face, laughed. “That was fun. You owe me a beer.”
     
  11. Jessiah

    Jessiah Member

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  12. blizzerd

    blizzerd Member

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    neatoes
     
  13. Tovarich Cookie

    Tovarich Cookie Member

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  14. Zealoth

    Zealoth Member

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    Wow



    Just wow.
     
  15. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    Wait, was that a bad wow or a good wow?
     
  16. Sheepe

    Sheepe Member

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    I believe that was a ShamWow!
     
  17. Angry

    Angry Junior Member

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    I can has back in this shit Don?
     
  18. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    "Foxtrot 7! Come again Foxtrot 7? Over?"

    "We've lost them Sir"

    The Brenodi tank commander slammed his headset onto the steel floor of the turret, screaming in rage "Damn it!"

    A few feet below, the driver, who found little to do when the tank was halted, and the intelligence officer, who also operated the radio, exchanged concerned glances. Foxtrot squadron had been in more or less continuous combat for three days amongst the rocky out cropping and scrub brush of the Jekotian piedmont, the gateway to the Badlands. Aside from the typical rigors of poor food, little sleep and cramped quarters, the squadron of two light, four medium and a single heavy command tank had preformed admirably, claiming 32 Jekotian kills without permanent loss. Not even the newly deployed Beast was safe from the deadly combination of Brenodi training, technology and equipment, Foxtrot having dispatched two of the monsters alone.

    The past two hours, however, had seen a startling reversal in fortunes. Contact was lost with Foxtrot Six, one of the two new "Tumbler" light reconnaissance tanks assigned to Foxtrot, just after the break of dawn. Believing it to be the victim of an isolated Jekotian ambush, the squadron commander reported the activity and dispatched three of his four medium tanks to flush them out. Almost immediately he realized his error, as first one, then another medium tank fell silent, the recipient of a single, powerful blow. The lone survivor, Foxtrot Four, managed to report muzzle flashes coming from an escarpment 2,000 yards to the north before it took refuge behind one of its flaming comrades. Quickly Foxtrot One radioed in for air support but was told the assets were in use elsewhere. With few options, he ordered the remaining Tumbler to go wide and scout out the enemy position but avoid contact. Foxtrot Seven only managed 1,200 yards before it too, fell silent.

    Commander Bartwell, who held the rank of Sergeant but commanded a tank squadron and thus carried the moniker, buried his sweat-covered face into his callused hands. Every leader who orders men into battle carries the weight of their lives within their soul. They see their faces, hear their laughs, recall things they said about wives and children and family, their plans for the future. When those men perish, especially while following orders, their deaths can be felt as acutely as if they had been their own.

    "Commander?' The information officer asked after allowed the briefest of moments for Bartwell to experience his grief, "I have Foxtrot Four on the wire, they have survivors from Three and Five."

    Bartwell's head shot up before plunging immediately back down to search for the discarded communicator. After a few moments of fumbling around in the well-lit commander's copula, he emerged, beginning to speak before the unit was again on his ear. "Bob? How many?"

    The response was quick, but the voice worn. "We've gotten everyone from Foxtrot Three Sir, Five was a complete brew-up"

    Bartwell's eyes squeezed shut trying to shut out the images seen only in his mind. A "brew-up" meant some flammable portion of the vehicle, usually the ammunition magazine, had been struck and ignited, causing the entire tank to erupt in flames. "Put Three actual on" he forced out, taking his free hand to blot out the beginnings of a tear.

    A slight jostling could be heard as the Information Officer activated and distributed one of the spare headsets. In the background the muscular hums of the tank's engine and the crackle of near by flames began to emerge; the Imperial refugees had to ride on the outside of the surviving medium. "Sir?"

    "Frank" Bartwell began, using the sergeant’s first name, "What happened?"

    Sergeant Frank Heyward responded with the same even, levelheaded forethought that had elevated him to the position of tank commander. "It came out of nowhere. A single round penetrated the gun mantle, went through the turret and down into the engine compartment. Almost took my gunner's arm off."

    Frank's superior nodded in understanding despite being separated by several hundred yards and twenty inches of armor plate. "What about Five?"

    "Same" he responded quickly, "We were in the process of bailing out when Five was hit. They never had a chance. We were fortunate Sir."

    Bartwell's eyes drifted down and to the right in thought, only partially hearing the last of Frank's words. If Three's crew was in the process of bailing out before the second round hit, the weapon must have a very slow rate of fire. Could be an advantage... "Thanks Sergeant" he said after toying with his dangerous notion a while longer, "Put Bob back on"

    "I'm here commander" Robert Dozier said immediately, having been on the entire time.

    "Bob" he began, "I'm going to move into your area and draw their fire. We should be able to take a few more hits than you. As soon-" he said raising his voice over his subordinate's objections, "as you hear the shot you make for the rally point. Don't slow down. We'll be right behind you. Good luck" He hit the mute button and switched over to internal communications "Inform Command of our situation and our plans. Remind them of our request for air support and don't spare the curses. John," he said turning his attention from the Information Officer to the driver, "Bring us wide of Four and take it slow, I want to surprise their gunner by our top speed if we can."

    The dark gray-blue mountain of destruction that was the Brenodi heavy jumped into motion. Despite its bulk, the hybrid electric plasma drive produced smooth, graceful motions unbefitting of its mass. Attached at random intervals along its surface, spare parts, equipment lockers and other bits of gear that always seem to collect on the outside of military vehicles, vibrated in harmony with the engine, expelling the layer of dust each had collected while sitting. The engine itself created only a mild hum that was easily overcome by the reverberating tackle latched on the outside and the unavoidable squeak and groan of track links pivoting around one another. Together the lumbering amalgamation of metals surged forward toward an uncertain future.

    Around them the disappointing terrain crumbled in submission, the wide tracks and incredible weight of the tank easily overcoming every combination of rock or plant. The Jekotian Piedmont could not be called a mountainous area, nor would it come close to qualifying as flat. Instead, there existed a random allotment of hills, rocks, trees and rugged plant life that survived on a much lower amount of water than their counterparts elsewhere. Yet, the area was not quite desert in nature, with plants, although brown and withered, abounding. For tankers the advance was becoming more and more difficult, each rocky outcropping, shallow depression, or patch of trees potentially concealing a rebel armored vehicle left behind to slow their path.

    Thus Commander Bartwell maintained diligent watch over the landscape around him, his eyes sharply criticizing any unsavory locale. In the past, a commander would be forced to open the turret hatch and expose himself to fire but in the era of high-powered optics and infrared this was unnecessary. Instead, each Brenodi tank commander was given a set of goggles providing a bird's eye view right above their machine with various visual modes and optics settings. It was a great advantage over their Jekotian cousins.

    "Steady ahead" he ordered the unseen driver, "Gunner, load HE"

    To his right the gunner jabbed his finger at the munitions panel to select a high explosive shell from the magazine. Almost instantly, the thick blast door separating the turret occupants from dozens of shells slid open to present a large, brass cylinder. Already waiting, the gunner removed the round and slid it expertly into the open breach before hitting the lever and slamming it closed. Most heavy tanks boasted twin canons but Bartwell had opted for more armor and electronic counter measures, after all, it was his command tank.
     
  19. DonMegel

    DonMegel Member

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    A small red indicator light appeared inside the virtual world of the commander's display letting him know the main gun was ready. Bartwell activated the aiming reticule and brought it to bear on the most logical location for the enemy assailant, atop the highest hill, around 2,000 yards away. Slowly the small dot marking the actual location of the gun slid into place beneath the reticule and both flashed with satisfaction. Bartwell smiled. Of course Brenodi tanks had traditional optic lenses that could be utilized to fire the gun by the gunner, but why should they have all of the fun?

    "Five minutes" the driver announced over the com.

    The tank commander's smile faded. He hated the waiting, which was so often the majority of a tanker's duty. Waiting for orders, waiting to reach the destination, waiting for the enemy to arrive, waiting for them to find you, waiting for the shells to hit, waiting to see if your armor holds, waiting to see if the tank will move after a firefight, waiting to see who lives and who dies. So little is action and so great the time allowed to think of said action's outcome , it was a wonder any of them were sane; some said they weren't.

    An incredible thud and pang tore the crew from their similar musings. Around them the entire tank shuttered and reverberated with the sound of the impact like a massive bronze bell struck with a steel hammer. At once the commander adjusted his sites a few inches to the left, or hundreds of feet down range, onto the tiny white puff from which the strike had come. The heavy tank's mighty gun belched a fiery response, hurling its own projectile amidst a terrific crack and flash of exploding propellant. Immediately, following orders, the smaller medium tank leapt from its hiding place and sped towards the relative safety of the nearby hill.

    Within the turret a sharp clang and metallic thud preceded the weapon ready light as the gunner loaded another round. Again the Brenodi tank shook with anger, expelling fire and shot against the unseen demon that dared obstruct its path. Again the sharp clang of an empty shell hitting the deck, the fine abrasive sound of metal on metal denoting another entering the chamber, and metallic thud of the breech slamming shut. The report of the third round dominated the cabin and jolted the crew to their core.

    "That should do" Bartwell said after checking to see his wayward medium tank was nearly to safety, "get us the hell out of here, full reverse!"
    Wearily he eyed the location of the now burning hillside that had been the origination of the white smoke a minute earlier. He looked down at the blinking indicator light informing him of the fresh shell but decided against it. The tank had already begun moving and an unexpected jolt could throw off the stabilizers and, in turn, the shot.

    Partially satisfied, the commander turned to see Foxtrot Four crest the hill, below witch lay safety, before bursting gloriously into a massive ball of black and orange flame. For a brief moment he just stared at the scene, not quite registering what had transpired, like a civilian watching a war film from the safety of his home. Blown completely free of its mount, the medium turret landed in the heavy tank's path forcing it to an abrupt stop and shocking Bartwell back into reality. Enraged, he spun back around in time to see another little white plume of smoke rising higher into the pale yellow sky, mingling lazily with the fires around it.

    With no thought of accuracy, Bartwell jabbed the fire release, violently rocking the heavy tank with the reverberations of the main gun. Unsurprisingly, the un-aimed round went wide of the target, vanquishing a small plot of crooked trees, but the commander was too blinded by rage to care. Again he jabbed the release and again his mammoth machine belched a fiery projectile in the general direction of the threat. "Driver!" He bellowed after the second round obliterated a bush, "Advance full!"

    Forward and below, the driver, unaccustomed to reckless orders, hesitated. "Commander-"

    "Damnit!" the commander screamed, "I said MOVE!"

    An engrained compulsion to follow orders overruled the instinct to survive within the young man and the tank surged forward. Nearby, the Information Officer was vehemently requesting air support, spicing up the conversation with explicative and threats as ordered, not that the order had been needed, the soldier knew their fate was in the hands of others. Above them, the gunner slammed closed the breach moments before the mighty cannon flung back in recoil once more. The boy, for scarcely could he be called a man, had not a single moment to consider the events transpiring else where within the tank, let alone outside it. He was far to busy loading shells as quickly as they could be presented from the magazine.

    The commander's virtual eye hovered over the bluish black warhorse as it lumbered onward. Around him he could see the tiny figures of rebels scurrying about in surprise, lunging from their hiding spots like foxes driven by hounds. Bartwell paid them little attention; it was the puff of white smoke he sought, or, more specifically, its originator.

    As if to confirm the commander's course, the white puff reappeared on the expanding hill, followed by an impossibly fast streak of light and darkness. It was a strange thing to experience, watching a projectile approach, it was moving far too fast to see and yet, observers would swear it could be seen. To the commander it wasn't moving fast at all; on the contrary, it crawled towards him and his crew. Bartwell eyed it with distain, concentrating the force of his hatred into wall through which nothing could pass. Unfortunately, he failed to inform the projectile of this invisible wall.

    The round impacted on the forward edge of the turret, easily tearing through the corner of the armor and skirting down the surface before plowing into the turret ring. There, deprived of much of its energy, it exploded into dozens of razor sharp fragments, each traveling in a different direction, both in and out of the heavy tank. Overwhelmed by sounds and tactile sensations of the impact, the commander tore the visor from his face and looked around the now dark, smoke filled turret. As the darkness fell victim to his adjusting pupils he noticed first the gunner who was busily going about some business through the floor hatch that lead to the main cabin. On closer inspection, he saw the boys arms cached in blood.

    "Report?" he asked, wiping eyes that had begun to water from the acrid smoke.

    The young man looked up at his commander with fear and trepidation on his face. "Sam-" he began, but quickly corrected himself, "Officer Cadwell is wounded sir"

    "He’s' dead commander" the unseen driver announced from deeper in the vehicle, "we are still advancing along your previous course"

    Un-phased by the unceremonious declaration of death, the gunner returned to his futile efforts to treat the dead man. It was the corps's blood the commander saw on the boy, it seemed to be everywhere in the cabin below. The commander could not see the Information officer himself, but imagined the wound must have been a grievous one.

    "Private Matthews" Bartwell spat, trying to pull the gunner from his shock driven exercise, "I need the status of the main gun"

    The boy shook his head, "I have to help Sam..."

    Bartwell's tone softened, "I'll tend to Sam, you go check on the gun"

    Matthews' brow wrinkled in concern. He looked once more at the deceased and then back at his commander. "Yes Sir"

    As the boy straightened to inspect the gun Bartwell attempted to lend a hand of support but found it refused to obey. Looking down with more confusion than fear, he discovered a mangled stump of flesh where his right arm had once been. Still more curious than concerned, he looked about the turret for a few moments in search of the missing appendage before discovering it in a corner surrounded by blood. With the relief of someone who had found a matching sock instead of an arm, he knelt down to retrieve the limb but instead toppled over. Bewildered, the commander attempted to right himself only to fall once more. Quickly he inspected the rest of his body to ensure no more appendages had taken leave. Pleased, he tried again, and failed, to stand, but this time he continued falling, further and further, down a very dark tunnel. Smaller and smaller the light contracted, stealing the life from the world around him. The last thought that struggled through the commander's mind before blood loss rendered him unconsciousness was embarrassment; what would his crew think of commander who could not get off the floor?

    Hours later, after the hill had been obliterated by the tardy Brenodi Air force, the survivors of Foxtrot Squadron were thoroughly interviewed about the events of the day. For most, the story was the same; vague theories about what could have occurred, but one, the young gunner from the command tank, had a different interpretation. He said the attacker was not Jekotian, but rather something much more sinister, something darker, something from the scriptures; an Abomination of Desolation.
     
  20. Paradox

    Paradox I am a gigantic asshole who loses people's hard wo

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    Uber strong hemg rounds?:)
     

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