Note: This piece contains strong language.
“Hold the line!”
The Commandant’s voice cut through the din of battle. Rissen’s grip on the slender rifle tightened and he brought it resolutely to his eye line. He aligned the two-metre-long barrel of the weapon at the distant Tihken soldiers on the other side of the valley, propping a foot against the mossy rock to steady his hand.
Placing his sights in the middle of the pin-prick cluster of enemies, he angled up about a half degree for each mile of distance. They must have been at least four or five miles away. About there. Hold. Steady…
The roar of sixty-something Fusilar rifles bursting to life in unison was like the sound of an exploding building. The air shuddered and heaved, as a salvo of glowing pulses lanced out toward the opposite mountainside. Moments after he pulled the trigger, the pulses hit their target and spread a canon of explosions along the hill.
Then as if in answer, white hot projectiles screamed toward them and smashed into the line. The ground seemed to tip over and throw him back.
Everything went quiet for a heartbeat, and then sounds gradually returned like someone turning the volume back up on a stereo.
He sat up. There were bodies strewn about, some only recognisable as Legionnaires by the tattered remains of blue-grey fabric and the occasional shattered helmet.
He turned to see a young man running toward him in a stooped gait. The soldier’s posture made no difference to survivability; a subconscious action not a tactical one.
“Where’s the Commandant, Jack?”
“Dead.” Jack replied simply. “We have to reform to the line.”
“Fuck the line.”
“No. We’re regrouping, now.”
“I’m not standing there to die. There’s no sense in that.”
“Rissen!” Jack barked. “We fire in unison. We’ve got to resume the line.” He shook Rissen’s shoulder to try and wrench him from the daze.
Rissen knew the man was right. The Fusilar rifle carried by the Commonwealth Legionnaire used a particle destabiliser that, put simply, set off a chain reaction like a firestorm. As such, Commonwealth armies fought in close formation using two ranks firing a barrage of shots then falling back alternately. The Tihken army didn’t have the Fusilar, but they did have a heck of a lot of artillery.
“On your feet.” Jack said encouragingly. “You die if you give up.”
“You die if you fight.” Rissen argued, somewhat feebly. He could feel the blood pounding through him, reminding him of his mortal frailty.
Jack smiled grimly then lifted Rissen to his feet. “Kill ‘em before they kill you, remember? That’s how the game works.”
Yes, the game. It’s all just a game to them…