by Max Barry

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by Upper asylum islands. . 26 reads.

World War IV: With Sticks and Stones

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

-Albert Einstein

World War 3 was 300 years ago. The date is now 2350.

Humans have evolved to adapt to the new surroundings. The combatants in WW3, the Molotov Pact v.s NATO, spanned all the continents, cost about 6 billion lives, saw the usage of scores of unconventional weapons, and wiped thousands of cities off the map. The usage of nuclear weapons created nuclear fallout that caused disease and death. The once beautiful Earth became a wasteland.

Now, jungles, forests, wastelands, and blue ocean once more cover the Earth. But the human mind never gives up its twisted ways. The production of guns has begun, but the advancement of the 21st century and beyond has been lost. Guns like the Thompson SMG, bolt-action rifles, and simple machine guns are making a comeback, but advanced weapons like chemical gas, planes, tanks, or heavy artillery has not been re-invented. And the time of world-spanning empires has returned.

-The Nordic Empire covers Scandinavia, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the northwestern part of Poland, Austria, Belgium, part of northeastern France, and some other territories.

-Mamlaka, the Islamic Empire, stretches from the five “stans” and north Afghanistan in the east, to Morocco in the west.

-Israel is the only nation that stands in Mamlaka’s way, protected by its non-aggression pact with Mamlaka.

-Hindustan has expanded from India, conquering Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and southern Afghanistan. Hindustan has taken extreme action against muslims and christians in the country, deporting them to Mamlakan territories in exchange for either Hindus or money.

-The Japanese Empire has exerted its dominance over the Pacific, the Philippines, Korea, and Indochina.

-The Japanese are in direct competition with the Yan Empire, which covers China, Mongolia, and parts of Indochina.

-Ruthenia covers Russia, and exerts power over Eastern Europe.

The once great superpower of America has become colonized by several powers. The coast of California has been conquered by Japan, the south mainly conquered by Mexico, the east coast conquered by the,

-The Iberian Empire, which covers Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, southern Britain.

The rest of the world either exists as smaller free empire or kingdoms, or as colonies of the above powers.

Corporal William Sutherland
Park, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Approx 550m from Learmount Castle.
1:21 PM / 13:11 GMT.
5th of January, 2350.
2nd Ptn., I "Ink" Sqd., 5th/6th Btn., 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoon Regiment

The freezing cold choked out Sutherland's breath as he watched his section move through the fenced roads of Park. Before the last great war, these fields and roads were moderate in their climate, gentle in their temperature, but the nuclear fission laid waste to the isles, and now a period of nothing but harsh snow in winter times faced Ireland and Ulster in specific. The crops had been frozen and the people were hungry. The catholics and protestants that survived the nuclear blasts went on to continue the divides and struggles between them, and a band of Irish nationalists were starting a feud over a loss of food at the nearby Learmount Castle manor.

William's platoon marched in formation, with his section as the headpiece of the march. Sutherland announced that lance corporal Joseph Brannigan's fireteam, that was nearly made up of all-Irish volunteers, should form the head of the formation. Sutherland rode alongside lance corporal George B. Wilson, who was his favourite fireteam leader, and an English emigré. The two tried to talk comfortably, which was extremely difficult due to the freezing temperatures. At about 230m further, you could only hear some very quiet mumbling, as the dragoons were so cold that they'd rather sit there, trying to warm themselves, than go about their way spending energy on useless conversation. The silence was incredible.

Sutherland looked over to 2nd lieutenant John Drummond, his platoon leader and also an Ulsterman. He wondered what his platoon was doing out here, in these snowy catholic hills. There'd been a dispute over at Learmount castle, because the Irish populace felt that they were being treated unfairly. The Beresfords, a Saxon noble family, owned about 8,000 acres of land, and they were distributing food and hot soup to the hungry and the starving. The Beresfords were loyalists, and had always been most friendly with local Ulster-Scots, not so much with the Irish populace that spoke a different language and had a hugely different culture to them, though. Sutherland had met Henry Barré Berresford, the landowner, and he was on good terms with him, but even Sutherland realised that a fallout between the protestant landowners and the catholic labourers could've been the result of unfair treatment.

The platoon were sitting there, moving across these poles and this road of elevated land, when a dragoon from Brannigan's fireteam rang out a shout. The redhead named O'Brien fell from his horse, and William tried to see what was going on. He didn't see anything. The horses were panicking, and some dropped to the ground. A volley of shots came from the ditches surrounding the road, and men in white fur came out. Their rifles and guns were outdated, but they damaged the dragoons' morale and fighting power quite a lot. Sutherland, who was an excellent horseman, dismounted from his horse and forced "Belle" to the ground, so that he could use it as cover, and so that it wouldn't be shot by standing out in the open. He carefully loaded his rifle .303 by .303, as there were no stripper clips or chargers for this carbine, and after putting in five rounds, he loaded the rifle and looked to his sides. He could hear the shouts of men around him, as he tried to straighten his visually distressed face. He took his bayonet, and attached it to his carbine, while mumbling out the words "Lord help me", he then got up and let go of his horse, jumped into the ditch on his right, and looked an Irish rebel in dirty grey and white cloth straight in the eye. He unloaded his carbine, and rotated the bolt, ready for another shot. The shouts around him continued, and he looked around to see whether anybody was assaulting him. He saw a man with a thick red beard enclosing from behind, and he quickly turned about, launching the bayonet attached to his carbine into his gut.

William pulled his carbine out, but it simply sat there while the man was slowly meeting his end. He had to kick the bayonet off of the man as to stop it from being stuck. Then, he saw a rebel gouging for the lieutenant with a large wooden club. Platoon leader Drummond was smacked in the head with force, and immediately fell to the ground. Sutherland aimed his carbine for the rebel with the club, shot, and missed. He pulled back his bolt and opened fire again, after which he hit the rebel. He intended to pull back the bolt once more before he heard a cry behind him. His body turned around completely, with the Enfield resting in front of him. A man was running towards him with a long knife. The rebel nearly ran onto Sutherland's bayonet, but braced himself and flung the knife at his opponent. Corporal Sutherland dodged the attack, and swung at the man with the butt of his rifle. He, too, narrowly missed, and the rebel tried to stab William, when he cleverly maneuvered to his left and gave him a low-stab in his lung. The rebel fell, and William rotated his bolt, looking for more rebels, but the fighting died down, and the only cries that you could hear were those of the wounded and half-dead. William walked over to his lieutenant, who had fallen face-down in the snow, and turned him around, to see that he was still breathing. He called out to a private of his section to load the platoon leader onto a horse, and to get him back to base to tell their company commander about what had occurred here. The private responded faithfully and made his way down to the barracks. William and the rest of the men started looting the Irish bodies, looking for valuables, caring to their wounded, and honouring their dead.

On the body of the bearded man that he'd slain with his bayonet, he found a gold necklace with a cross on it, which he put in his breast pocket to sell off later on. The troops then evacuated their dead and wounded, and pushed the rebel bodies to the side of the road. Fenians would have to care for their own, not the British army's job to take care of such trivial things. Most of the horses had been slain, so non-commissioned officers rode whatever horses were still around, while enlisted men who had dismounted had to go on on foot. Sutherland instead gave his horse to a man with minor injuries, and decided to march with his men. His breath, icy as the wind, was clear to see, although the field around the men were so damp, and the fog nearly blinded them. Every step, every breath, William's hatred for the Irish and the godless grew and grew. "We need to get out of this land of the godless and pale devils, burn their crops and mutilate their men.", he thought, thinking about how Brannigan's "Irish section" was completely wiped out in a matter of seconds.

Corporal William Sutherland
600m outside of Limavady, county Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
6:34 PM / 18:34 GMT.
8th of January, 2350.
2nd Ptn., I "Ink" Trp., 5th/6th Btn., 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoon Regiment

The bright flames lit bright on this dark winter evening. The torches that the dragoons brought with them were meant to warm them, and to brighten up the way. A mere three days ago, 8 soldiers fell during a Fenian ambush, with 3 others dying of their wounds at a field infirmary. This time, corporal Sutherland volunteered to lead the formation. His troop was once again moving out, a total of 36 men, most of them being Ulstermen. His section, "Baker section", moved first, and cleared the dark by holding their burning torches before them. The dark was meant to scare off lone Fenians from attacking, and the men were told to bring torches as to look more sinister. They were on their way to Limavady, a town where local disputes were getting out of hand.

The formation quietly marched alongside a kill, following the trail down to the frozen plots of farmlands surrounding them. Sutherland looked around him, and his section looked fresh and sturdy. He wasn't going to end like Brannigan. The march was much more relaxed this time, with casual conversation and banter going on about the ranks, because the troops warmed themselves with their torches. He looked behind him. His section was followed by George section, a newly recruited force of Englishmen who'd fought on the southern front against the Iberians. William had always been suspicious of the troops, as they seemed so hardened yet reckless. He thought that, if 2nd Platoon was going to run into any more ambushes, that the Englishmen may overreact and commit atrocities on the innocent. Corporal Sutherland hadn't seen a single Irish volunteer stabbing the innocent or those that did no harm, it were only the veterans of other wars that got up to Ireland, because they couldn't get employed elsewhere.

Their relentlessness on the field could scare Irishmen into rebelling against the government, fearing death and oppression. He looked at the Englishmen, whose uniforms looked fresh and thick, with the khaki perfectly manifesting itself in one uniform colour, while that of Sutherland had partially been smeared with mud, which showed. Their Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles were more precise, and could be reloaded with chargers, or stripper clips. Opening the bolt, forcing down two 5-round chargers, closing the bolt, and you had a very precise rifle with ten shots. Their firepower strongly outmatched his. Aside from their better equipment, these Englishmen were also paid 15 shillings a day! 15! They were very full of themselves, and, although they did happily cooperate with Sutherland and other Ulstermen, they avoided the all-Irish sections. They had also volunteered to be the first in line, but due to excellent behaviour in the barracks, Baker section was allowed the honour of leading it.

Most men in Baker section disliked heading the formation, as it was very dangerous out here in rebel territory. They were, however, happy with the fact that their section leader rode at the head, and showed them the way. Sutherland only volunteered to be up front so that he could keep check of English George section behind him, to stop them from acting ruthlessly. William spotted four small wooden cottages at about 80m distance. Corporal Sutherland ordered the march to halt, to inspect the houses and to get some more water for the horses. Sutherland talked to sergeant-major Arthur Campbell, and explained his thoughts, and Campbell inclined. Sutherland dismounted his horse, and kept his carbine slung over his shoulder. Section commander corporal John C. Montague of George section, also dismounted and followed Sutherland to the five houses that stood near another. The cottages were quite small, and William expected the people who lived there to be Irish, due to the bad circumstances the houses were in. "Ulstermen don't live in these humps of s**t", William thought. He knocked on the building in the centre of the small square, hoping to get an answer. Behind him stood corporal Montague, SMLE in his hands. After knocking on the door, Sutherland turned to Montague with a gleeful, forced smile. "Hope there's anybody in there", he said, with that big friendly smile on his face. William's torch was still in his hands, while Montague gave his to a private in his section. '

The small wooden door opened, and a short semi-bald man stepped out. William believed him to be around the age of 60.

"Yes, hello sir, we were wondering whether we could get some fresh water for our horses. Is there a well somewhere that we could use?"

The bald man was visually frightened of the procession of the fiery horsemen, and walked to an old well at the left side of his house.

"This here be our well, sir. There's not much water in there anymore, but I truly hope it helps you and the horses." he said, looking at his shoes. Corporal Sutherland was about to thank the man, when Montague shouted "You're talking to a member of the British army, behave like it!" The bald man, who spoke with an Irish accent, looked at corporal Montague in a shocked manner. He then looked over to Sutherland. Montague struck the man with the butt of his rifle, and forced him down to the ground. "Stand straight, old man! You ought to have some manners!"

The old man seemed in pain and raised his hands, as to signal surrender. Sutherland looked over to Montague, whose rifle was pointed at the man's head. The English corporal had his finger on his trigger, and, although Sutherland knew this wasn't right, looked over to his sergeant-major so that he could look away from what was about to happen. He heard a shot, and then looked in front of him to see whether the deed had been done. Before him laid the old man, but he appeared to be healthy and OK. To his right, he heard Montague's body fall to the ground, with a bullet having pierced his cap.

"Dismount! Get to cover!", the corporal ordered, and the men dismounted their horses. Sutherland got to cover, and noticed that the firing was coming from the house. He took the firearm off his shoulder and laid it on his stomach, throwing the torch into the wooden building. Some men saw this, and started doing the same, throwing the torch into the straw roof, which quickly caught fire. Corporal Sutherland then took his carbine and looked up from his position. The troop had concentrated fire on the building, and the old man who had given them the information about the well flinched around on the ground, trying not to get hit. He tried to get up and run away, but Sutherland aimed his gun and fired from about point blank range, and the man dropped to the ground dead.

"Concentrate fire!" corporal Sutherland ordered, and watched the dragoons, most dismounted, firing at the lone marksman in the house. The first house started burning down, and shouting and crying could be heard from within. Hearing the noise, a family from the house to the left rushed out to see what was going on, only to then be gunned down by George section. A woman and two daughters died in that muddy ditch, being gunned down by those SMLEs. The other families seeing this were too afraid to leave their houses, but the burning spread, and the two other houses caught fire fairly quickly, with the families inside burning to death. A girl around the William's age tried to run out of her house, burning as her clothing caught fire, but Baker section ruthlessly didn't allow her to leave her house. Five casualties were recorded on the civilian side, two on the British side. Corporal Montague and lance corporal Smith had both died as a result of sniper fire. There had been more deaths on the civilian side, though, but they had not been recorded as they were now ash. The soldiers were ordered to dig a mass grave for the five dead by sergeant-major Campbell, who acted as a steadholder for subaltern Drummond while he was recovering from the blow to his head.

The corporal and lance corporal were buried at the side of the road, in two separate graves. The troop then fed and tended to the horses, and resumed its way down to Limavady, to solve the dispute. Sergeant major Campbell ordered Sutherland's baker section and corporal Barragher's cork section to move back to their barracks near Londonderry, to report the situation to their company commander, major Charles P. B. Evans, which they did successfully.

The trip back to the suburbs of Derry was relatively casual and uneventful, except for the freezing snow that once again harassed the 21 men. Once at the Company HQ, Corporal Sutherland explained the situation to the Major, and told him that they were not sure whether Campbell's group made it through the kill trail alive. The soldiers had been calling the roads south the "Kill trails". It originally started as a name from an Irish volunteer, because the roads followed the ice cold creeks that the Irish called kills, but the name started gaining traction when more and more patrols were ambushed by rebels there. Other popular names were the "Blood road", or "Blood trail", but soldiers who used that name would sometimes be punished for defeatism, so "Kill trail" stuck.

Corporal Sutherland then visited the recovering lieutenant Drummond, and found himself to be promoted to the rank of sergeant by his platoon leader. He still "only" commanded a section, but the rank gave him more leverage in the field, and he would act as the second-in-command of sergeant-major Campbell.

Sergeant William Sutherland
Enniskillen castle, Enniskillen, county Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
1:48 PM / 13:48 GMT
12th of January, 2350.
2nd Ptn., I "Ink" Sdr., 5th/6th Btn., 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoon Regiment

"Sergeant Sutherland.." William said, looking up at the sky. "Can you believe that, Harry? Sergeant Sutherland? Has a brilliant ring to it if you ask me."

Henry Gallagher, a lance corporal and fireteam leader in William's section replied: "Sutherland, it might suit you better to shut your mouth. An arrogant sergeant makes a great corporal, you know?" William saw Henry taking another drag from his cigarette.

"God's sake, Harry, I'm comfortable, not arrogant. Do you think I'd be bragging about my promotion while being on a horse, in the dreaded Irish snow?" Sutherland laughed, leaning into the rock that he was laying on. "I say, these rocks might not be perfectly comfortable, but I'd rather have a painful back than a sniper's bullet in my head."

"Best to quit that kind of talk, don't you think, sergeant? Last thing Campbell wants to hear is defeatist smack, especially when it's linked to George section. Let 'em hear one word of what you're saying, and you'll find yourself in a court, being tried by some English lord this-and-that."

William laughed at the suggestion, but also quietly agreed with Gallagher. "Aye, good thinking Harry. Best to shut my mouth."

The two watched troops pass in and out of the castle before them. Even an occasional officer wandering about. Their squadron hadn't received any orders to move out, so the men just quietly waited there.

Sutherland had fallen asleep, laying there, on that great big rock, when Harry woke him up. "Lieutenant Drummond's about. Wake up you old dog." William energetically sprung up, leaving the blanket on the stone. The two of them had taken off their caps, but besides that, they were in full service dress. Drummond was walking straight at them. Sutherland was amazed by the fact that Drummond was up and about already. His head was completely bandaged, and the only thing really sticking out were his eyes. Sutherland brushed off his khaki cap, and put it on, signaling to lance corporal Gallagher that he should do so too.'

The lieutenant was now approximately six meters away from them, and Sutherland offered him a salute. The lieutenant saluted back, and ordered the men to stand at ease.

"Sutherland, we've sat around for too long. Regimental HQ has decided that we're unfit to face the Fenians. They're moving us down to England. We're traveling to Londonderry at 6:30 AM by train, where a ferry will send us to Cairnryan at around 9. Inform the men in your section, sergeant."

William was visually surprised with the march order, as he had heard stories from the southern front, and cavalry would surely be slaughtered there.

"W-Will do, lieutenant. We'll be up and ready at 6, sir."

Sutherland really expected a more warm, friendly conversation, but that didn't occur, and he was too embarrassed to ask how his head was doing, as the conversation was so formal. The platoon leader then wandered off to tell the other NCOs the news. He looked at the lance corporal without saying a word, then took his blanket off his rock and went: "Well, time to pack up then." in a disappointed manner.

He walked through the field in front of Enniskillen castle, with the blanket rapped around his shoulder and the lance corporal waggling along behind him. Once he'd finally reached the sturdy wooden barracks, he told his section to pack up all the things they didn't need tomorrow or today, and to make sure that they were ready to visit Derry at 6:00 AM. The people in his section seemed to be disappointed, but he couldn't change the orders provided to him by his lieutenant. Hell, the lieutenant couldn't even change the orders that were given to him. They were probably given to him by the regimental commander, colonel sir Michael Fredric Rimington, a great veteran of the Fenian wars.

Baker section and its twelve men were disappointed with the movement order, as they could no longer vow for the safety of their families, and they had to say their homeland goodbye. For most, including Sutherland, it was the first time that they'd leave Ulster. As snowflakes fell down on the blessed soil of Northern Ireland, William couldn't stop but think of his mum and dad, who were still living up north in Londonderry. George section, though, was happy to finally leave "wretched Ireland", and were happy to slot back the "Moors" from the South. The dragoons from George section would go about their way to harass the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who were also stationed near the castle, and telling them that they'd "Have a sweet rendezvous at Paris" once the Dragoons had taken it.

William wasn't impressed. He was a patriot, and strongly believed in the superiority of the British peoples over that of the Europeans, but he felt that bragging about certain victory was unchristian, and therefore didn't do it. He got away from the window and grudgingly started packing his luggage.

January 13th, 2350, Ajay Shah, Hindu Kenya

Ajay Shah reached his platoon’s post, a collection of trenches and tents positioned in a hilly area. Having a rank of Naik (corporal) in the 3rd company of the 1st Kenyan Battalion meant that he was valued enough by both his subordinates as well as his higher officers to have a mediocre quality of life. Being stationed this close to the Somalian border also meant that a sharpshooter on the Somalian side could hit a soldier who wandered too far from base.

This particular evening, Ajay had been sent out by Havaldar Basak to scout out the position of enemy troops who were suspected to have crossed the border. Ajay had taken the four other men he commanded along with him early in the morning, and observed the targets for some hours. Now, it was almost 7 in the evening. Exhausted, Ajay jumped into the entrance trench, nodding his head at the troops on guard. He walked briskly through the winding halls until he reached a corner that had been designated to Havaldar Basak.

Ajay quickly snapped into a salute. Basak acknowledged him just as quickly and stood up from his desk. Basak was in his early thirties, with light reading glasses and a friendly character. “What did you find, Naik?” he asked.

“This sir. Our team took some photographs of the plains. We observed the movement of about 2 companies, including several machine gun teams.” Ajay handed the photographs to Basak. Basak quickly flipped through them.

“I see, soldier. I’ll send these up to the Major, what do you think our next course of action should be Naik?”

It wasn’t unusual for Basak to ask Ajay for strategic advice, as Basak admired Ajay’s tactical ability.
“They are in a tight situation as of now. Our battalion is well entrenched, but we should send in a company to conduct a surprise attack, set fire to their camps, and if they succeed in forcing a surrender, taking their guns. We should first go in with one motorized platoon armed with machine guns, followed by sharpshooters, and finally the main attack. They aren’t entrenched, and their machine guns will pose a threat to us if they get too close,”Ajay explained.

Basak took a few moments to take it in. “O.K Naik. I’ll send this plan up to the battalion HQ. If they approve, we’ll conduct this plan tomorrow evening. Go get some rest now.”

Ajay replied with a crisp salute and left for his bunk...

January 13th, 2350
Suez, Egyptian Sultanate
Mamlaka Caliphate


Sergeant Rasheeq al-Khalili, acting lieutenant of the 45th Cavalry Section, looked up from his Friday newspaper, only to immediately regret his decision. The large broadsheet had perfectly blocked out the early morning sun, which now shone vehemently into his eyes, as if to punish Rasheeq for trying to block it out. He let out a silent groan as two men approached him: privates el-Dib and al-Karim, incredibly broad and incredibly skinny respectively. The two were friends in the sort of way that Rasheeq would never understand; they would bond over a pretty woman, fist-fight over who could have her, and then laugh off the bruises and scrapes they gave one another.

“What’s it now?” Rasheeq said, unsuccessfully hiding the annoyed tone that underlined his voice. Judging from the red-faced men and their general expressions, they didn’t notice. They came to a halt, feverishly talking over one another, which gave their acting lieutenant the time to silently pivot so that his head was in the massive, hulking shadow of el-Dib.

“Well…” al-Karim began, but el-Dib almost bellowed over him.

“We were skipping stones on the lake, sir…” he said, pointing at the oasis like beside which the 45th had placed their tents. Rasheeq turned his head slightly to the left, indeed spotting the body of water. Some of the horses were peacefully drinking from it, while others had decided to hide in the shade of some trees, peacefully enjoying the chilly morning air.

“And…” el-Dib tried to continue, but al-Karim was faster this time.

“I skipped the stone six times, sir! But now he can’t handle his loss, and he claims to have skipped it seven times!”

“It was seven times!” the broad-shouldered private said in return.

“It was six!”

Rasheeq pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging it as he contemplated the unique irrelevance of the dispute that was put before him. Most of his soldiers were not even 20, and were used to some authority figure watching over them to settle these disputes. Al-Karim and el-Dib were life-long friends from the same orphanage, and clearly Rasheeq had taken the place of one of their wardens, whom the sergeant already pitied for having to put up with this for years.

Rasheeq rummaged around his pockets for a bit, tongue slightly out of his mouth as he did so. It was a concentration tic, one the men under his command had come to enjoy slightly. From one of his pockets he procured a silvery coin with a 5 on one side, and a depiction of a donkey on the other. In other countries, the coin would have depicted the head of state, but Islamic doctrine forbade depicting human beings. The donkey was there to remind everyone that money had only earthly, temporary value, and that true value came from God. The practice of coining a donkey, however, had given rise to a timeless phrase:

“Heads or Ass” the acting lieutenant said. “If it lands on head, it’s six. If it lands on ass, it’s seven”

He launched the coin into the air with his thumb. While the coin was spinning in the air, Rasheeq caught a glimpse of al-Karim in silent prayer, hoping God would intervene to make the coin land on the right side. El-Dib, however, was silent, a hint of a guilty look in his eyes. Just before the coin landed in the sand, Rasheeq snatched it from the air. Both men looked at him with anticipation.

“Alright, el-Dib. Admit it. It was six, wasn’t it?”

Al-Karim looked confused, but el-Dib cast down his eyes in shame, dragging his foot through the sand.

“Alright…” the soldier said. “I saw it was six…”

“Right” Rasheeq said. “Always remember, private. God is watching”

He got up from his seated position, folded his newspaper and put on his peaked cap.

“I’m gonna check out headquarters. You fellows play nice until I get back, okay? Maybe I’ll have news on where the hell we are supposed to go from here…”

With that, he turned on his heels, walking towards the group of Arabian horses that were settled in the shadows.

January, 2350
Brest, Ruthenia

Rays from the sun cascaded down like a waterfall, covering and caressing the Earth with its warmth, finding its way into every crack and crevice and through every dirty window in the city of Brest. It was a hub town, a cross roads in the middle of Ruthenia's west. Anyone or anything that wanted or needed to be transported from west to east, east to west, north to south, or south to north passed through Brest, turning what was once a forgettable city in pre-war Belarussia into one of the largest cities in the Empire. It was ground zero for much of Ruthenian trade on land routes, and it housed the headquarters of banks, corporations, and other financial institutions.

It was also the headquarters of the Northwestern Front, a Army Group responsible for protection of the border with the Nordic Empire. It was chosen by the Front's commander primarily due to its central location, and the fact that all troops travelling to the Front passed through Brest. Troops, such as the platoon under the command of Lieutenant Vasily Sokolov, who now was in a rather sour mood after having been so rudely awoken by the sun rays slicing through the dirty window of the room he had rented.

Standing up, Sokolov moved to the window and threw the curtains open, letting the sun fall inside fully. He picked up the small glass on his table and downed the vodka still left in it, ignoring its lukewarmness gained from having spent the night undrunk. Next he unbolted and slide up the grimy windows and leaned out to look over the cobbled streets of Brest, lighting up a cigarette as he watched a throng of humanity pass by. His room was only on the second story, but it gave him a good enough view of the street as it curved in a almost ninety degree angle past the inn and down at a sharp angle. The city was centered on a large hill, upon which sat all the importantly buildings. If one were to travel down hill from the center of town he would first find the steeply sloped roads to bring him to a mess of markets, shops, inns and other establishments catering to the mercantile and adventerous customers Brest often attracts. Further down still one would come across the residential area where old restored buildings and newly build abodes would be squashed together in tight quarters almost as if they were sardines in a tin can; this is where the permanent residents of Brest lived. Finally, at the very base of the hill, one would come across the slums of Brest, for a city of wealth often attracts those who have it not. Shanty towns and homeless encampments dot the base of the city, spread out in almost a shotgun blast on the green grassy fields of Poland. This was Brest, a city that Sokolov had only seen thrice before now, and yet captivated him with a certain fascination. It sure wasn't anything like home.

A knock at the door dragged Sokolov from his thoughts and planted him once more in reality. Closing the window and stuffing the cigarette into a ashtray, he approached the door and slipped the Mauser he bought earlier out of its holster. He brought he eye up to the small pep hole and let out a sigh of relief as he saw his messenger and often used errand boy Corporal Petrenko. He opened the door and slipped the Mauser back into its holster hanging on the nightstand.

Petrenko snapped to attention and gave a crisp salute to Sokolov, "Dobroye utro, Leytenant. Colonel Markhov sent a runner to camp asking you to come up to Headquarters, he said its urgent."

Sokolov nodded, "Khorosho, tell Chernov to assemble the men and have Schkinsky meet me at Headquarters, bystro!" He told the young Corporal, who in turn gave a salute and ran off to his bicycle parked down stairs. Sokolov closed the door and turned around, letting out a long sigh and then moving towards his clothes assembled on the dresser. He slipped on a pair of trousers and slid the suspenders onto his shoulder, then threw on his under shirt and uniform tunic. The black material seemed less sleak then it did when Sokolov has first worn it at the promotion ceremony, probably due to the gradual shift from dark black to a almost dark grey from two years service. Finally he pulled on the long knee length leather boots, a luxury afforded to officers of the Ruthenian Infantry, for their rank and file had to do with simple shoes and puttees. Sokolov reached for the Winchester propped against his bed frame and then stopped, realizing that bringing a rifle into Headquarters wasn't conduct becoming of an Officer. He moved to leave but was stopped as his eyes fell on the small framed photograph on his table. He picked it up and ran his fingers over its surface. It was a photo of him and his platoon the first day of basic training. He had just earned a battlefield commission and they had all just been recruited. He blinked back tears as he looked upon those in the photo who had lost their lives, and quickly put it down and headed for the door, grabbing his cap on the way out.

The sound of the hard soles of his boots on the cobbles gave Sokolov a little bit of an ego boost as he remembered the days he spent as a ranker wishing he could have a pair of good boots instead of the flimsy flats they issued. The boots and his black tunic earned him respect from the citizens he passed, respect he'd earned fighting the enemies of Ruthenia and its crown. The streets of Brest seemed a maze to him, always twisting and turning and always at such step angles and slopes that one might think an artist and not an architect had designed it all. As he went on the buildings began to be spaced out more and more until he came upon the city square. A large expanse of grass and trees forming a sort of park ringed by large buildings ranging from the City Hall to the Post Office. Sokolov set his sights on a large red bricked building, nearly five stories tall, topped by three large rounded red spires. It was Army Headquarters, although most called it The Castle.

The doors were glass and revolving, part of the new architectural style brought about by the Modernists. It certainly looked like something from the next century, even though it was just some glass with steel. After all, if they could make fly, certainly they could make a door revolve. Inside the building showed its true age, something the Modernists couldn't cover up with their glass and steal. The floor was an expanse of ceramic tile and the roof was high and vaulted, covered with a painting of Ruthenian Knights in their shining armor fighting some Pagans. In front of Sokolov he could see a staircase leading up to the second level, next to it was a hallway leading to god knows where. To his right he could see a large loading bay with a few trucks, and to his left was a woman sitting behind a desk looking up at him expectantly.

"Dobroye utro, I was summoned by Colonel Markhov." Sokolov told the woman who gave a slight huffed and pulled out a binder from under his desk, "Name, rank, and unit." she rattled off in a bored tone.

"Leytenant Vasily Sokolov. 3rd Rifle Platoon, 1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Ryazan Infantry Regiment." Sokolov rattled off in his best officer like voice. The secretary didn't seem to take much notice and simply scribbled something in the binder and then shoved it back from whence it came. "The Colonel is waiting in office 2313," she said while handing Sokolov a small pin with the Ruthenian flag on it. Sokolov nodded and set off, repeating the number so he wouldn't forget it. The 2 meant it was on the second floor and the 3 meant it was in the third hallway.

He came upon the office, checking the plate to make sure that it was indeed the office, and then rapped his knuckles against the solid wood door. He heard a muffled "Come in" and slide the door open. Inside the dimly lit office he could see the colonel sitting behind a desk with Sokolovs second in command, Junior Lieutenant Schkinsky, sitting in one of two chairs in front of the desk. Sokolov snapped to attention and saluted the Colonel who returned it in kind and called for Sokolov to take a seat. Once he had done so, the Colonel cleared his throat and spoke, "Leytenant, I understand you and your platoon are on leave with the rest of the Regiment in Brest, however I must unfortunately cut this rest short. We have reports of caravans travelling between Brest and Lublin being raided. Just last night a Bank caravan travelling back from Lublin was hit, with a couple million in gold being stolen. This is unacceptable, and the Marshall himself has called on the 69th to deal with this. Now I have other units being sent to locations where we believe these Bandits may be, but I need your Platoon for a special mission."

The Colonel paused and took a sip from a glass of whiskey on his table, coughing slightly and banging his fist on his chest once to stop the coughs. "Strong stuff, anyway like I was saying, I need your Platoon to guard a special caravan travelling to Lublin. This caravan is from the local branch of the Royal Treasury to reimburse the local bank for its lost money, and we don't want this gold being stolen as well. Your men will be tasked with escorting it to Lublin and ensuring that not a ruble is stolen, understand?"

Sokolov nodded, "I can assure you sir, my men will not dissapoint. We will see the gold safely to Lublin." He answered.

"Good! Excellent, I shall await your return. Go gather your men, the caravan will be setting out from the west side at 1100 Hours, don't keep them waiting. Dismissed!"

January 13th, 2350
Suez, Egyptian Sultanate
Mamlaka Caliphate

Rasheeq rode his horse past the banks of the Suez river, across the road that winded through the Suez army encampment. What was supposed to be a temporary hub for army transportation had turned into somewhat of a mobile city. While surrounded by tents of newly-arrived units, the centre of the encampment actually consisted of brick, wood and clay barracks, built by the soldiers who had to spend considerable time in the depot. The railway going west from Suez was a nightmare, and did not allow the kind of traffic that put through units fast enough. So, many units, especially the non-essential militia units and irregulars, stayed here for weeks or months. Those units either occupied the self-made barracks or constructed their own, so much so that the local commanders had come up with regulation on how to construct them and where they should be placed. Besides barracks the mini city of soldiers had coffee houses, theatres, clubs, game houses and the like. There were even some secret drinking houses and brothels, although those were a tightly-kept secret in the religiously orthodox Mamlaka army.

In the part of the encampment where tents were raised, discipline was obviously good. Sergeants offered crisp saluted as they passed Rasheeq, often followed by ten or twenty men marching in close unison. They either marched in silence or raised good, orthodox songs that had been approved by the Ministry for War. Their jaws were clean-shaven, except for the ranks of lieutenant and higher who were expected to brandish stylish beards. The beard length more than anything else told you what rank someone was, with generals often sporting the longest beards. Down the ranks it was less obvious, though, with more talented youngsters often being promoted over more experienced but less energetic oldies. Rasheeq sported a short, well-kept moustache indicating that he was an NCO, but he was thinking about growing something that would more fit his position of acting lieutenant.

As he left the tent area and entered the part with solid constructions, this atmosphere changed. The facial hair was the same, since that was part of army regulation, but the salutes were far from crisp. The songs were lewd, and companies of men did not march past in neat order. Instead, hoards of what looked like hooligans marched past, belching and exclaiming remarks that would get you court marshalled with the more regulatory officers. These soldiers, however, were irregulars and militia. Half of them uniformed, armed with a wide array of swords and rifles of different make. Arabian tribesmen made up most of the irregulars. They were feared warriors, but within army circles somewhat looked down on since they lacked the discipline of regular units. They were also known for their religious unorthodoxy, coming as they did from the richer families in Arabia.

Army HQ was situated in an abandoned building that had once been made of durable concrete and steel. What purpose it had served before was unknown, but it was big and sturdy enough to house headquarters, and it had running water and electricity to boot. The entrance was a coming and going of officers. Lieutenants, most of them, but there were captains and majors as well. Rasheeq left his horse in the courtyard, allowing it to sip water from one of the troths, and entered the building. Inside it was even busier: officers with large binders walked to and from, it was a mess of saluted and nods as junior officers passed higher ranking men. Rasheeq approached the central desk in the lobby, where a woman with a hijab was keeping notes.

“Madam, where could I find the office of the Postmaster?” He asked carefully. The woman looked up and gave him a kind smile, the kind one could wear all day without tiring.

“Up the stairs to your right, sergeant” she said, withdrawing back to her notes. “What is your name?”

“Acting lieutenant Rasheeq al-Khalili, madam” he said. The woman looked up slightly startled.

“Oh, I’m sorry, lieutenant. I didn’t…” she muttered, but Rasheeq cut her off.

“It’s okay, I didn’t get my stripes yet. I should get those in a minute. First floor, immediately to the right?”

The woman nodded, and Rasheeq did as he was told, half-running up the steps, then passing to his right. There was a long corridor there, but the office of the postmaster was pretty easy to distinguish, partially by the constant rush of couriers and partially by the signage. Rasheeq entered the room, where a spectacled man was sitting behind a desk, flanked on both sides by large bags of mail. As Rasheeq cleared his throat, the man looked up.

“Yes?” the man said, with a patient tone of voice. “What can I do for you, young man?”

“I am acting lieutenant for the 7th Cavalry Section, just seeing if there is some mail for us” Rasheeq answered, giving a polite bow. The man looked at him inquisitively.

“Ahh, yes, the Palestinian lot!” he said. Rasheeq couldn’t hide a look of surprise, as the army stationed at Suez was large and refreshed with comers and goers ever so often. The old man saw his surprise, and smiled.

“The postmaster knows many things, young man” he said, getting up from his chair. He hunched over as he disappeared into an anteroom, from which Rasheeq could hear some rummaging.

“Ah. Yes. Yes! No, not that… Yes… Yes…”

Before long, the postmaster came out of the anteroom, holding a single envelope. At first Rasheeq’s heart lit up, but then he recognized the yellowish paper of official army communications. His heart sank again, something which the postmaster clearly noticed.

“I’m sorry, my boy” he said. “I’m afraid the Israeli’s still don’t allow mail to cross their border. If you let me know where you are camped, I can send a courier if I get any messages…”

“Don’t worry for me” Rasheeq said, putting on his best ‘I’m fine’ voice. It didn’t fool anyone. He quickly ripped open the envelope, procuring both a letter and two pieces of cloth: his lieutenant’s stripes.

To the honoured lieutenant al-Khalili of the 7th Cavalry Section,

You have orders to ship out with your section to the railway junction at Addis Abeba, Ethiopian Sultanate. You hereby receive your promotion to the rank of lieutenant. You will be attached to the 14th Cavalry Company under Captain al-Muzza, whom will give you further instructions. Attached to this letter is a note of High Priority, allowing you to leave on the 14th.

Kind Regards,
General al-Mamlaka

“Don’t worry” Rasheeq said again, this time biting his lip.

“We won’t be here for long”

January 14th, 2350, Ajay Shah, Hindu Kenya

Just as Havaldar Basak said, permission was granted by the battalion headquarters to finish the newly-arrived insurgents in the evening. The battalion gave the Hindu force command over the motorized company and Ajay’s own company.Ajay himself was walking in formation alongside his men, and engaging in small talk with his friend Rohan Bhamra, who was also a Naik, albeit in a different section of the same platoon.
“Wish the motorized weren’t the only ones who all got horses”, complained Bhamra.

“Second that,” replied Ajay

“You know, they used to have thing even better than horses, in the pre-war days,” chimed in Sepoy Agrawal. Agrawal was old, but not old enough to be put in the back lines. HQ probably also put him up front because he was known for his skills around weaponry, foreign or domestic.

“Why don’t I believe you?”, Ajay asked, his tone implying skepticism.

“It’s true, Naik. If you want you can go check it out in the Hall back at our base in Agra. ‘Automotives’ they used to call ‘em, could take you anywhere you wanted, only had to fill it up with an oil of some sorts. You know, they once made it so every soldier got to ride in one of those, they put machine guns on ‘em, put on some armor, and sent them into war. I’ve read that automotives were then banned by some countries...I believe it to be America and some others. Back then the motorized used to actually be in those, now they only call it motorized ‘cause -”

“Ok, ok Agrawal. We understand now,” almost shouted Bhamra. ”

25 minutes later

The Hindu fighting force took their positions overlooking the Somalian camp. The leader, Major Valli, had already told them the battle plan: Motorized infantry would charge the tent camp first, attacking from the south and moving to the north, while keeping to the west of the camp, as to wall in any escapees against a tall but scalable cliff. Motorized company would then dismount 2 sections to charge the camp from the northwest on foot, while the foot soldier company would charge from the southwest, while leaving behind a single section to snipe any escaping Somalian. If any of the enemies escaped, any Somalian force would cross the border and attack the Hindu forces, which would not be good.

Motorized had already started their charge, machine guns spraying lead into the tents. Any enemy who stepped out was immediately gunned down by rapid fire. Ajay readied his rifle for combat, and charged when Major Valli gave the cry. Ajay leapt up and jumped over the rock into front of him, raising his rifle into the air and encouraging the more afraid members of the company to move in. The camp was about 30 meters away. When the company was in firing range, Valli yelled at everyone to take firing stance. Some soldiers stood, some, like Ajay and Bhamra, went down on one knee.
Bang! A shot from Ajay’s rifle hit a Somalian trying to reload. Ajay hit the lever and fired again, missing another soldier who was making a dash for the nearest stable. In frustration, Ajay hit the lever and took aim at a group of soldiers returning fire at the foot soldiers. He hit one, and was aiming his next shot when the Major yelled to push forward. The last volley of Hindu shots forced the enemy resistance to run for it. As the company made its way into the camp, several soldiers looted bodies and the tents, including Ajay. He found some extra magazines, a C96 Mauser, some gold coins, and a knife, which he promptly inserted in the back of an ignorant Somalian.

Through the yells of terror and chaos, he heard the order to burn the tents. All the soldiers around him finished their looting and grabbed pieces of lit firewood. Through the sounds of burning tents, screaming soldiers, and gunshots, Ajay heard a cry ring out in Arabic. He didn’t understand what it was but it had “Allah” in it. Ajay drew his revolver with suspicion. The Somalians, at least in this day and age, weren’t Muslim, or at least didn’t speak Arabic. Ajay ran out to find Havaldar Basak, and he told him what he had heard.

Before the Havaldar could reply, the sound of neighing horses pierced the air. Some enemies had gotten a hold of their horses, and were counter-attacking the companies’ rear. But they were odd, dresses in the traditional garb of Islam warriors, a sight only seen in Mamlaka. It struck the Havaldar at the same time as Ajay, and they both raised their sidearms to fire at the Mamlakan troops. The Mamlakans must have been aiding the Somalians invade Hindu Kenya, or at least trespass.

Ajay fired twice, hitting one of the horses, which caused it to buck. A shot from a nearby Hindu brought the rider down. In response, an enemy fired off five rounds from his handgun, two of which knocked out a soldier. Basak fired a .303 from his rifle, which killed another Mamlakan immediately. Soon, all of the Mamlakans lay dead or severely wounded, and all the Somalians had been killed, with only 7 dead, 4 wounded on the Hindu side.

Ajay asked to be in charge of cleanup. The bodies were shifted to a mass grave, any weaponry was loaded up with the motorized and shipped back to base, and any valuables were kept. Any last pieces of tent were burnt, and the remaining horses were carried off further south than our post, to be sold abroad.

January 25 - 27, 2350, Slavic-Iberian border in Albania, Jakub Svoboda

11:45 pm, January 25-"Silence on Balkan front" this is the best way I can describe the situation-, Jakub was thinking to himself,- I can't wait for the war to end -, he thought before finally falling asleep.

8:30 am, January 26 -The soldier still has his head out, come on put it down, I have a perfect shot for about 15 minutes I'm giving you the time to live- Jakub tried to warn him telepathically knowing much to well how it's going to end
- Sorry, I can't wait more -, loud bang and a bullet from his Gewehr hit its target,
“I'm sorry”, said Jakub to himself while hiding once again in the trench,
“Good Shot !”, congratulated his officer, “I may give you a promotion if you keep it up”. It meant nothing for Jakub, he was constantly promoted and degraded, if he tried better he probably could be a general at least but for now, he was just a private.

12:30 am, January 27 - “Good day everyone, today it's the day again”, shouted their Officer, as it was one of the state holidays.
- Couldn't be better -, though Jakub to himself thinking of his favorite alcohol that's gonna be in canteen today
Four Hours Later, “How much you got this week Jaku” asked Jakub's friend calling him by that stupid nickname
“Ten”, Jakub replied with disgust for his own words, ten other lives lost for what?,
“Good score, I got 4 and you we're probably too drunk to even stand Nikolay”, nearly shouted one of his bunkmates to a friend. Jakub didn't tried to hear it, he just drank another cup.

January 30, 2350, Slavic-Iberian border in Albania, Jakub Svoboda

8:25 a.m Jakub was standing in the canteen as always during morning placement on the trench

- Andrús W., Sea Trench! - why was he always irritated by not alphabetical placement, or maybe just something else to get his frustration dealt with instead of Colonel.
- Nikolay A., Middle Trench! - next one him, having a wish to get into the rear trench.
- Jakub S., Assault party! - the worst absolutely the worst place to be in, assault on Iberian trench, why silence was broken.

9:49 a.m - “Everyone to your place!” - issued Colonel, Jakub slowly went for his Gewehr, Mauser, and knife, his trusty 4" knife, he is supposed to get to rest of the party on 10

10:00 a.m The soldiers are waiting, a formation is not needed, survivability only decreases when in the formation, Jakub saw where he will go, a hill, protection, and advantage point at the same time, best place for a sharpshooter.
The order came, 200 helpless people pouring from cover, they have less than 10 minutes to get to another before the first volley comes,
7 minutes the charge finally breaks the formation,
5 minutes Jakub gets to the hill, he is saved, but many are still running,
3 minutes he waves for his bunkmate to get over here, someone whom he recognizes is always a good company, especially here,
45 seconds now is the last seconds before the volley, now you can see who is going to make it or not,
0 seconds and so death entered the Earth once again, at least 50 shots are fired, 25 people fall, all without life harnessed by death like wheat during harvest.

Jakub crawls out of safety, aims, fires, an Iberian falls
reload, aim, fire, Iberian falling,
reload, aim, fire,
reload, aim, fire,
over and over and over again, like a sick orchestra, firing perfectly, and so do they, the battle is only 30 minutes left, costing the life of 100 people, for what, something over 5 feet of ground, Jakub survived, why would he not, he wished to get hit, so many times, but now, it is time to get comfy in new piece of trench and connect it to the rest.

17:30 In amidst off heavy drinking the next cup is interrupted by a bullet, Iberian bullet, Jakub knows what this means, counter-attack, he is not drunk enough because he decides to stay and drink, the counter-attack is repelled, trench will stay in Slavic hands.

21:40 And so today silence was broken, for what he done during assault Jakub got promoted, for what he did during a counter-attack, a demotion, and next day will be just the same, until he is hit by a bullet, now more of a mercy kill.

7 a.m, January 31st, 2350, Tim Davis, near Buckinghamshire, Britain

Rising slowly, limbs stiff from sleeping on a blanket in the cold dugout he made Tim way into the pre-dawn half-light and made his way sleepily down the support trench. He stopped where a handful of men were huddled around a small fire burning in a hole cut unto the bottom of the trench where the frozen ground kept it dry enough and the light and smoke produced were minimal.
"Morning, whats doing?"
"Not much Lance-Corporal, bloody Iberians are quiet enough" The young man handed Tim a chunk of tough, black bread and poured him a measure of nettle tea into a wine mug.
"Thank you"

He made his way down the communication trench and then moving low out past the main first line to a spot where they'd fortified a shell hole with logs and earth to produce a little machinegun block house. The half asleep man at his post left for his bed without speaking, leaving Tim to his weapon. He used the periscope to carefully scan the empty ground beyond before carefully taking his position at the machinegun post. The two lines were a comfortable distance here, about half a kilometre making sniping difficult in his half light, especially where his position gave him decent cover and concealment with the netting that covered the outside of the little block house obscuring the silhouette of any within. He took a swig of the nettle tea and began to slowly chew at the hard, difficult-to-chew bread.

January 31, 2350, Slavic-Iberian border in Albania, Jakub Svoboda

9.45 a.m Jakub finally got thrown out of the canteen, this day he is assigned to Sea Trench, a trench unsurprisingly next to Adriatic, his transport is at 10.

10.45 a.m Got unloaded from transport to an incredibly muddy trench, Colonel knowing his usefulness as a sniper gets him to exactly this position.

11.35 a.m Jakub is ordered to shoot a General or another Iberian officer higher up visiting the trench, an exceptionally dangerous mission, Iberian snipers and scouts will be all around, Jakub moves very slowly to a nearby forest.

1.15 p.m Jakub finally sees his target, an old man, bearded, walking with a cane, visibly hurt on the leg, now Jakub only needs to get to advantage point.

1.45 p.m Advantage point reached, Jakub now aims, and aims some more, this shot needs to be perfect.

1.50 p.m Perfect aim achieved, Jakub slips his finger on the lock and unlocks his Gewehr, the gun is ready to fire, - in three -, - two -, - one -, a scream is heard, it was the old man hit directly in the head, although the bullet doesn't reach brain but ricocheted from skull and exited the body by throat, a gruesome death. Now Jakub needs to run, if not he will be dead in seconds.

2.50 p.m Jakub is ambushed, now there is no hope, he tries to break out but there are just too many, and he is shot in the head. Jakub Svoboba is dead.

Tim Davey, 31st January 8:09 Buckinghamshire

The flash on the distant guns game Tim just enough time to throw himself to the floor before the sound or hell storm arrived. Iberian artillery mercilessly pounded down against the Brittanian positions. Tim dared not move, crouched hands over his ears as shells fell around him. A smaller mortar round smashed into the top of the block house and a larger howitzer round fell close by, but the earth and logs were surprisingly resilient to the artillery and stood firm. He wasn't sure how long the barrage lasted but in amongst the chaos it felt like an eternity. Then as quickly as it came it was gone. He was experienced enough to know what this meant and rose quickly to the gun slit. The enemy artillery had made a few hole in the barbed wire directly in front of his position but there were three layers here and there wasn't enough gaps in the inner two nor were there any in the separate layers close enough together to overly worry him. But there some five hundred meters away Iberian troops in their dark yellowish-brown uniforms were advancing. Several came running down the communications trench to join him in his forwards position. His young assistant, a sixteen-year-old private Jack Holms, their lieutenant and a small group of other men, with rifles and one lewis gun.

As Jack took his position ready to help feed the weapon Tim pulled the charging handle of the weapon and glanced at the commander, a tall, young man who Tim had initially struck Tim as a bit of a fop but had seemed to deal with his first major attack with the proper bearings of an officer.

"At will Lance-Corporal"
He took a deep breath. He reduced the task to its pure mechanical components in his mind, removing all other aspects from his concern, choosing a moving shape as it moved across no man's land towards him, lining up the machinegun and tracking the figure for a moment.

His weapons spoke.

A figure fell.

That was the task, acquiring the target, tracking and focusing in on it then a squeezing the trigger. Over and over.

Some of the mortar batteries that had survived the enemy onslaught opened up, explosive shells detonating as they hit the fallen earth sending clods of soil and limbs flying. An enemy machine gunner opened up with a volley of walking fire, Jack swore loudly and ducked a little as several rounds aimed at their position struck the ground and around the firing slit, one even going over Tim's shoulder. He returned fire. A long burst that left the Iberian's chest so much minced meat was a threat removed. The enemy was two hundred meters away now at the two sides were returning rifle fire. The Iberians had a significant numerical advantage, but their defensive position was a good one and in it the rapid rate of fire afforded by the cock on close action of the lee-enfield meant they could put a furious volley of accurate fire into the Iberian ranks as they advanced. The Iberians were no armatures of course, they need how to advance to make an assault with fire and manoeuvre bunny hops bringing their numbers ever close from one piece of cover across the mostly open ground to another. The artillery on both sides made for an exchange of fire, mostly smaller mortars on both sides to avoid friendly fire.

Click. The machinegun was empty, and Jack hurried to reload. Then they were at it again. He was firing in much longer bursts with the heavy weapon and solid tripod allowing for continuous fire in that allowed him to rack knot of advancing enemy troops of suppress a group for a time to slow their advance. The numerical advantage was still in the enemy's favour though and he couldn't hope to stop the push towards there heart. Click. Again, the weapon was spent. Even as the boy went to load the Iberians immediately opposing them pressed their advance, they were barely fifty meters away now and Tim had to duck away from the window as rifle fire and an enemy Hotchkiss fired at their position.
"Come on!" He shouted glancing over to see the enemy pushing towards them, their formost troops through the outer layer of barbed wire.
"I'm trying!" Screamed the boy as he fumbled to load the weapon.

Tim pulled his pistol and fired off a couple of rounds. The enemy was close now and he had to duck as one tried their luck at throwing a grenade into the block house but fell short.

He grabbed the machinegun and brought his aim to bare. For a moment he really seemed to make eye contact with one of the advancing Iberians as they passed through the inner most layer of the barbed wire, a grenade in hand. His burst cut through the man's legs at knee level, he fell through the field of fire, the as the grenade lever opened as the Iberian hit the earth, detonating a moment later kill the man and two behind him. He swung the weapon around slicing through the enemy ranks wreaking bloody havoc. Just as the Iberians seemed to be losing their momentum fresh troops came pouring in, these seemed to focus less on trying to go for the more exposed block houses and instead were moving down Tim’s flanks, whether to assault his own position or try to get to the trench line itself he wasn’t sure. Either way they wouldn’t have an easy time of it there either as the lewis gun and riflemen shifted to side slits of the position troops being funnelled down there were caught in the overlapping field of fire from the block houses to either side of them and the trenches further back with little chance of avoiding being exposed on one of those three sides. Tim decided to hold his position for the moment, keeping the Iberians from charging the front of the position and taking them out as they kept coming across no man’s land.
“Davey, swap with Johnson” shouted the Lieutenant next to him over the raw of the guns.
With a nod Tim grabbed the large, heat proof mitten and between Jack and himself swapped around with the Lewis gunner to fire at the Iberians as they pushed through. He managed to get the gun into position and opened up with a long burst that took the momentum out of the advance and the lives of several Iberians, bullets ripping through bodies. As the Jack reloaded the weapon for him he went to wipe the sweat from his forehead and realised he’d been weeping.

January 31st, 2350, Iberian-Nordic border, Hragnelf Linisson
0930 Wake up to the sound of gunfire. Again
1000 Pinned down under enemy fire at the french border. Food rations low. C**p.
1100 Enemy fire let up. They didn't seem to have a uniform. Looks like those b*stards are using mercenaries now. Great. Just what I need.
1130 I send an urgent request for re-reinforcements. Reply full of static. Guess the line's down again. C**p. Looks like we're on our own.
1200 I speak to my men. I'm all for this kind of talk-to-the-troops sh*t, but when you have to tell them the hopelessness of your current situation, it really sucks.
1300 We eat our rations, the sentry barely on guard. It's not like he can help stop the onslaught of enemies. Out position is quite hopeless. I try the radio again. No response but the static.
1330 We raise the white flag, and they allow us to retreat. Sucks to be us. Another failure.
1545 Get a bollocking by my commanding officer. Explain the situation. Doesn't listen. Sends us to another h*ll-hole.

Disclaimer: The above text has been edited as little as possible while retaining grammatical correctness. This means that some posts above are not the exact posts on the forum RP. This version is designed to be the best for reading purposes.

Upper asylum islands