“Where
is the fire support!?” Jaysun screamed into his comm mod, “What
do you mean there is none!?” He listened for a few seconds, then
threw the thing on the ground and smashed it with his armored foot.
Then he turned to parry a lance that was aimed at his face, and made
a quick stab into the throat of his assailant. Bodies were beginning
to pile up around him, so he moved forward to a more open area. The
line of troops advanced on both sides of him.

Suran
looked sideways at him, aghast. “What are you doing? That was the
last mod!”
“Never mind that!” Jaysun shouted, throwing a man
over his shoulder before engaging in a little sword play with one of
the enemy. “That was the last mod, yes! But we are the last unit
still in the field, the armies have been routed and the Government
staff are high-tailing it for the bunkers! There’s no one for us to
talk to!” One of his troops followed behind him, finishing the
downed enemy soldiers with a very bloody sword.
Suran slammed his
gauntleted fist into the belly of one man and then threw his elbow
into another. “Then what are we fighting for! ” He swung his
sword in a wide arc to decapitate a rearing, rider-less
Trachaar.
“Sound retreat!” Jaysun yelled at a soldier behind
him. He gripped the nearest enemy throat and lifted the man in the
air, using the body to block several lance jabs. “We fight for
ourselves, now!”
Suran threw back his head and laughed heartily.
“Yes, my friend, I suppose we do!” Suran grabbed a lance as it
bounced off his breastplate and took it from his foe. The man’s
eyes widened and watched his own weapon skewer him. Suran put a foot
to the man’s chest, kicking the fresh corpse out of the way. “I’m
a little tired of killing these guys!” As he shouted, one of
Jaysun’s cadre sounded retreat with a trumpet, a shrill blast that
shocked the enemies’ Trachaar, and summoned their remaining troops to
form up for retreat. They may have sounded retreat, but it
would take a miracle to actually get out of this chaotic fray.

Jaysun
and Suran directed their cadre, who in turn passed orders down the
chain of command to platoon leaders, and the retreat began. Jaysun
intended for their small army to escape into the ruins of nearby
decimated Ur’upak where they would hopefully be able to ghost away
during the night. The retreat required by the Heavy Armored Fifth
Regiment had been perfected by Jaysun’s predecessor during the
in-fighting at Jerusem, the System Capital. Because of the weight of
the armor, hasty retreat was impossible. In a hasty retreat, whoever
was most fit and least wounded would probably make it away, but
everyone else would be picked off one by one. The strength of the
Armored lay in unity. One man alone would die quickly, two could
fight side by side or back to back and withstand a hundred enemies,
but three were like a braided cord. To break them, you had to
eliminate one of them. It was almost impossible to cut through a
three-fold fighting unit. So, the Fifth’s originators had established
their peculiar battle system. On the field, a wall of two-man
heavy-armored teams was established in the front, an unbroken wall of
metal bristling with pointy steel. Behind and holding the flanks were
the flack-vest wearing light-armored troops, usually armed with
PeePs, but with the lack of ammunition, they now carried whatever
weapon they were decent with. These troops prevented attacks from the
rear and flanks, and cleaned up enemy wounded as the front line moved
forward. Behind the light troops were the poorly trained and
inexperienced volunteers, and those who were just not-so-good in
combat. Included in their number were the GT Techs that manned the
scanners that detected the Gamma and Theta wavelengths that revealed
most invisible entities. They also manned the electromagnetic guns
that were used for various defensive tactics. This respected and
necessary contingent of the Fifth acted as field medics,
communication relays, and supply forces. But during this battle, they
had taken a more active part in the fighting as the numbers of
well-trained troops had been dwindling.

The
three main groups, acting in three-team squads of two-man fire teams
created a human three-fold cord, which is not easily broken.

The
retreat called for the light troops to form a line behind the heavy,
each light man grabbing the belt of a heavy man. The heavies would
then fend off attacks as they walked backward, guided by the tugging
of the man behind them. The support contingent had orders to flee at
high speed, just get out.

As
Suran passed moving orders down the line, the Fifth began it’s slow
retreat. Jaysun marked the descent of the sun. It would be dark soon,
but not soon enough. The enemy saw the retreat begin and escalated
their attacks, hoping for a quick finish. An agonizing thirty minutes
passed before they had backed themselves behind the first of the
enemy fallen. There was a distinguishable line of dark churned earth
where there had once been short wild-grass. The fighting had begun
there, and there would be a memorial of blood stained, iron rich soil
to mark it. For now, the blood and bodies marked it clearly, and the
stench of nine hours decay rankled the nostrils.

The
enemy troops pulled back, and it became apparent that they were
opening a wide path to allow their armored mega-Trachaar through. It
looked like they were going to use the dinosaurs to stampede the
Fifth’s retreat.
“Looks like we get to kill some big-ass lizards
now,” Suran mumbled to his commander.
Jaysun reached into a
pouch hanging at his hip with a half-grin on his face.

Suran
looked at him quizzically. “What are you up to?”

He
pulled out a fist-sized metal ball with a thin rod sticking out of
it. “Something I’ve been cooking up with a couple scientist
buddies of mine.”
Both men and their troops beside and behind
them looked up at the charging mega-Trachaar, great beasts with hides
thicker than a man’s arm, and armored with metal plating. Each
animal had two riders, one with an extended shock-lance, and one to
steer. It looked like the beasts had been gathered from all over the
battlefield for the charge, and they were coming fast. Their Huge
four toed clawed feet shredded the ground and the reverberating beat
of their running created a sort of hyper-tension in he air. The
retreat halted in anticipation of the clash, but when the lead
animals were about thirty feet away, and coming fast, Jaysun pulled
the rod from the ball, throwing it toward the lizards. He turned
around suddenly, and screamed, “RUN!” He pushed a couple soldiers
ahead of him and screamed it again. As one body, they all turned and
ran, which, for the heavy-armored troops was merely a slow trot.
Suran looked back as he ran just in time to see a brilliant flash of
light come from the ball. He stumbled, blinded. Several dozen of
their soldiers stumbled and fell as well, tripping on their comrades.
The solid line rippled a little, like a branch caught in a wind gust,
then surged from the center, making a concave bowl. The center moved
with it’s leaders, and the soldiers of the Fifth made their attempt
at survival. The enemy reeled in pain. The effects of the bomb were
severe; it’s explosion caused brain hemorrhaging, bleeding from the
ears, eyes, and nose, ringing in the ears, and overall confusion. The
men and beasts closest to the explosion lay on the ground twisting
and writhing in pain.
“Help!” Suran yelled to Jaysun. Jaysun
grabbed his arm to steady him, yelling to his troops, “Help each
other! If you can see, help someone that can’t!”
“What was
that?” Suran yelled at him.
“We weren’t sure exactly how it
would work,” He yelled back. “We just knew it would be
powerful!”
Over the sounds of screaming Trachaar and enemy
troops attempting to bring order to their ranks, a high-pitched whine
came over the surrounding plains, nearly deafening everyone on the
battlefield. All soldiers knew what that sound meant.
“Please
tell me that’s not what I think it is,” Suran, still blinded,
shouted as he ran with his elbow in Jaysun’s grip.
Jaysun looked
back into the dusty sky. “Yes, it is.” He said, just loud enough
to be heard. “many, many of them.”

Moments
later, a barrage of artillery rounds pounded onto the battlefield.

Jaysun
ran from the battle. For the first couple of minutes, he had
attempted to remain in control of his regiment. He soon succumbed to
the fact that this retreat was an all out scramble. The missiles fell
all over the place, on both armies. It was impossible to see more
than a few feet around; the thick, blood-rich dust made it impossible
to lead anyone. He threw one leg forward at a time. He breathed hard,
spraying saliva with every exhale. Sweat mingled with the dust and
blood on his face, streaking him with dark red paste. He had lost his
helmet somewhere, and his gauntlets, but he didn’t realize it yet.
His legs wobbled, threatening to fold under him. The booms and
screams had combined into one unending din of noise in the back of
his head. He kept himself going by will power. ‘Keep moving,’ he
repeated to himself, ‘left foot, right foot.’ Another barrage hit the
field, sending high-speed shrapnel whistling in every direction. Bits
of bone, both human and trachaar, became as lethal as the metallic
fragments. Weapons became secondary missiles, spears and armor were
sent flying into living flesh. Bodies were sped through the air, in
pieces. The dirt became so saturated with blood by the fourth Barrage
that it was a deep crimson hue. The sky was obscured, the ground
itself seemed out of reach. Jaysun stumbled along, dragging his left
leg with a long sliver of femur sticking through his thigh. His eyes
flooded with the blood, dirt, and sweat, blurring his vision until
there was nothing but a red haze. He hoped he was still moving in the
right direction.

‘Breathe.
Left foot. Right foot. Keep moving. Another barrage, drop and cover
your head. Something landed on me, push it off. It’s a trachaar head,
and some of the spine. Get up, keep moving. Left foot, trip on the
spine. Right foot. Breathe.’

Life
becomes very simple and rhythmic in times like this. He felt as
though he were trying to run through a sea. He pushed harder. Live.
Stay alive. Move. Suddenly the sounds around him changed to a
mechanical hum, the sounds of artillery rounds lessened. He stumbled
forward and ran into a wall. Bouncing back, he fell to the ground.

Jaysun
opened his eyes and saw nothing, darkness with a tinge of red. He
rubbed at his left eye. An image of a man came into focus. A very
large man, tall and strangely armored. He looked like a monster.
Jaysun scrambled to his feet and reached for his sword. The sheathe
was empty. “Sword!” He yelled. No one answered his call. He
decided to attack it with his bare hands. If only he could move
faster. He slowly dragged himself toward his target, wiping his eyes,
pulling his left leg forward with his hand. He could hear his heart
beat, thud-thud. . . thud-thud. The monster pointed at him, and
shouted something.

Jaysun,
confused, stopped and wobbled left and right.

“What?”

“I
am looking for the commander of the Fifth.” The monster walked to
him, his back straight, with sure steps. “I am looking for the
commander. Do you know where he might be?”

Good
god, this monster is too calm. “This is a war, stranger.” He had
more to say, but his throat was dry. He wasn’t sure he had even said
anything at all.

The
monster handed him something, ‘water bottle,’ he thought. As he
pulled in the liquid, Suran crawled out of the dust and collapsed a
few feet from him. He threw the bottle at his lieutenant, “Drink
brother, this is a fight, not nap time.”

The
stranger asked again, and Jaysun faced him on wavering legs.

“Are
you on our side or the adversary’s?”

“No.
I am the Captain of the Lord’s hosts.” The stranger said
matter-of-factly, shocking Jaysun. “I am looking for the Commander
of the Fifth.”

“I
am.” Jaysun pointed loosely at his collapsed lieutenant. “We
are.” Then he fell to the ground. Darkness filled his mind, feeling
faded until he felt nothing at all.

Suran
lay on the ground, his muscles no longer obeyed him, but he could
see. He watched passively as Jaysun tossed the water bottle at him.
It landed next to him and slowly rolled until it ran against his
foot. He looked in amazement behind Jaysun. Soldiers were twitching,
crawling, dragging themselves away from the enemy. There was one man
missing half of his torso plating, as if it had been ripped like
paper. From his neck to his waist was bared muscle, loose skin fell
from his elbow like a torn sleeve. Even so, the man was dragging
along his battle partner.

Just
beyond that scene and slightly out of focus, there seemed to be some
kind of shield. He traced it with his eyes, up. A dome. He stared in
wonder, watching artillery rounds explode against it, blossoming out
colorful flower patterns.

They
were safe.

His
attention shifted back to his commander as Jaysun fell to the ground
in a loose lump, and then to the very tall stranger that had been
talking to the Commander.

The
stranger approached him, but he faded into darkness.

Sweet
darkness. . . no war. . . no pain.

nobody
dying.

End of Part 1 of the short story – The End of War by Nick A. Michael

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