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Northern Front, Outskirts of Falledge

Mage flames flickered wildly in the wind as the passage of a wounded dragon slammed into the ground and dug a furrow across the terrain. Bangs of rifles and screams echoed out constantly as pockets of SDF continued their resistance against the Order of Shadows.

SDF Corporal Bock was nursing a bleeding head wound caused by a glancing blow from a sword. He had repaid that attacker with a blast of rifle fire in the face. He glanced around his surroundings, seeing a few brave souls being besieged by several armored Knights.

Ignoring his head wound and the stinging pain on his wounded shoulder, he leaped forward at the back of an unsuspecting Knight and rammed his sword bayonet into the back of the Knight. The tempered steel with the full weight of Bock easily punched through the plate mail of the Imperial and making the Imperial arc his back in agony!

Bock tried to yank his bayonet out but it was stuck so he squeezed the trigger and blew a fist chunk of guts and flesh out of the Imperial Knight before he managed to retrieve his bayonet out. With his sudden appearance, the tides were turned but less than half of the SDF soldiers survived against four of the Knights.

Bock looked around and gestured towards the distant city walls, "Fall back! The lines are overrun!"

"Gather all spare ammo and weapons!" Bock ordered as he noticed he was the only senior NCO there. "Hurry!"

The seven remaining soldiers quickly grabbed ammo and weapons from the dead and crawled out of the fighting pit. They crouched low and ran across the battlefield, dodging bolts of spells and tracer fire. "Run!"

"HEY!" Someone yelled from ahead of them and waved them over. Boch quickly led the SDF remnants towards the waving figures and they dropped down into another line of trenches. Boch found there was another small group of SDF soldiers hurdled along the trench walls.

"What are you guys doing?" One of the soldiers who waved them over asked. "You could get shot by the machine guns!"

"Which unit are you all from?" Boch asked. He noted the SDF soldier was a lance corporal. His uniform was mud covered and they looked like they had experienced some heavy fighting. "We are from 4th Company."

"The 4th?" The Lance Corporal frowned. "This is the Eighth! Shouldn't you guys be in the front?"

"The front is broken!" One of the survivors of the 4th Company said. "We got overrun and the officers ran! Fought back as much as we could and I think we are the only ones left!"

Bock noticed that the fighting position was just an 'L' shaped trench without any tunnels or passages linking to other trench lines and he gestured with his head to the speaker. "Who's in charge?"

The Lance Corporal looked around before he turned back to Bock, "I guess you are the boss now! Our Sarge ate a magic missile earlier when the Imperials attacked. And... our LT... went back to the Command Post for orders..."

"You meant your officer ran too?" Bock shook his head. "How many of you are here?"

"Just two squads," The Lance Corporal replied. "Twenty men."

"Ok, that means we got a total of twenty eight here," Bock stuck his head out of the trench to look around. "What's your name?"

"Talix," The Lance Corporal said. "And we also got a machine gun."

Bock nodded. "Any other NCOs?"

Talix shook his head, "I'm the only LCP here."

Bock sighed inwardly as he looked at the expectant glances by the men surrounding him in the fighting position. "Alright, we need to link up with another unit if possible. If not we need to support the City Gate's defenses!"

"The Knights had moved on towards the City Gates," Bock said. Their position was just South East of the City Gates, half a kilometer away and just at the edge of the Imperial thrust to the city. "No point either to stay here or move towards the East!"

Some of the men grumbled among themselves, "Do we need to? We just escaped death!"

"Why did you sign on then?" Bock growled. "Did you not take the coin to fight for the city? Protect your land and families here?"

"We got no families or land h-!" Someone yelled and quickly paused when Bock cocked his rifle at the dissenter.

"One more word about running away," Bock's eyes glittered dangerously in the flickering flames said. "And I kill you!"

"Y- yes, Corporal!" The dissenter nodded frantically.

"You took an oath to defend this land!" Bock growled loudly so that everyone can hear. "You took the gold and your brother in arms had died and bled for it... Now you want to turn coward?"

He glared at each and every one of the soldiers, most of them unable to meet his eyes. "Do you not fear their souls will condemn you for your cowardly actions? How could you sleep at night knowing that you abandoned the rest of your brothers here?"

"WE ARE NOT COWARDS!" Talix suddenly shouted, surprising the rest even Bock. He slapped the shoulder of the soldiers next to him and urged them. "NOT COWARDS!"

One by one the soldiers rallied to the cry. "NOT COWARDS!"

"Good!" Bock gave a slight nod to Talix for his help. "How far to the next unit's trench?"

"They should be about a hundred meters away to our left," Talix said while pointing off into the darkness.

"You and you!" Bock picked out to more solid looking soldiers and ordered. "Get to the other trench and see if there's an Officer there! If not tell them to join us here!"

"Yes, Corporal!" The two soldiers gave a salute and climbed out of the trench before they disappeared into the dark.

"The rest of your check your gear and ammo!" Bock ordered.

"Think they might run?" Bock offhandedly asked Talix in a low voice.

Talix gave a shrug as he opened and closed his pouches of his webbing. "Hard to tell, everyone is frightened. Some of us are never even seen blood before till today..."

Talix gestured to the rest who were checking their equipment. "They are all cutthroats, orphans, beggars and even kids with grand delusions of glory. But they are not cowards, just leaderless."

Bock raised an eyebrow at the Lance Corporal's words. "Why didn't you take over command?"

"Me?" Talix laughed. "I'm just a lowly lance corporal. I know nothing of command."

"Yet, you held them together while your officer ran?" Bock retorted back.

Talix gave another shrug as he rebuttoned his pouches. "It's safer for me if there are more people around me."

Bock shook his head and didn't continue to press Talix for his reasons. "Alright, help me gather the men. We wait for that two return, if they did not come back, then we move out of here."

Talix nodded and he squeezed past the soldiers and started calling the men to gather up. Bock turned his attention out of the trench. He could clearly see the lights of the City Walls and Gate. Tracers and sparkling trails of spells flew at each other along the Walls and Gates.

Suddenly there was a scrape and the troops on watch swung their rifles over to cover the sound. Bock also jerked up and aimed his rifle at the direction of the noise.

"Friendly! Friendly!" A voice came over the trenches. "It's us!"

"Hold your fire!" Bock ordered quickly. "Come out!"

Several figures appeared out of the darkness and they quickly slipped down the trenches. The two soldiers sent to find help reported to Bock, "Corporal! We only found five men at the other positions."

One of the newcomers was a lance corporal. He came before Bock and said, "Corporal! Reporting with detail of five men!"

"Where is the rest?" Bock asked as he eyed the newcomers.

"Reporting to Corporal! They ran!" The new lance corporal stood there in attention as he replied.

Bock raised an eyebrow to Talix who was smirking away with the rest at the uptight newcomer. "At ease, lance corporal. Your name?"

"This lance corporal name is Aveen! Corporal!" The lance corporal together with his men adopted a parade rest stance. "SDF Seventh Company, Second Platoon!"

Bock nodded and said, "Relax, we are not in training anymore..."

"Yes, Corporal!" Aveen and the four others continued to remain at his parade rest position without moving.

Bock sighed inwardly again, wondering what kind of weirdos did he pick up. Since now he has a total of thirty two men, "Talix and Aveen. Each of you two take nine men each. We form up into three squads and have a three men machine gun team."

The two lance corporals nodded. "We will push towards the gates. Staying out here means we will be cut off by the Imperials sooner or later. If we encounter any Imperials, we will only fight if we can surprise the Imperials. If not avoid combat unless we really need to. No point wasting lives for nothing. Understand?"

Both lance corporals and the nearby men listening in nodded. "Good, form your squads and brief them. We move out in fifteen minutes!"

Bock eyed his nervous men and gave them an assuring smile as they all formed up and ready to make their way towards the city under siege. "Attach bayonets!"

A series of 'shing' came along the line as the SDF soldiers drew their sword bayonets out and with a click, locked their bayonets to their rifles. "MOVE OUT!"

The soldiers quietly climbed over the side of the trench and advanced in a single line towards the city under siege. They had to cover half a kilometer of pitted and churned land. They climbed over barbwires, abandoned fighting positions and the dead.

Bock pointed to the front where he could see a large group silhouetted against the flames and glows of spells and parachute flares. "Imperials!"

The soldiers instinctively bent downwards as they advanced closer to the enemy. A sudden burst of light erupted among the Imperials and fiery ball of flames was tossed into the air, flying off like a meteor towards the city walls.

"Mages and siege weapons!" Bock hissed to the men who passed the word down the line. "We will attack them!"

Bock stopped the line just before the edge of the glowing light of the torches. Over thirty pairs of black powder rifles were raised up and Bock chopped his hand down. The sudden barrage of rifle fire from the rear caught the siege weapon crew off guard, killing half of the crew just from the first volley. "CHARGEEEE!"

"ARGGGGGGGGGGG!!" The men cried out all their pended up fear and anger at the Imperials as they charged. The shaken Imperial siege crew barely recovered from the sudden attack turned to see a line of savage looking men appearing out of the darkness like some kind of crazed demons.

Most of the Imperials ran, while those remained behind were stuck down by cold steel. Even the couple of Knights that guarded the siege weapons barely fared any better as Bock's sole machine gun mowed down their magic barriers till they burst and made the Knights do a little lead dance.

"Make line! MAKE LINE!" Bock yelled at his eager men. "Hold! HOLD!"

Aveen and Talix both reined their men in and the men stopped their bloodthirsty charge at the fleeing Imperials and formed up into a clumsy line.

"TAKE AIM!"

Rifles raised up and pointed at the fleeing backs of the Imperials.

"FIREEE!"

Thunder and flames stabbed into the night and their view was partially blocked by the dirty gun smoke. Bock grinned, feeling the adrenaline rush, "GOOD WORK!"

"Burn those two siege engines!" Bock quickly ordered. "Then let's get the hell out of here before they come back with reinforcements!"

Minutes later, the siege catapults fueled by its own incendiaries, burst into flames and Bock and his ad hoc platoon vanished into the darkness before the Imperials returned.

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