Stamford glanced back to see dozens of tiny figures appearing at the distant forest edge from which hours ago, they had come out of. Blue Thunder was too hurt to be able to take into the skies, and hence, they could only trek across the forest and grasslands, heading towards their destination.

Seeing their pursuers hot on their heels, Stamford could only increase their pace. There wasn't any point in keeping stealth nor hiding their tracks as it was almost impossible to hide the tracks of two dragons that weight as much as a tank! At least the skies were clear as there no longer was any more flying dragons coming to pester them, thought Stamford. They must had decimated all their enemies' dragons in the previous fight.

"Boss, they are roughly an hour distance behind us," Barkley, their navigator said as he measured the distance between them with his thumb. "They will gain on us sooner or later."

"We are too exposed here," Barkley continued as he gestured around their surroundings which consisted of a hilly grassland. "We need to get into some kind of cover!"

"I know," Stamford replied as he pointed to the dark blue trees in the far distance. "We can lose them once we get into that forest."

"It's still two hours or more of travel for us," Barkley pointed out. "They will overtake us by then!"

"Leave me here and ride on Saphia's back!" Blue Thunder sighed. "I will catch up with you guys once I feel better..."

"Shut it!" Stamford snapped as he ignored Blue Thunder's words. "We are all sticking together! And Saphia isn't trained nor has the endurance to carry anyone in flight!"

Blue Thunder lowered his head as he aimlessly plodded forward, "Sorry guys, I can't carry you all out of here..."

"I said shut it!" Stamford growled at Blue Thunder. "Save your damn energy and keep moving rather than whining!"

With that said, Stamford turned to the rest and asked, "Any claymore mines?"

"Nope," Luth replied as he was in charge of logistics. "We did not expect to be doing any ground humping..."

Stamford frowned as he looked around before picking out a site. "We can drop an ambush on them at that hill..."

"We hit them hard enough for them to scatter and buy some time for Blue Thunder," Stamford said as he looked at the two dragons trudging side by side, cutting a trail through the knee length grass. "They going to need to rest for food and water soon or they won't be able to keep their pace..."

The rest nodded as they knew what Blue Thunder needed most right now was food and rest to recover his wounds while Saphia was too out of shape due to her long imprisonment and general lack of exercise and training. Even the crew was tired as they were not trained like the Army or Marines to continuously trek long distances.

They continued trek behind the trail made by the dragons and slowly climbed up the small hilltop. Large rocks formations littered the relatively flat summit and offered an uninterrupted view of their surroundings. Blue Thunder flopped down tiredly in pain as his breathing became laboured after climbing the slope. Saphia followed his lead and laid down albeit in a more refined manner.

Stamford wiped the sweat off his head and slipped his cap back on. His legs were burning from the climb and he could see everyone was spent. Quickly, he made a decision, "Break out the heavy weapons! We make a stand here!"

The rest nodded and they started unloading the weapons off Blue Thunder's back. Stamford carried one of the MGs and set it down on stone outcrop while Dek dropped cans of ammunition down and calling out, "Conserve the ammo! We only have so much left!"

"Luth, Barkley! See to the dragons' need!" Stamford ordered as he loaded the MG. He removed his binos out from and scanned the figures following their trail. He made a mental count before he lowered his binos and eyed the skies. "Dek! See anything in the air?"

"No, boss!" Dek called back from the other side of the summit. "Only saw some movement at the forest edge but nothing moving near us!"

Stamford brought his binos up and watched the approaching force. They were dressed in leather mail and carrying long spears and shields with belted swords. Some carried bows and crossbows hung behind their backs and there were even several riding those half croc half raptors like mounts.

"I count about eighty," Stamford called out. "How many you see?"

"Make it a hundred!" Dek yelled back. "There's another group of twenty on my side moving through the grass!"

Stamford hurried raised his binos and scanned Dek's sector. After a quick scan, he spotted another group pushing through the knee length glass, moving in parallel to the main force about two hundred meters away. He frowned and he started scanning his side, checking if there's another small party pushing the same way. "Shit..."

"I got another party of twenty or so moving to our right flank!" Stamford said. "We need to suppress the main group and also prevent those two parties at the flanks to flank us!"

"Luth! Barkley!" Stamford turned around and called out. "You guys done?"

"Almost!" Luth replied back. He unwrapped the wax paper protecting the ration cubes and piled them before Blue Thunder and Saphia while Barkley worked on some of the reopened wounds and replacing soiled bandages on Blue Thunder's body. "Eat up, big guy! You too, girl!"

Too tired to complain, Saphia picked up a ration cube and slowly chewed. Blue Dragon did so with more gusto as he laid there flat on his belly sharing a meal with Saphia. Seeing both dragons eating, Luth let out a sigh of relief and he started unloading the casks of water for them to drink.

"Hurry up!" Stamford called out again. "The party is about to start!"

Barkley ripped the roll of duct tape and slapped it against Blue Thunder's wounds, making sure it was firmly stuck to his scales and holding the gauze in place before he dropped everything into the first aid box and rushed over to the edge of the hill.

Stamford gestured to the remaining machine gun and ordered, "Grab the last MG and cover our centre!"

Barkley nodded and he picked up the machine gun and ammunition can with each hand and half ran forward to a rocky outcrop. He dropped the machine gun and laid prone next to the outcrop and started fiddling with the weapon.

"Done, boss!" Luth came running over next, his submachine gun out and ready. He came to a crouch next to Stamford and awaited his instructions.

"Take over here," Stamford pushed himself up before he made a chopping gesture in front of the machine gun. "That's your firing arc! You are covering the right flank! Got it?"

"Yes, boss!" Luth took over the spot vacated by Stamford and snuggled the machine gun close to his body as he checked his firing lanes.

Stamford ran over to Barkley and repeated his orders, "You are covering our front!"

Next, he went over to Dek and said, "You're covering our left flank!"

The position of the three machine guns formed a triangle shape, each covering their own sectors. Once satisfied that the men knew what they needed to do, Stamford returned to Barkley and climbed up the rocky outcrop and took out his binos.

"Guys! Make ready!" Stamford called out as he observed the ambush ground. The enemy was about three hundred meters from the mil dot reticle shown. He waited until the majority of the main force was closer before he ordered in a surprisingly calm voice, "Barkley, you are cleared to engage!"

Barkley snapped the safety lever with his thumb and squeezed the trigger without hesitation. He had kept the cross hair of his 1.5x reflex sights on one of the figures sporting a red feather on his helm. The MG - 1 jumped in his hands and slammed painfully against his padded shoulder as it roared thunderously.

Stamford caught brief snatches of tracer rounds flickering downrange into the main group which was caught flat footed. The sudden thunderous roar of the machine gun rolled down the hill and flocks of feathered wyvern and animals were frightened out of their habitats.

The enemy surprised and confused, remained rooted on the spot as they tried to make sense of what was happening, allowing bullets to mow them down easily. Inexperienced and untrained to deal with modern firearms, the enemy trained in cold steel tactics, hunkered down as if facing arrows and spells instead.

They raised their shields up and the mages in the group threw up defensive spells out. The two smaller scouting parties at the flanks came rushing forward towards the source of the thunderous roaring and spellfire, only to meet a storm of lead fired by the other two machine guns.

The two scouting parties at the flanks did not fare as well as the main force as they had no mages in their parties and like the main force, they rushed forward, not thinking even once to lay down prone for cover and instead charged forward to close with the enemy as fast as possible as they were trained, resulting in both parties getting decimated.

The main force protected by magic had formed into a square and was making its way up the slope. The single machine gun was unable to deplete the magic barrier fast enough and the distance between the two forces closed. Stamford seeing the situation not good, yelled a warning to Dek and Luth while ordering Barkley to cease fire as not to waste ammunition.

Stamford drew his sword bayonet out and held it reserved gripe in his left hand while holding his submachine gun in his right and braced himself for the melee to come. Barkley had scrambled up to his feet and held the MG - 1 by hip, his left hand holding on to the bipod stand like a forward grip as he readied himself.

A victorious cheer came from the slope as the first heads appeared over the ridge and bodies started scrambling to the top. Stamford stepped back as he saw the telltale shimmering magical dome still protecting the climb enemy. "Fuck!"

An overzealous soldier charged forward upon spotting Stamford and the rest. He came running out of the magical barrier and Stamford smiled as he popped a single shot right at the soldier, sending the soldier sprawling down before his feet, dead before he hit the ground.

Seeing one of their own dead just like that sent the rest of the soldiers into a rage as they all charged as one. Barkley went down on one knee as he braced his elbow on his knee to support the weight of the machine gun and let it rip.

Men screamed as bullets cut them down while the magic barrier flickered wildly in a mad display of shimmering colours. A bolt of lightning cracked across the knife fighting range and Barkley went flying back with a groan, his chest smoking. Stamford roared out angrily as he saw Barkley went down and all hell broke loose.

He parried a spear with his sword bayonet and blew the owner's handsome face away with his SMG before he shot down another assailant behind the faceless soldier. His mind barely registered the magic barrier disappearing as his whole focus narrowed down to just a few feet around him.

Spearheads were thrust at him from all angles, some he managed to block or dodged but one thrust hammered against his side, his trauma plating blocking the stab painfully. He emptied his SMG at his assailants, granting him some breathing space as he gasped in pain.

Somewhere, he noticed the sounds of gunfire and he knew the rest were still fighting. He stepped back from the semi circle ring of spears aiming at him and he did a quick reload of his weapon when a draconic roar broke out behind him.

An angry Blue Thunder came out roaring and a spew of flames burst out from his gaping mouth like a flamer and turned the hilltop into a screaming inferno.

A note from neo Koh

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neo Koh


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