Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
“Me and my big mouth,” cursed Walters, as he looked out over the ranks of Church Guard positioned below him. There looked to be at least three companies of Guards, spread out over the rough terrain and he had received reports of another company approaching from the west. At least there were no armoured units with them, if that could be called a blessing. And to make matters worse, James had reported in on the communications circuit, that advanced units of Tauran forces had been spotted, early this morning.
“It seems, Sargeant,” he said, turning to Berbatov, “that we are between a rock and a hard place.”
“Not to worry, Sir,” responded the Sargeant confidently, “you’ll think of something.”
“Oh, I’m thinking of something, Sargeant …” he muttered, but stopped to watch Private Williamson sprinting up the hill.
“Sir, Sir!” gasped the soldier, skidding to a stop, “you’ve got to see this.”
“Unless you are here to tell me that everyone is surrendering, due to our overwhelmingly unassailable position, I don’t really need to actually see anything else,” commented Walters sarcastically.
Williamson stood open mouthed before him, “H-h-h-ow did you know, Sir?”
“What? Speak up soldier,” urged Walters, restraining himself from grabbing the private by the front of his tunic and shaking him.
“We’ve just had a call over short range communications, Sir. They want to surrender to you, personally. You are to watch the front ranks, Leftenant, Sir.”
Walters turned and saw three men move out in front of the Church Forces, an officer at their head.
“Berbatov, we have some visitors, let’s go,” he said as, adjusted the sword by his side.
“Could be a trap,” gruffed Berbatov, then laughing he picked up the now infamous halberd, “could also be a whole lot of fun!”
Walters scowled at him, and settled his cap more firmly on his head. He felt the comforting nudge of the K’ran by his side and placed his hand on its head.
“Okay, let’s do this,” he said firmly, leading his two companions down the hill.
“So it is true!” breathed the young officer, as they watched the two men and the K’ran come towards them, apparently at ease in each others company.
“Stand still,” he ordered as a ripple of unease travelled through the ranks.
Berbatov grounded his halberd as he came to a halt and stared threateningly at the Guards before him. The silver furred K’ran growled menacingly, standing ready by Walters’ side. Walters himself said nothing, waiting instead for the Guard Officer to speak.
“Sir!” barked the officer, snapping to attention with a parade ground salute.
“To what do we owe this pleasure…?” queried Walters.
“Second Leftenant Wilson, Sir. I am here to relinquish command of 2nd , 4th and 5th companies to yourself, Sir.”
“A Leftenant in charge of three companies? Rather unusual wouldn’t you say?” asked Walters.
“Major Burne is injured, Sir. So I have assumed command in his absence, Sir.” replied Wilson quickly.
“And the good Major, is in agreement with your decision?” questioned Walters, watching closely for the other man’s reaction.
“I am sure he would be, Sir, if he was not so indisposed,” responded Wilson.
“Hmm. Rather interesting. And the fourth company approaching from the west? What do you know of that, Leftenant?” The man looked surprised, his reaction genuine. “Nothing, Sir, I can assure you.”
“Very well, Leftenant. Let’s say that I believe you. What would you have me do with your men?”
“We are here to fight the Tauran scum, Sir. With you, Sir?” replied Wilson, tremulously.
“This scum!” snapped Walters pointing at the K’ran by his side, who bristled at the tone in his voice.
“N-no,Sir. We heard that there was a large force coming to attack you here. That you would need assistance. That men from the 5th Lutheran and others were fighting by your side. That you did not prejudge those who were unfortunate enough to have been on the wrong side of the bombardment, Sir” he replied rapidly, stiffening further into his position of attention.
“All that is true. But there is one important question, Leftenant. The answer to which you need to consider well.”
“Who are you fighting for?”
Leftenant Wilson made as if to speak, but the man behind coughed and then moved forward. He was carrying a pole on which was tied a roll of cloth. Without speaking he unfurled the cloth and as if in answer, a breeze began to blow, which caught the cloth and lifted it fluttering before them. The breeze strengthened and there snapping in the wind before them, crudely fashioned, was the snarling K’ran’s head.
Cheers rang out, and Berbatov leaned in towards him, “Looks like you just got a promotion,Sir.”
“What are you telling me, Major?” Wolfe snarled at the cowering officer before him.
“It appears that we have lost contact with a number of our units, Sir,” replied the man, quaking before the General’s anger.
“And what do we know of their movements?” asked Wolfe dangerously.
“Captain Arnesson has reported from orbit that they appear to be concentrating on Leftenant Walters’ position, General, Sir.” responded the Major, looking as though he expected to be slapped.
“Are they attacking …?” the sweet tone of the General’s voice, appeared to make it even more menacing.
The Major took a deep breath and replied, “No, Sir. Captain Arnesson indicates that they are deploying in a standard defensive formation, Sir.”
Wolfe turned slowly away from the Major and seemed to be struggling internally with his anger. After a few moments he turned back round and spoke, “Very well, get me Walters on the comm. We need to talk.”
Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
“Yes, General Wolfe. How can I help you?” asked Walters, speaking calmly into the transmitter.
“It seems as though we got off on the wrong foot, Walters. I am willing to try again, if you are.” The General appeared to be in a conciliatory mood.
“Very amenable of you General,” Walters, managed to keep the mirth out of his voice, but only just.
“We seem to have the same goal in mind, that of ridding this planet of the Tauran Forces. I am a loyal servant of the Church, but am not blind to the role you can play in this. Will you work with me?” the General’s words came across as sickeningly sweet.
Walters waited a moment, collecting his thoughts, “General, General. Right now our objective is aligned I would say, rather than being the same. I seem to have a major disagreement with the Tauran Forces. Not really sure what I’ve done, apart from stealing some of their men and killing a few more of them. Sound familiar?” and not waiting for a reply, “Anyway, once I have dealt with that problem, what assurance do I have that you won’t just come running in to ‘reassign’ us?”
Walters could feel the grinding of the General’s teeth through the transmitter, but then he spoke, “I am willing to offer you a field commission to Captain, for the duration of this conflict. As long as you co-ordinate your actions with mine.”
“Make it Major and I’ll consider it,” replied Walters, grinning to himself, “Oh, and remember General, co-ordination does not mean interference.”
There was silence for an extended period of time and then the answer came, “Very well, Major.”
Zone of Conflict
Tauran Disputed Zone
Walters flicked off the switch and stared into the distance. Things had just gotten a lot more complicated. There was absolutely no way that his command, nor commission, would be accepted once hostilities ceased. Neither General Wolfe nor his Inspectors would think twice about ‘reassigning’ him, killing the K’ran and liquidating the men who had joined him.
If he was to get out of this, he would have to think of something original, something unique. That, was for later though, right now, as Berbatov would say, it was time for some fun.
The newly crowned Major looked on in amazement at the scene before him. Sargeant Berbatov was buried beneath a mass of snarling and snapping bodies. With an enormous heave, he exploded from the middle of the melee and with a shout of pure glee, dived back in again.
To one side stood Williamson, in his arms what looked like a pile of green cloth, which he dropped to the floor as Berbatov barrelled into him, cursing happily.
“Sargeant!” shouted Walters, “When you have a moment?”
Berbatov batted one of the K’ran playfully on the side of the head and, after dusting off his trousers, swaggered across to Walters.
“Major, Sir!” he saluted in an awful rendition of standard drill.
“Could you possibly explain to me what is going on?” asked Walters, wincing as he saw the crafty expression cross the Sargeant’s face.
“Measuring, sir,” responded the Sargeant, staring past Walters’ shoulder.
He resisted the urge to turn and look at what Berbatov was fixated on and tried again. “Measuring, Sargeant?”
“Yes, Sir. Exactly, Sir,” replied Berbatov.
Walters waited patiently for more information, but it soon became obvious that Berbatov had nothing more to add. He tried again.
“Helping me, Sir!” shouted Berbatov, getting into the swing of things.
“Helping you ……?” queried Walters, wishing he had never started this.
“Yes, Sir!” said Berbatov, giving the expected response, “Will that be all, Sir?
“Yes, Sargeant. That will definitely be all for now,” said Walters, as he watched Berbatov’s about turn in dismay.
Berbatov stopped to help Williamson gather up the cloth and then, with one arm around the nervous soldier’s shoulders, led him cheerfully away.
K’san looked on at the interplay between the two men, their bond was obviously strong. It would need to be. Tomorrow they would face the might of his father’s forces and they would need true strength and belief. He knew that there could be no quarter in this battle. The Lord had pronounced the death of W’ratr and his own father had sworn to personally fulfil his command, with specific emphasis on the death of his former son.
The K’ran knew this as more of his brothers had joined him, but alone they would not be enough. They needed W’ratr to lead them. He had proven that he was worthy of their brotherhood and they would fight, not just with him, but for him.
It would not be a battle only of guns and swords, but claws and fangs. There were many who needed to win their names, on both sides. He growled softly and K’ranwon and K’rantu moved to join him. As one they padded forward to join their pack.
Guest post with D.P. Prior
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