Almost forgot!

Track out is in full swing so I am shackled with my 8th grader for 3 weeks. Day one: trip to the NC zoo. Great experience since the majority of the animals are in huge areas and not confined to small spaces. Open plains for the herd animals. Even the lions have a massive pen. This is the largest walking zoo in the country- with over ten miles of trails. So you can see, I am a little tired this evening. Anywho- here is this week’s installment. Enjoy.

 

TWENTY-FOUR

Planet Fall

The green lights blinked on, and a soft metallic hum began to vibrate the ground as the main gates of the Trusgar Imperium Spaceport groaned open. Commander Lynch and his staff rode out to the division encampment, eager to get this task over with. He’d had more than enough of Joneth Pierce and his warped mentality. Thinking only of the return to tranquil times and spending the rest of the day on the nearby beach, Lynch smiled.

Roughly two thousand tracked and wheeled vehicles awaited them in the nearest valley. The roar of engines shook the ground and rocked the trees back and forth. Close to fifteen thousand soldiers finished their last-minute preparations, moving in and among the winding columns. Company commanders gave the standard movement and safety briefing to the drivers and vehicle commanders. Despite the weeks onboard the Seventh Fleet’s ships, the atmosphere was jovial and light-hearted.

This machine, fused together from years of battle and forged in a brotherhood few outside of the military could understand, was set and determined to add another victory streamer to their colors. Pride reflected off their faces and uniforms. This was their day, and like so many others before, it was about to become a legend. Lynch had to admit that he’d never seen a finer fighting force. It was the attitude with which they carried themselves that set them apart. They moved and acted as if nothing in the universe was going to stop them. He wished he’d had such troops back when….

General Pierce had departed hours ago, not willing to wait for the rest of the division to land. His unique blend of confidence and brashness had earned him many titles over the years, but there always remained the deepest respect for his results. That Lynch and a great many others hated the man was no secret. Pierce would have it no other way.

Lynch nodded to the banner man, who immediately raised the colors of the Imperium and began waving them overhead. The first convoy commander saluted Lynch and held on as his vehicle kicked into gear and began the quest. Minion was not far off, and with it came the dark manner of Hells of the Wastelands.

Jumping from the hover jeep, Lynch placed his hands on his hips and watched as the first tank battalion rolled by, followed closely by howitzers and air defense units. Next came infantry, twenty to a truck. Their youthful faces offered him the best definition to war he could remember. It was young men and women giving their all for the troopers next to them. They did it without thanks, for the greatest reward came in living to see their friends another day.

Trusgar Imperium Spaceport had never seen this level of activity — not even when the Imperium had first dispatched forces to curb the Berserker problem in the attempts at establishing a staging area for its war with the Xempsarillian Empire. Hundreds of Helscape natives came out to watch this unprecedented event, curiously wondering if things across the river were as bad as this described. The regents hidden in the plateau city of Draken were saying nothing, only that this was an exercise agreed upon by both parties and would be mutually beneficial. The constant roar of engines was enough to keep the people’s minds from political decisions. They awed as the first recon elements boarded their slender fighting vehicles and sped away, long before General Pierce even made planet fall. It was a three-day ride to the Wastelands, but they were moving out like it was already near.

Commander Lynch called his staff together for a last-second meeting and called ahead to Fort Evans to ensure all was ready. Lynch had only been on station for six cycles, having been relieved from the front lines after an incident involving thirty-three friendly casualties. He had been reduced in rank and sent to this backwater world for his next tour of duty. It was safe to say his career was finished. There was no way he was going to get picked up for promotion again, not unless the entire command structure was wiped out. All he could do now, was sit and wait out his remaining time in service.

He met with Joneth Pierce shortly after midnight and came away entirely unimpressed with the man. He laughed to himself when Pierce told him the division had no intention of staying in Trusgar to ready itself. All preparations were to be made on the road, Pierce told him. The man went on with subtle hints at his personal dreams of glory and fame until Lynch was forced to excuse himself. Professional courtesy was the only thing keeping him from being disrespectful. If it weren’t for that…

On his way from his meeting with the pompous general, he was called back to the pads. An incoming shuttle was arriving from the Frontier with the latest batch of wounded and the ones fortunate enough to have completed their tour of duty in one piece. Their faces were gaunt and near ghostly, and each of them stared down the fresh faces of the newly arrived troopers. An eerie feeling stole over the place, leaving the shock troopers wondering what they were getting into.

Having seen as much as he cared to, Lynch went back to his quarters to rub up against the local girl he’d taken to and hopefully find a few hours of sleep.

 

Pierce stood on the edge of Trusgar’s perimeter, calmly watching the waves lap against the shore. Only one moon was out tonight, but it gave off more than enough light to calm Pierce’s nerves. Some men in his position would focus solely on the negative. After all, who wanted to be sent to a backwater world far enough from the front lines that, if you died, no one would remember your name? He knew this was his true calling. This offensive would be the culmination of a phenomenal rise through the ranks. Finally, once the ion dust and ash settled, Pierce would reach his destiny. Finally, after years of campaign and struggle, he would be in a position to command hundreds of thousands of young Imperium soldiers. He looked out across the Helscape oceans and saw his future beckoning him.

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