Rust, Dirt and Blood

Private Josef Steiner. Legion of Kharthion. No. 332143246.

Rust, dirt and blood. The sky above was dark and oppressive. I’d checked and rechecked my Repeater, the mag was full. I knew it was full, but I also knew in a few minutes I’d check it again. I was shaking. It was strange. I was used to fighting, we all were, but here on this desolate moon, something felt different. Where the decayed carcass of a civilisation spread out across the ashen earth, where the mere bones of towers pointed up to the stars like accusatory fingers, were they threatening us the men from space, or the gods themselves? Rust, dirt and blood.

Radsen leant on an ancient steel beam and smoked a cigarette. He was taller than all of us and far more imposing. He had a large scar burned from left to right across his face just below his eyes. He stood there mumbling to himself. He’d been doing that a lot lately, it made me uneasy. A bright face suddenly appeared infront of me. It was Lohan the squad leader. He was far too young for an SL but we’d been stuck with him since the 96 Wars on Ashnyr. He was the consummate professional, his shirt was permenantely buttoned up, his boots were more reflective than a mirror. “Fall in” came that child like voice. He continued: “We’ve been tasked with escorting a Snail through a sector of District Korza. The area’s already been cleared by Third Platoon, but the enemy is stubborn, so check your sectors, stay on alert, watch each other’s backs out there. We move in 10.”

Farek went back to his spot on the floor for a nap. He was always sleeping. I don’t know how he did it. Pryce and Doltman returned to their books. They took bets on everything, and they gambled with everything, Doltman once barely had half a mag and Pryce more bullets than he could carry. First casualty, first trooper to get a kill, first to run. Everthing was on the table, everything quantified, every tragic moment bought and sold.

It was then we saw the boxes being wheeled through, we didn’t like calling them coffins. I stopped one of the medics.

“A bunch of guys from 4th Platoon got ripped while they were eating breakfast” he answered, “No one knows where the Blackheads came from.”

We’d taken to calling the enemy Blackheads because they wore black helmets and you couldn’t get rid of them. I had friends in 4th, so I kind of wanted to bump into some Blackheads. Any chance for revenge. I checked my mag again. Private Anders punched me in the arm. “Ready?”

“Yeah” I responded unconvincingly. Anders was in charge of the Heavy Repeater, the real fire power of the squad. It’d tear through walls, shields, armour, anything.

The PL ordered us forwards, as part of fourth squad our orders were to take up position on higher ground so we could scout the road ahead. The ladder we eventually ascended was ancient, bits of it came away as we climbed, like boiled meat sliding off bone.

Once we reached the top of a the structure we could see them everywhere. Silent and motionless. I remember that moment like it’s still happening. I hoped my mag was full. Just ahead was a squad of Blackheads looking down on Third in the street below.

First had climbed the structure behind us, they were a rifle squad and so could more easily pick off targets at range. Second had pushed round the right flank.

We hadn’t realised that the Blackheads had instead pushed on the left.

Repeater fire ripped through the silence. The thud of metal into flesh. The screams of the wounded and dying. Third just beind the Snail got hit hard.

The group ahead was already taking ineffectual fire from First as the walls on the side of the walkway provided hard cover, but we had flanked them. There was nothing between us and them but air. I raised my weapon and fired. I put three rounds into the chest of the one directly in front of me. His legs gave out after the first hit. I must have gone right through his spine. He went down as the repeater kicked up, the second and third rounds went in the top of his chest, just below his neck. I remember his face. I’ve killed hardened veterans before. There’s always panic in the eyes. The sudden realisation that you’re not the protagonist of this story. The disbelief that in a few moments everything will go dark. Not this guy. He was calm, serene; there was even a slight smile. Those vibrant green eyes stayed open then entire time. It was then Anders kicked off the Heavy Repeater, even through the carnage, the explosion of viscera, the world showered in red, I could see those eyes staring back at me.

But then it came at us. The world exploded. Sparks and dust spat up in great clouds of death. There was a building on the other side of the road with an enemy rifle squad positioned at the windows. We got out of there as fast as we could. Back down the ladder. I think I jumped most of the way. Everything was hazy with the adrenaline.

We bumped into Second at the bottom falling back from heavy fire. It was then I noticed only me, Radsen and Anders had made it back down. Radsen was mumbling again and staring off into the distance. Anders just kept asking me if the rest of the squad were okay. I didn’t answer. I called out for Dax, he was Second’s SL. He got us to join up with them. “PUSH FORWARDS!” He kept screaming, while kicking his cowering squad mates.

I heard First’s Heavy Repeater open up above us and watched as the building on the other side of the road was torn to shreds. It must have been where the Blackheads were that had flanked Third.

As soon the Blackhead Heavy Repeater that was pinning us down stopped Dax screamed “CHARGE!” We covered the ground in seconds, but instead of falling back like they should have done, like countless enemy squads have done before they countered us. We met in the open ground. Rifle butts caved in faces, knives punctured torsos, that iron taste filled the air as men flailed in the dust. Rust, dirt and Blood. We were better. We outnumbered them. But they still fought us to the last man. I swore I’d killed one guy three times before he stopped moving.

The PL finally gave us the all clear. I sat next to Anders, staring at the bodies. I could still see the eyes, but they were all around me now. The men we had lost in the charge had faces contorted in pain and horror. The enemy had faces for family photos. The eyes. I checked my mag again. Radsen had wandered off. Anders asked again “They’re okay right.”

I didn’t answer, I could see the guys from First carrying what was left of them down.

Rust, dirt and blood.

deathzap campaign oltra 2

Thanks for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed the more literary style of battle report it’s something I’d like to keep doing, but I don’t promise every report will be like this. I’ll be posting the Alpha rules for Deathzap 2 in the menu, along with the make up of the squads and any special rules for each faction just in case you ever get the desire to play some Deathzap too.

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