It was cold, and raining. Smith could feel the heavy rain beating on his kit. He saw all the men around him hurrying from cover to cover, firing away at the rebels caved in into the building further up the street.
The city was dead, it had been for the last 40 years. It was clear that the buildings had taken a beating, or were they buildings. At some point the trail of battle, tanks, debris and men, got mixed with the city. The city would never get rid of it. The grey masonry dust covered and tinted all surfaces, making it hard to recognize the remains of a cargo truck from a gate house. The roads were filled with debris and the only way of knowing you were standing on a road were the even larger heaps of debris that rose were the hab blocks had been.
Smith watched a man run by, heading for a group of men hunched in a foxhole. It was hard to tell which regiment the man was from, was it not for the grimy Regimental badge of the XVI Volcar Foot.
The man wore the standard dark ochre battle dress of the Volcar, but it was covered in that same grey layer of dust. He wore black webbing, which included a couple of extra pouches, for ferrying orders and included writing tools. Under the webbing was an olive green flak vest, although the olive green cloth was torn, and scorched. On his back, he had a standard back pack, issued to every man in the regiment, and it included a blanket, rolled and harnessed on the top.
“Lieutenant, get over here!”
Smith hurried to join the men and the messenger, a corporal according to his rank pins. The messenger was holding a data recorder in his bionic left hand, parts of the metallic limb visible from underneath a black leather glove he wore on the hand. It seemed that the rebels had counter attacked a few blocks North, and they were getting through. The Saint had given orders for them to reposition to prevent the counter-attack making it behind the Imperial lines.
“Here we go.”
They had gone. He leapt out of his hiding place and started up the street. He made sure to use all the cover and shadows to his advantage.
He wore dark clothes, but he had rubbed them with dirt to help him blend to the filth that was the remains of the disgusting Imperial city. He had leg holsters on both his legs and his webbing was filled with pouches, packed full with magazines, rations, trackers and stick bombs. His head was hooded and all you could see past the camo net and cloth were the bionic eyes that constantly hummed as he scanned the landscape. He had a large back pack that was also covered in camo netting, and he had made sure to rub each and every crevices with dirt. His trophies and rank pins had all been dulled with mud for optimal stealth. In many ways his appearance gave one characteristic. He was the perfectly designed killer.
He checked his rifle, which he had already cleaned 3 times while the enemies had been charging up past him. Those fools never looked hard enough.
His radio crackled. He had kept on the enemy channel, and had heard of the large counter-attack. It seemed the XVI Volcar Foot had joined the fight. He wondered if they were the idiots who had just charged past him on 10th avenue.
He checked his orders, and studied his map. He was still ten miles out.
The MG was firing on full auto beside Smith as the Rebels made another charge up the street. The rest of D-Company were with him, repelling the assault. The rebel assault had been determined and already bodies were piling as they desperately ran into the tracer fire. The Rebels had been attacking on all fronts. The Imperial tacticians were not sure what had caused the Rebels to return to such aggressiveness after almost 3 years of passive dug in warfare.
“More men to plug that gap to the left.”
He could see the dark-robed figures hurrying up at them. They were hunch-backed and wore chains around their necks, with symbols Smith didn’t even want to start thinking about. Their weapons were ancient, most of them solid-slug bolt-action rifles. Their faces were hidden under a hood, and large round goggles. On their belts they had small leather ammo pouches and some other small bags. He had heard all the rumours, about what the Rebels did to prisoners, and he bet they had something to do with those small bags. Some of them were wearing steel body armour. Even though it might save your life, mostly it just limited your mobility. Some of the rebels were wearing rebreathers and some of them even had large two handed axes, that they held above their heads as they charged forward.
He took cover as the ground started to tremble under his feet. He lay still and listened. It seemed as if it was coming from the Rebel lines. They must be the old war engines that they had found on the Northern outskirts, being put into deadly use against the Imperials.
Smith could hear them coming, before he saw them.
They were very old, but they had thick armour. They were painted lime green and sported the serpent icon of the Rebel movement on their turrets. There were no tank numbers or other insignia, it was not necessary, and it was the brutal efficiency the Rebels were renowned for.
He could already see the first rocket trails. They only had 3 launchers in the company.
“Get me the vox!”
Belae, his vox-officer hurried to him. Belae was dressed in the same dark ochre as all the other men, but instead of a regular back pack, he carried a large radio unit, that had a very long antenna, supposedly for a better signal. Belae had learned that the antenna was more of a problem, as enemies tended to spot him from any cover thanks to the large jotting pole.
He handed his lieutenant the phone from his radio unit, which he took off his back, and rested on the ground in front of him.
“Give me the divisional command.”
Surveying the ground in front of him, he carefully made his way over the street onto the other side. He had already dodged another patrol, and he would bet on being pretty deep into the Imperial lines. Still he knew He’d have to keep going.
Smith heard the turbine engines of the fighters shriek as they started their attack run. The fighters were dark blue and sported the Imperial eagle reaching from one wing tip to the other. On their left side, right behind the slightly round cockpit, were the plane identification numbers. Some of the planes even had decorated kill markings, boasting their might. The most kills he counted was 25 on the side of one of the fighters.
Rockets slammed into the heavy tanks, causing massive damage. The entire street was turned into a pile of debris, and one of the tanks’ ammunition stores had exploded. Now petrol was raining on the Rebel infantry advancing behind the tanks. Tracer rounds from the fighters took care of the rest. It truly was a slaughter.
He had finally found the place, a large but badly beaten building. It had probably been a hab block. The remnants of it were a disgrace, but it was high enough to give him a good angle.
The floors were dark, some sort of brown although it was hard to tell with all the dust and dirt. The walls had probably been a bright beige, but there wasn’t much of the walls left.
He clambered to the highest level, and found a window facing East. He started checking his kit. He pulled a table to the back of the room and set his rifle on it. Studying the landscape outside of the window through his scope, he waited.
Smith heard the shot a few seconds after it had been fired. It was the deep hollow sound of a heavy bolt action sniper rifle firing, but it seemed to have come from deep within the Imperial lines. It had come from the direction of the Imperial command post.