Take your powder, take your gun... [Closed, GTFO]
Longcreek Schoolhouse was a small, long building. The fee-paying Infants school taught children from age 4-8 in the areas of numeracy, literacy, and basic geography and history. The schoolmaster also taught firearms in after-school classes, having served in the Questarian Army in Continentia, showing the kids how to fire air rifles, and later, shotguns, in the long and winding farm fields opposite the farm. Life in Longcreek, and indeed the Alexanderland was laid back and possibly quite boring.
Tuesday was Numeracy day, and perhaps the day many children hated the most. To liven up what is usually a boring day, Miss Woods - the only other teacher in the school - would take the children outside for a double-lunch, where they could eat their favourite foods and play their favourite games for twice as long. It was on this warm and lazy Tuesday that Thomas Clark was being excluded as usual. He preferred to eat biscuits than play cricket and rugby, and the children berated him for it.
Laying back on the soft grass, he sighed while munching on another bourbon. He closed his eyes and when he opened them again a moment later he was startled to find half a dozen white parachutes flap open in the blue sky. With every blink he took the number multiplied itself. "Erm, Miss Woods?" he got up and waddled over to where the teacher was chatting with the headteacher. "Miss Woods!"
"What do you want Thomas?" She said irritably.
"Um, Miss, what's that?" He said pointedly while aiming his arm into the air in the general direction of the Doomani paratroops.
"Dear God," the Headteacher murmured while glaring into the skies.
Ten minutes later
"Father, father!" the voice cried out.
"Richard?" the farm owner, an elderly man poked his head and looked down the stairs to see his youngest son panting and puffing at the house's door. "What's the matter?"
"Soldiers, father. Paratroopers, all over the farm," he began. "Dozens of them!"
"Five minutes ago. Peter sent me running straight back here. I came as soon as I could father," Richard explained.
"Get your rifle son," his father ordered. "And get your brothers back here."
Mr Longcreek, the oldest and most established farmer in the Alexanderland, got up from his desk chair and crossed the landing to a room opposite the office. Opening up what appeared to be a wall-wardrobe, he drew out a well-cleaned Spencer rifle and a few boxes of cartridges. Cleaning it quickly but methodically he loaded the weapon and laid it down on the desk next to the wardrobe.
He then took out a folding-stock Fabrique-National FAL and a pair of Short Magazine Lee Enfields, loading them and setting the Lee Enfields in a corner of the wall and slinging the FAL over his back. Breaking open a double barreled shotgun he inserted a pair of shells and snapped it shut, laying it down across the table.
With two FAL magazines in his belt and a bag of spencer cartridges he crossed the landing bridge to the front of his house and watched as his three sons returned in a Land Rover armed with shotguns retrieved from the vehicle. They debriefed him quickly before spotting a squad of Doomani paratroops moving up into the farmhouses's long drive.
"Bugger off my property!" Longcreek growled out from the open window of the second floor bay windows before firing a not-so long warning shot with his spencer rifle.
"Sir," Brigadier Chopham saluted the Governor sharply.
"I already know Brigadier," the Governor said, shaking his head slowly. "It is time."
Unfortunately for Chopham, Governor Keystone had a totally different understanding of that phrase.
"Governor, my men are forming up outside Fort Henry. I require your authorisation on behalf of the King."
"Brigadier, stand your men down," Keystone looked at the table, avoiding eye contact with the man in charge of Alexanderland's defence.
"What?" Chopham blurted out. "Sir, we outnumber them two to one. They are regrouping, we need to strike while the iron is hot!" he said in a raised voice.
"And achieve what? A temporary victory? Why shed anymore blood, Brigadier? Save a life for once in your career," the Governor replied. "I am not signing the authorisation document. Stand your men down."
"Governor. I am not going to surrender 250,000 souls to the Doomani without a fight," the Brigadier stood to his full height. "That was not why I was promoted to this rank."
"You are a goddamn fool!" The Governor shouted. "I will not authorise you to fight a battle you cannot win. Get out of my office, and don't you dare fire a single shot!" The Governor waved him away.
"God Save the King." Brigadier Chopham spat. Saluting, he turned to leave.
An hour later, victorious Doomani marines and paratroops rolled unopposed into Fort Henry, the Doomani commander's APC stopping at Government House. Five hundred Questarian troops sat, disarmed and watched by their Doomani counterparts, on the side of the road. For these dejected troops, the war was over.
Alexius didn't extinguish his cigarette when the yellow light went off and that piercing beep prompted the paratroopers to their feet. No, there was no reason. Not even when the door of the transport slid open and a jet of fresh air shot into the troop compartment, adding to the cacophony of jet engines. Somehow his cigarette remained lit, even as he hooked his chord to the static line. Tapping his cig, the ash was sucked right through the door, flying past the heads of several men who thought nothing of it. The man at the door spat a wad of spit, blackened by the dip packed between his lower lip and gum, towards the ground thousands of feet below, milliseconds before he himself calmly stepped outside. It was almost comical, the manner in which these professional soldiers enjoyed their tobacco right to the last second before pluning into a combat zone.
And if my 'chute don't open wide...
Alexius took one last long drag before the jump master yelled for him to make the plunge, the unfiltered tobacco smoke filling his lungs as he began to freefall.
I've got another one by my side...
He was saddened as the cig, nearly to the butt, was sucked from his mouth by the jet of air hitting him as he exited the aircraft. Upon landing, he wouldn't be able to light another one. Smoking was banned in designated combat zones due to fear that the enemy could use that to locate troop positions. Dipping was the preferred method of nicotine ingestion by Doomani troops in a combat zone.
And if that one should fail me too...
Alexius certainly did not forget why he was making this particular combat jump. Below him lay the Questarian colony of Alexanderland. The Questarians had made it their goal to attempt to forcibly change the Doomani way of life, and this naturally infuriated the average Doomani citizen. Being a member of the first force to set foot on Questarian soil in this war, his position was one envied by his countrymen. Suddenly, he was jerked upwards as his parachute deployed. He siezed the reins of his chute, and casually guided himself towards his drop zone. He toggled a quick release latch, allowing his drop bag, packed with thousands of rounds of ammunition, grenades, food, and other essentials to drop below him, dangling some ten feet below by a strap. This would lessen the load on himself when he hit the ground. His rifle, an AVIR Mod. II, remained strapped securely to his chest rig in the event he would need it.
Look out Satan I'm coming after you...
The ground drew nearer and nearer. He watched below as members of his cohort already began to fan out and establish a perimeter; AVAM airborne fighting vehicles were already rolling about. The drop zone appeared to be a farm. Unfortunately for Alexius, it seemed he'd be landing closer to civilization than anticipated; he certainly had not aimed for the house, although the wind carried him that way.
"FUCK!" he barked over the radio as he went into a roll, slamming into the roof; moments later he heard the noise of cracking wood and felt the sensation of falling.
Coming to his senses and looking up, he found himself hanging in the middle of a Questarian kitchen, a family of four staring at him in disbelief whilst seated at the kitchen table. The father's jaw simply dropped open, his pipe falling from his mouth and landing in the bowl of porridge he'd been eagerly consuming. The daughter burst into tears, and the mother held her close. The son, a boy of about eight years of age, burst into laughter.
Alexius swiftly detached his AVIR from his chest, tucking the stock tightly against his arm and switching on the laser aiming module. Siezing another quick release latch, he dropped to the ground, quickly jumping to his feet, the family still sitting in utter confusion.
Just then the front door burst open as a squad of infantry entered the house, quickly fanning out throughout. They already knew he was in the kitchen, their eye-mounted HUD systems feeding them the information, although one man poked his head around a doorway to make sure. Alexius was rather amused by this entire situation. The tension in the kitchen was quite high; within moments he found himself withdrawing his pack of smokes from a vest pocket and offering one to the father, who reluctantly took it. A few moments passed after Alexius lit it before the man started coughing.
"Unfiltered," he said clearly in English, quite obviously entertained by this, though he did not smile. Doomani men rarely smiled, although there was a tone of humor in his voice.
"House secure, we're moving," a voice crackled in his head.
Nodding to the family, he casualy strode out of the kitchen, out into the open field. The day was just begining.
"INCOMING!" a voice barked over the radio as the paratrooper squad ducked into the corn fields.
"Fucking crumpet-stuffers," growled Decurion Marius Kaeso as a round whizzed by his head.
The squad quickly assumed defensive positions facing the house, their RPG-man instinctively loading a fresh thermobaric round into the muzzle and screwing it securely on. The Legionaries didn't need to be told to return fire; the torrent that they poured into the second floor of the house was simply astonishing. One would not think that 13 men could produce that amount of fire. Their two ADEC light machineguns buzzed like chainsaws, pouring 6.7mm rounds through the walls of the second floor while the riflemen casually squeezed off two round bursts.
Though Kaeso was fairly sure he'd only seen one shooter, this was standard Doomani doctrine: overkill. He heard the thumping of a 33mm grenade launcher and seconds later a ball of fire errupted from the second floor of the house as a themobaric round went off, blowing out a good portion of the wall facing them as well as the roof above it. Within seconds, after two more such hits, the house was quite clearly on fire.
"CEASE FIRE!" Kaeso barked over the radio. It took just a second for all of the guns to go silent.
The smell of burning wood and freshly spent chordite was prevalent; a thin grey smoke hung about the Doomani formation while a tower of thick black smoke began to rise from the burning farm house. Kaeso motioned to his fireteam leaders; his first fireteam maneuvered to the flank of the house while the second maintained security, the squad moving in a bounding overwatch.
Standard Doomani doctrine: the fireteam that had advanced would now proceed to toss incendiery grenades into the house and facilitate the swift and effecient leveling of the structure to ensure nothing lived within it, while the second would do their best to ensure nobody on that team got shot at. Kaeso spat a jet of blackened spit into the soil at his feet as this ballet of destruction unfolded before him. All in a day's work for a crusader.
The Marines seemed to make a show of parading their Questarian captives through the streets, hands tied behind the back and blindfolded, marching them in a long line towards waiting helicopters that would bring them back to one of the vessels waiting offshore. Legatus Legionis Marcus Decius Felix stood beside Governor Keystone and Brigadier Chopham as this occured, totally silent, his face expressionless as he puffed on a Generian cigar. Naturally he'd offered Keystone and Chopham cigars. Keystone had oblidged him, but Chopham had steadfastly refused.
Felix understood. Chopham was defeated and not in a particularly good mood; Keystone was busy thinking ahead. He wanted to keep his job, and getting on Felix's good side would certainly help. And help it did. Felix, after talking to the man for a short while, had decided he'd make relatively suitable puppet administrator. Dismantling the local infrastructure, be it political or economic, was not something he wanted to do. Best to maintain as much stability as possible and create a profitable province for the Imperium in an orderly manner.
"So then," Felix spoke in accented English, "Our first order of business will be for you, governor, to get my people up to speed on the state of the colony."
He'd already explained that Alexanderland was to become a province of the Imperium, and that it was his hope that the locals would someday become prosperous Doomani citizens. He doubted this would happen, though. Deep down, he knew that the Questarians were not going to tolerate this sort of occupation. He would no doubt have to inflict discipline unto the populace of Alexanderland before they would bend to Caesar's will. This was perfectly fine with him. He was not particularly fond of the Questarian people; after all, he'd lost two fingers and countless men who were as close to him as brothers on Paralentum. That battle had shaped his very being, and the being of many of the senior centurions and tribunes of his legion.
His legion was, of course, Legio Marinus III Maxima Victrix, the same legion that had bested the Questarians on Paralentum some twenty years earlier. It was said to be the emperor's favorite legion, for he himself had commanded it against the Sarzonians a long time ago. He was old; fifty-nine years of age. Though he was clearly in excellent shape, his age showed. His hair was short-cut and bright-white. His skin was dark from the desert sun, and a nasty scar ran along his right cheek. At the moment, he was clad in combat fatigues, his gladius hanging at his side, in its sheath. He'd used it to kill Questarians in the past, and his captives could only imagine the nationalities of those he'd killed considering his age...
Like all large Questarian farmhouses built in the last century, Longcreek Farm had a cinderblock first floor and a wooden second and third floor. Mr Longcreek had allowed the Doomani to shred the upper floors (while retreating to the first floor after his opening shot), which were now ablaze and sending thick smoke swirling into the sky. Luckily, however, the immense thermobaric heat was the only physical thing bothering the three armed men - and one boy - as the smoke drifted mostly out of the house, although they were careful to avoid burning embers of the roof collapsing.
"Father," Richard began. "I'm scared. Are we going to die?" He choked, more than a little anxiety in his voice.
"Not if I can help it son," his father looked at him reassuringly. "Remember boys, hold your fire until you see the whites of their eyes," he looked around to see his three sons, two with Lee Enfields and another with a folding stock drum-mag AK-74. Having lived through the Continentian Insurgency, Longcreek had built his farm and his farmhouse with a degree of defense in mind - on the bottom floor, small holes in the wall with openable hatches constituted decent firing holes. Longcreek was well known as the most paranoid farmer in the region; the reinforced cinderblocks filled with concrete were able to stop most personal rounds in existance.
Longcreek watched the Doomani troops advance cautiously down the lane, making sure to keep himself hidden and observing via a periscope built into the door. The crouching area on the right-hand side of the door was visibly the same from the outside but was protected by a large metal sheet on the inside and gave approximately a 165 degree view from the face of the door.
Over the crackling of the burning wood and the smashing of parts of the ceiling hitting the floor, and at the distance they were standing, it would have been impossible for the Doomani troops to hear the clunk of assorted weaponry being readied for combat.
As they stepped within 250 yards of the building, the four occupants opened fire. Longcreek slid open the hatch, knowing that he would not have enough time to carefully aim. Swinging his FAL round to point at what appeared to be the leader, he squeezed his finger down on the trigger. The AK-74 was the second, firing nonstop until the magazine would run out. The rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute would mean the 200rd magazine would be extinguished in under forty seconds. The two Lee Enfields were a totally different matter.
The Lee-Enfield was a surprisingly rapid weapon. Using the mad-minute technique of firing, which Longcreek had been sure to teach them, the two shooters, barely in their twenties, were able to squeeze off the ten-round magazines in under forty seconds.
So in under a minute, and with the house falling in around them, the four protected shooters evacuated throughout the back door with murderous Doomani fire tearing into the front of the house. The houses's back garden contained a large, fenced off area, with one barn and one garage holding two tractors. A long path snaked through fields and led down to a small stream that seperated the farm from a wood. Two outhouses and a shed lay across from the tractor garage and that is where the four men headed quickly.
Opening the door to the second outhouse with the alphanumeric keypad, Longcreek ran inside and came out with three rucksacks which he threw to his sons. "There's no time," he said shortly. "Run to the woods. Remember the training I've given you, remember your duty, and remember your father... and your mother," he finished. Passing the FAL to the oldest son, Mark, who had left the AK-74 inside, he looked into his sons eyes. "Go on. They will be here any moment. Look after your brothers," Longcreek was busy loading shells into a semi-automatic shotgun to see the tears in his sons' eyes.
"If you think I am abandoning the house that I built with my own two hands, if you think I am going to abandon the place where I raised my family, where your mother died, you have another thing coming. I've lived my life. Now go and fight so you can live yours."
Deciding that further argument was useless and that time was better spent running for the hills in the traditional style of the Questarian soldier, the three boys set off without a second glance at their home, running with their rucksacks and rifles downhill as fast as possible, intending to cross the stream while their father gave the Doomani a taste of Alexanderlandi shot and ball. The woods ran for a further ten miles and they would probably be able to stay the night there.
With no home, these three boys who could now be pronounced men did not have to lock up a door when they needed to move; they did not need to turn off lights or close windows and curtains. In the minute it took to tie their bootlaces and load their rifles, they could be ready to move. They were no longer farmers. Now they were minutemen. In twenty minutes they had crossed the stream and were safe, for the time being, in the woods below. Mark fiddled for a moment, producing a folding map of the country with rendezvous positions marked.
"We better keep moving. I’ll bet they’ll set right on our tail," Daniel, the second son said while stooped over low, swapping his work shoes for the boots that came with the pre-prepared rucksacks.
"What about father?" Richard asked. "Surely,"
Neither Daniel nor Mark replied as they turned to walk away, rifles over shoulders.
Back at the farm, Longcreek had finished loading his shotgun and the Webley revolver that was now sitting in his belt. He lay behind a stack of hay that sat neatly behind the tractor in the garage. Flipping to a random page in his pocket bible, he read the first thing that came to his eyes; ‘For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.’ Looking over at his burning house that was finally caving in, he stuck a cigarette in his mouth and sat the lighter to one side. The tractor fuel that was contained in six large barrels inbetween the two vehicles was his right-hand cover, the left-hand being a tractor itself.
After hopefully surprising the Doomani, his last act of defiance would be to set alight the entirely flammable tractor fuel. Lighting his cigarette, he knew that it would be spotted, but it wouldn’t make a difference – the second one of the paratroops appeared he would be opening fire with eight 12 bore shotgun shells. A simple flick of the burning cigarette into a deliberately caused oil leak would send him, the tractors, and hopefully some of the paratroops up in blazes.
"Yes, of course." Keystone said in a slightly upbeat manner. "The necessary documents are mostly inside the Government House. We already have a Doomani flag to raise." Keystone nodded, hoping to receive at least a few brownie points.
"You traitorous dog." Chopham turned and stared at Keystone who was at least a few inches smaller than him – although they were both noticeably shorter than Felix.
"I trust that you and your men will be attending the flag-changing ceremony, Brigadier?" Keystone smirked.
Every Questarian officer has a sword. Although Chopham’s had been taken from him, he still had a three inch combat knife inside his vest, which he was quick to draw and rise to Keystone’s neck, causing the Governor’s cigar to fall to the floor. "Treacherous cur. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t slit your throat this very moment," the burning hatred in his eyes was enough to set alight dry hay. "Sic Semper Tyrannis," the Brigadier murmured slowly before withdrawing the knife and flicking it onto the floor, well aware that the impending resistance would benefit from him alive.
"Excuse me Sir," Keystone said to Felix. "I’m sure you would agree it expedient to have this… fool arrested?" He cracked a smile.
"Three counts of treason Keystone. Three counts of treason. May God have mercy on your soul."
"And may God have mercy on your brain, Brigadier."
After Chopham had been taken away with more than a degree of duress involved, Keystone turned to Felix, forced to look up at the much taller Doomani. "I should think it customary, indeed, courteous, to invite you to Government House for tea to discuss more important matters, General."
"Are you sure this is alright, Vicar?"
"Absolutely." Vicar Thomas nodded furiously. “It is not just my civic, but my religious duty, to resist Doomani tyranny wherever-"
"Right, right." The Colonel of Militia replied, tweaking with the radio a little. The ham radio setup in the Church wouldn’t last long, but could broadcast to the rest of the island. Slipping the earphones over his head, the Colonel made sure he was on the right frequencies and began transmissions.
"This is Radio Free Alexanderland." He coughed. "Repeat, Radio Free Alexanderland. Just an hour ago, Governor Keystone signed the official surrender of the Crown Colony of the Far-western Alexanderland. Radio Free Alexanderland, on behalf of Crown and Empire, declares a state of Insurrection. To all citizens of the nation, there can be just one answer to the wishes of the Doomani tyrant.” He breathed inwards and continued.
"That answer must be No! We may bleed on our feet, but we will never surrender on our knees. The Doomani Emperor has seen it fit to annex our island. He has forced our noble institutions to capitulate. He has enslaved millions of peoples across the world. He has forged an empire from blood and from steel. He has suppressed the native rights of every different creed on this Earth. For these crimes against Humanity, the Alexanderlandi people raise their fist in resistance.
"Governor Keystone has seen it fit to blow out the torch of Liberty. He has failed, for in our hearts, we know that the torch will never be extinguished until every single light on our island has gone out with it. No doubt we will all see the vile claws of Doomani oppression and tyranny. No doubt there will be pain, there will be death. Bloody may flow freely through the streets in the days to come, but every man, woman, and child can remember that through the days and the nights the resistance is fighting; fighting not just to rid our island of its foul occupiers, but for home and hearth, for family, and for Liberty.
"People of Alexanderland, brace yourselves, so that in a hundred years our ancestors may say that our people took the path of resistance and scorned the path of submission. Brace yourselves, so that in a hundred years it is the Questarian flag that flies from Government House and not the Doomani; so that in a hundred years, our people will be free. God Save the King."
Three Hours Later
The rough formation of two dozen men, with no particular uniform save the green beret, and carrying the flag of the Kings Own Irregular Rifles, advanced cautiously down the long lane that led to Governor Keystone’s personal mansion. They had heard the news of the ordered surrender on ham radio, which had reached at least half the Colony, and this band of assembled men from a small village a few miles away had decided to take matters into their own hands before it got too late.
Stopping at the gate, the only armed guard on duty shouldered his rifle and sent the call for identification.
"Captain Thompson, Kings Own Irregular Rifles. Stand aside, for we have a job to do!" he shouted out, his men fanning out and readying their weapons just in case.
"Oh aye? Captain under whose Commission?"
It took a moment for the Captain to think. It was true, technically; he had no Commission, and it was strictly against Questarian law to pronounce oneself a military rank if it had not been bestowed upon them by a higher order.
"Under Freedom’s commission!" Which was met by his men with a cheer of "God Save the King!"
There was no reply for a number of seconds, before the electric gate swung itself open and the guard joined them at the entrance. "I’m with you." He said to the Captain. "If you’ll take me, Sir," he saluted. In five minutes they had the entire mansion crew out on the front deck, where the Governor’s personal flag had been lowered and replaced with the Questarian red, blue and gold.
"Corporal, send the manor workers home," the Captain ordered. "This is not their fight."
“Begging your pardon Sir,” the stablekeep said. "But, if you have a spare rifle, I’d like to stay here with you," he was barely eighteen, but the light of resistance burnt bright in his eyes. "I’m no turncoat," he said again.
"Very well," the Captain smiled. Things were working out far better than he had thought. "We’ve a spare rifle for you son, if you know how to use it," he motioned for a soldier to bring up a spare folding stock rifle.
"I do indeed Sir," the stablekeep said, moving to join the militia as the rest of the cleaners and cooks were escorted from the premises. "Forth and Dropshire, take the family indoors and lock them in an appropriate building. Hootman, you can show them the way," he said to the guard and the two militiamen. "The rest of you, scout around for decent firing positions and report back to me!"
There was little Kaeso could do from stopping that superbly-aimed 7.62mm round from cracking open Discens Deodatus' helmet and burrowing its way through his skull, forming a fist-sized hole in the back as it exited and taking a large portion of what was once his brain with it. First fireteam immediately hit the deck as automatic weapons fire hit all around them, and immediately a pair of smoke grenades were popped and tossed in front of them. His was the only fatality; Immunes Varus and Vitalis both took hits, the former's ceramic plate stopping the 5.45mm round cold, although he was knocked off his feet from the energy of the impact and hit in the shoulder, while the later's leg was nearly blown off by a .303 round and was grazed in numerous areas. He'd be out of the fight for some time.
It did not take long for the smoke to thicken and make it impossible for the Questarians to aim their shots. Miles Tacitus, the youngest of first fireteam, was the only one not hit, and, noting his fire team leader's death, siezed Vitalis by the drag collar on his flak jacket and proceeded to drag him while second and third fireteams and Varus provided covering fire. Pulling back he was hit in the vest, staggering for a moment, but quickly recovering, sheer adrenalin carrying him through the moment. A stray .303 round snapped through the smoke, hitting him in the neck, yet he continued to drag Vitalis even as he bled profusely, his vision blurring from lack of blood and oxygen.
Bringing his comrade behind a berm, he finally collapsed, staring towards Heaven as he breathed what he though would be his last breaths. As the world went grey, he saw Varus crouched above, covered in blood, trying to put pressure on his wounds, calling out for a medic. And then everything went black.
Kaeso's squad was now laying along a berm, their weapons silent yet shouldered, waiting for the smoke to clear so that they could see their targets. Kaeso himself had been busy calling a fire mission to his centuria's battery of 60mm mortars. A minute into the ambush, the men heard a shrill whistling as the first of the shells tore through the roof of the farm house, flinging chunks of cinderblock, dirt, and wood high into the air. It was not long before the entire structure was reduced to rubble and ash.
The men who had occupied that structure were good shots, he noted. He couldn't be certain if he'd killed them or not, but looking beyond the smoke he saw that it wouldn't have been difficult for those men to exfiltrate and take cover in the area that lay beyond the house. He bolted over towards first fireteam, and Varus gave him a thumbs up sign. He'd miraculously been able to stabalize Tacitus, whose spinal column remained intact. The .303 round had missed it by less than an inch. Vitalis was another story. His left leg was hanging on by a thread. Unless they got him to a field hospital within minutes, he would lose it completely, and as far as Kaeso was aware a field hospital hadn't even been established. And so he crouched there, watching helplessly as the man's leg became useless.
This was not turning out to be a good day, and it was far from over. Second fireteam was still fully intact, and they'd been ordered to clear secure the farmhouse and the surrounding area. He still had an objective to complete, and if it cost all of them their lives, it was God's will. Deodatus was now a martyr; he was with God, sitting amongst the Saints, for his deeds on Earth had made him worthy of the highest of honors in Heaven. His fate was not one feared by Doomani soldiers; rather, it was their preferred fate. To die in battle was the greatest thing a man could do in life.
Of course, in practical terms, Kaeso was down three men. His job was to employ his man in a manner as to cause as many casualties among the enemy as possible, and doing so with two fireteams and an odd man instead of three full fireteams was not easy. Generally speaking, Doomani officers and NCOs preferred to keep their men alive for this very purpose.
The voice of Kaeso's trenturion crackled in his ear: the rest of the unit was moving up. They'd sit the rest of the assault out. Meanwhile one of the trenturia's medics had already arrived on scene and was treating Vitalis. Suddenly an explosion sounded dangerously near and the warmth of the fireball was felt by all of the men along the berm; looking down towards where Longcreek had been hiding, he saw the aftermath of the farmer's last stand that had taken both his life and the life of a Doomani paratrooper, wounding an additional three.
Staring off into the distance, Kaeso growled half to himself, half to some unseen witness,
"Someone will fucking pay for this..."
Felix watched silently as the two Questarians bickered amongst themselves. He respected Chopham and was sorry to see a potentially worthy opponent humiliated in such a manner. Keystone, on the other hand, was evidently beyond contempt in his traitorous ways. Despite this, Felix knew that he would be useful for his purpose, unless of course he was putting up an act which was also entirely plausible. In this case, Felix kept his opinion to himself, remaining indifferent as a pair of Marines handcuffed Chopham and led him away, soon to be imprisoned aboard an amphibious assault craft waiting off shore.
Felix also realized that it was not often that a Questarian general was taken captive in such a manner, and that Chopham may very well have sensitive data that would benefit the Imperium. He would not stop his ODIM attachees from interrogating the general, nor any other Questarian that had fallen into his hands. He'd let them do whatever it was they did to such people in order to learn what they knew, and he was certain it was not going to be painless.
"Of course, Governor," Felix responded in a cordial, polite manner, motioning for Keystone to lead the way.
If the governor proved to be a good puppet, he and his family would prosper greatly under Doomani rule. If it turned out that he was decieving his occupiers, Felix wouldn't hesitate to have the man's family skinned alive and roasted over an open fire before his very eyes. Thus Keystone had two obvious choices: prosperity, or unspeakable horror.
Prefect Quintus Acater was indeed an interesting sight amongst the Doomani. Born in the fringe province of Granatia, he himself was an ethnic Granatian. As such, unlike the ethnic Doomani that made up the vast majority of the legion, he had pale skin, piercing blue eyes, and short cut blond hair. Granatians were not uncommon in Marine units, nor were Azahans in many cases; while normal land army units were generally recruited on a geographic basis, with legions recruited in the far east consisting primarily of Granatians, and those in the west consisting of ethnic Doomani, and those in Azaha consisting of Azahans and Doomani, Marine units were comprised of Legionaries recruited from all of the provinces. They had their pick of the best men coming out of one of six major training centers in the Imperium.
Acater had fought on Paralentum and was, effectively, Felix' right hand man. A strict disciplinarian and totally lacking in a sense of humor, was was nothing if not effecient. While Felix tended to gaining the official surrender of the colony, Acater was busy directing the legion's ground operations, coordinating with Vexillatia Aerofucilus XVIII, the airborne regiment that had dropped in just before the marines hit the beaches.
He'd made his headquarters in the local high school. The move had been extremely effecient, as per Acater's style, and already they'd established a command and control center, a barracks, mess hall, armory, communications center, and an aid station. Acater was busy directing his personnel within the command and control center, which had once been a science lab. The tables had been cleared of microscopes and in their places had gone numerous laptops, communcations equipment, maps, and other assorted gear.
A datalink to an orbiting ELINT aircraft had recently turned up an interesting radio transmission originating from a church in Lobster Bay, the contents of which Acater had declared subversive. He'd swiftly ordered the nearest Marine units to seal off that particular neighborhood with infantry and armored vehicles. They'd even deployed units to the sewers to cut off any potential escapes via that route. His orders were simple: enter the church and detain or kill everyone inside. This was, after all, a house of the heretic Questarian Church. It did not surprise him that it was being used to rile up the locals against Imperial rule. Perhaps the sins of those occupying the place could be purged so that it may be put to better use...
Approaching Keystone Mansion
It had been some hours since Alexius had landed; he was now being jostled up and down from within the confines of the AVAM airborne infantry fighting vehicle that he'd been assigned to fight out of along with three others. His Centuria had been assigned to secure the Keystone Mansion as part of the operational plan. Fully assembled with just two casualties, they had at their disposal four AVAMs packed with four infantry, or two full mechanized squads with supporting IFVs, a pair of 122mm mortar tracks and a fire control vehicle, eight AVAM-L armored personnel carriers packed with nine infantry each for a total of four trenturia: two motorized airborne infantry trenturiae, a mechanized airborne infantry trenturia, and a mortar trenturia. For the most part, Doomani airborne forces (LARC) were mechanized, although they are trained first and foremost as light infantry.
The AVAM screeched to a hault and the rear ramp swung open, allowing for the vehicle to disgourge its cargo of mechanized infantry. The track had parked in a manner to allow for its dismounts to take cover behind it, its turret traversing towards the building. The mechanized trenturia (Trenturia I) had approached the mansion head on, parking some two hundred meters from the gate. The most recent orders now directed the men to exfiltrate the governor's family from the mansion so that they could be brought safely to Fort Henry.
The two motorized trenturiae (Trenturiae II and III respectively) were now maneuvering towards either flank of the mansion, the drivers taking care to be discreet. Their vehicles had been equipped with dust skirts to prevent large clouds of dust from kicking up when maneuvering off road, and this in turn would facilitate a stealthy approach. The motorized dismounts would proceed to approach the mansion without spooking anyone inside. These men were extremely well trained and would have plenty of cover to maneuver through when approaching the mansion; anyone within it would be very hard pressed to detect them. They would take up positions behind the wall surrounding the mansion and place charges in areas through which they intended to breech in case the situation called for it.
Alexius, meanwhile, once more found himself in a situation of obvious peril. His unit was being used explicitly as the bait for any hostile forces within the mansion. Assuming his other dismounted counterparts maneuvering along the sides of the mansion did their job, he and his mechanized brothers were the likliest to be blown up in the coming minutes. He thought nothing of it as he spat at the ground, staring down his optical sight, tracking from window to window, occasionally seeing movement. The voice of the commander of the track he was taking cover behind crackled in his ear; he was seeing lots of movement on his thermal sight inside the mansion. The manner in which these people were moving suggested that they were something other than servants.
Trenturia I's grenadier removed his ammunition casette from his ATER grenade machinegun and inserted a different one, this one loaded with twelve 33mm tear gas rounds. He then went about ranging in the various windows; at any given moment he could pump all twelve rounds into that house. The mortars were also being loaded with smoke rounds; in the event of an assault, the LARC troopers would need to cross some open ground, and doing so with a smoke screen between them and the enemy would greatly increase their chances of not getting blown up. The mech trenturia's designated marksman would play a key role in the frontal assault; his FSC semi-automatic sniper rifle was trained on the mansion itself, and he had an excellent view into the windows. His was under orders to blow away anyone who was armed and aiming a weapon towards them. Upon firing his first shot, the mech trenturia would open fire on the house, although their fire would be carefully aimed, the majority of the killing most likely being done by the 4M2 coaxial machineguns of the tracks in combination with their thermal sights.
It was now up to the Questarians to make their move.