November 27, 2012 06:10AM
Day 4: Evening
Colonel Benjamin Salus plowed through the vegetation, Alpha Battalion packed behind him in a staggered arrowhead formation. Several dozen kilometres to the west, and the east, Beta and Epsilon Battalions were making similar progress. Though Epsilon had reported a slight delay attempting to cross the Forgotten Stream, the overall advance had not been stymied. Sigma Battalion, dragging along behind the formation by no small distance in the Third Brigade’s version of a Rearguard, had reported the sounds of a rather severe fire fight off to the South-East, somewhere near, they estimated, Loch Trollsbane. Salus had considered ordering them to break away and investigate the issue, but in the end, it had been decided that sending an entire Brigade into the area would be wasteful, and potentially harmful to their Primary Objective, and so he had ordered Sigma to detach a Section to investigate. That had been two hours ago. Now, their Sat Nav systems, along with high-orbit reconnaissance drone reports, told them they were nearing the edge of Wyrmwood Forest, and would soon break free into the ice flats deep within which was buried Nixagris.
It was inside the O.G.R.E. mechanized weapons platform that Salus felt most at home, and now, as the pulse jets embedded in his suit’s legs and shoulders launched him ever onwards through the densely packed foliage, he mused fully on the fairly excessive display of force. While the O.G.R.E. platforms were nimble, it was rare for General Chan to order such a hasty advance. Such a command concerned Salus about the situation they were charging headfirst into. In normal operations where the Third Brigade was needed to take and hold a tactically vital objective, they were dropped in from orbit. This entire operation was entirely unorthodox, and both Salus and all of the men under his command knew it.
They had, of course, all been briefed; the world was at war, and they were needed to restore balance to the planet. It was the same story they’d heard thousands of times over. It was perplexing to see such a display of force dedicated to a planet with only one continent, and especially one of such little apparent value. Nemaeus had only two major cities, and of those two, only one noteworthy spaceport. To see such a staggering array of their military might being assembled on this backwater hinted at something far more sinister occurring than would be expected.
Salus was snapped from his ruminations when his comms burst to life. On his cockpit’s HUD, the helmeted figure of Lieutenant Colonel Aurelias crackled into view. The cockpit interior echoed as Aurelias reported in. “Colonel Salus, Beta Battalion has breached the boundaries of the Wyrmwood Forest. Sat Nav indicates we are roughly 260 Kilometers from your position, and another 137 from Nixagris. If we keep up this pace, and the weather holds out, we should have line of sight on the city within the hour. Requesting orders, over.”
Salus nodded at this news, pleased by the Battalion’s progress. Aurelias had always been an exemplary soldier, if a bit headstrong and prone to lapses in judgment. He loved being first, and it looked like, once again, he would be. Considering their options on how to handle the situation at Nixagris, Salus went over the reconnaissance reports before responding. After a few minutes of consideration, Salus replied. “Lieutenant Colonel Aurelias, take Beta Battalion and advance along the Western fringe of the city. Keep at least 90 Kilometers distance between the city limits and your men. The winds should help cover the sound of your approach, and it’s vital that we don’t appear in force for the time being. Aerial recon has identified Imperial air transports making their way into the city within the last hour, and we don’t need to trigger a fire fight when the area’s still packed with civilians.” At this point, two more screens flickered to life on Salus’s HUD as he patched the other Lieutenant Colonels into his feed. “Terentius, take Epsilon and dig in at the tree-line, I want you to be ready to respond to any attacks from the East before they reach the city, I will be uploading co-ordinates for your Battalion’s entrenchment point immediately.” Turning to regard the third video feed as one of his hands executed the programs that would send Terentius his orders, Salus spoke again with barely a pause for breath. “Calista, you and Sigma should bring up the rear. I want your Battalion and the majority of Alpha to maintain positions in the tree-line as well, to guard against any unexpected assaults from the South. Maintain contact with the Section you’ve dispatched to Loch Trollsbane, and appraise me of any developments.”
The three officers all nodded their confirmation and disconnected, going off to see to their own men. Salus’s O.G.R.E. slowed down to a halt on its own as, a short distance away through the trees, a seemingly eternal field of white stretched as far as the eye could see. Alpha formed up quickly, rapidly establishing a cordon at the edge of two worlds. From amongst his hundred mechanized soldiers, Salus selected twenty, including himself, to head into Nixagris and investigate the situation. He selected the men most likely to remain calm under intense pressure, lest one of the soldiers get a little too trigger happy and make an already dire situation even worse. As the makeshift Platoon organized, Salus noted a chime from Aurelias notifying him that Epsilon had begun their own entrenchment efforts. With a bit of luck, Third Brigade might be able to defend the city without inciting open conflict or spilling blood in the streets. Leaving command of Alpha in the hands of his Adjutant, Salus and his newly assembled Platoon made their way towards Nixagris, their armor’s pulse jets kicking up tall rooster-tails of rapidly melting snow behind them as they moved at all speed for the vital city.