Joined: 07 Jul 2007
Location: the swamps of jersey
|Posted: Fri May 06, 2011 5:03 pm Post subject: Days Gone By [FLUFF]
|The dream was always the same.
Before him, the Asykki was a wide brown flatness, streaked with white where grey hunks of basalt broke the surface. Steam rose from the water as dawn concluded behind the mountains. Birds were singing in the trees, shaking off the night’s blanket of dew. If he didn’t know what was coming, it would be quite peaceful.
Instead all he could feel was the cold in his toes and the acid burning in his stomach. His toes were underwater. His stomach knew the history. Five hundred years and no To’ok army had ever crossed the Asykki successfully. Monuments to fallen generals, plaques for bravery, cenotaphs to crushed lives, they all littered the northern bank of the river.
Five hundred years. It curdled his blood.
Yet here he stood, alongside four thousand others, ready to try the river again. This time His Lordship had ordered more artillery, more support, than had been fashionable in years past. More than four hundred suits of combat armor – fully a third of all that was left on the planet – and almost a hundred times that in cuirass and cloth were massed on the riverside, waiting for the artillery. His Lordship had even sent five of the last tracked vehicles, to consolidate the beachhead should the infantry prove successful.
He was not optimistic.
Downstream, he could see Plebes wading across the river already. Upstream, a track was mired in the thick green mud. The bombardment was supposed to commence at dawn. That had been fifteen minutes ago. Up and down the line, officers fought to keep their surging troops in place. Seen from above, the line and the river looked like nothing so much as two snakes rippling against each other. Not a single gun fired.
He would never know who broke ranks in the center. All he did know was one second the army was waiting, impatient, stomping their feet in the cold runoff, but waiting. Then they were all charging across the wide, flat expanse of water. It was folly, he knew it at the time, even now in his dream, he knew it. It changed nothing. He was as powerless to stop himself in the dream as he had been in life.
The first shells whistled overhead when he was halfway across. He couldn’t tell which way they were going. They sounded like the big, heavy shells from to’ok guns. Dozens of troopers in combat armor slogged through the sluggish river beside him. Their grunted exhalations steamed against the morning chill. Counterbattery and defensive first from the Ute’wehi guns opened up when there was only a third of river left before him. The to’ok shells were swept clean from the sky in a harmless rain of shrapnel dozens of yards short. The alien guns sounded like thick sheets of canvas being ripped over and over. As long as they had shells to target, they couldn’t turn on the troopers fording the river. He prayed His Lordship had ordered enough shells.
The Ute’wehi let them dare to hope before cutting them down. A second line of guns – smaller bore but faster firing than the anti-artillery batteries – began firing just as the water dropped below his thighs. The combat armor protected most of the to’ok immediately around him, but the troopers in Plebe cuirasses – or, the gods help them, homemade armor – were cut down in droves. The veteran right next to him took a shell to the face; even his armor couldn’t stop that. Even with the devastating fire, more than half of his group got to the shallows. For a moment, he dared hope he might survive this.
Then the counterattack began in earnest.
Ten thousand Ute’wehi drones with flechette rifles and heavy weapons appeared out of the prepared positions. They did not scream, shout, or make any noise at all. They just rose out of the mist and gunsmoke. Their sudden appearance was more than most of the to’ok could take. He found himself alone, the rest of his comrades fleeing back across the mile of river. The guns stopped. They were letting the to’ok go, what was left of them.
In the months after, he would wonder why he didn’t just turn and go with the rest. Maybe it was the officer’s crest painted on his breastplate. Maybe it was the trust and family honor he had earned, and hoped to add to, when his father had presented him with the family suit. Maybe it was just the blood boiling in his brain that the stickies had the temerity to just stand there and watch, when not a one of their warriors had earned a single kill.
Whatever the reason, against all reason, he charged.
For the first time in five hundred years, a to’ok in combat armor stepped foot in the mud of the southern banks of the Asykki. He bellowed as loudly as he could, raising his officer’s pick over his head. In slow motion, he tried to bring his other foot forward, out of the water. He saw the Ute’wehi in heavy armor rise out of a foxhole, the heavy apparatus of a hellwhip held in both hands. A long cable snaked back to a battery robot, half-buried in mud. The battbot nearly glowed with pent-up energy. The to’ok was still shouting when the stink of ozone washed over him. His heavy blaster whined and burped, unable to segregate the necessary hydrogen from the atmosphere as the ionized air engulfed him. The hellwhip ignited within the cone of ions, individual molecules burning at a thousand degrees, but erratically. It looked like a thousand tiny green suns, a string of round emerald pearls, all dancing in the confines of the cone. Where it touched the plates of his armor, the paint vaporized. The thick plates lost a few micrometers of rust and tarnish, leaving the telltale honeycomb of black, but the armor itself held.
It was the thin spots between plates that were the problem. His suit was old, and well-worn. All the rubber seals were long gone, replaced by leather and toughened sinew. The hellwhip boiled them away wherever it touched them. The skin and muscle beneath fared no better.
When the blinding green light faded, he was on his side. His boot – and the shin inside - was still standing on the riverbank, smoking.
Just like the first time, when the darkness descended, he thought he’d died.
Just like the first time, though, he awoke, only to wish he had.