Kyran IX, Kyran System, Imperial Colony Sub-Sector Carpathia,

Carpathia Sector 3067 Imperial Calendar

Day 35 Since Invasion

Outskirts of Dy'ax Manufacturing District

174th Volunteer Battalion (Attached to 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment)

Front line

They said this was the volunteer army but it couldn't be farther from the truth. Our poor unit was given the sorry left overs they had to offer and with a mixture of poor equipment and a fast-paced process through what should have been a thorough training regime, it was more apparent to me that we were nothing but extra conscripts about to be tossed into some interstellar meat grinder. They probably even went out of their way to make generic toe tags to clip upon our feet in case any of us caught a round for the wonderful Imperial Army. I believe that was supposed to be 30 Days of Basic Training but it felt like a long and enduring " Good-bye", as if to say that it was just best to arm a bunch of naive individuals that weren't going to ask any questions and that at the end of the day, no one cared what those answers would have been anyway because there's wasn't any choice in the situation in the first place. So there we were were having spent five days at the front with the KTDF ( Kyran Terrestrial Defense Force) serving with a veteran Regiment of the Imperial Army that had given themselves a reputation for being machines of military order and slaughter.

Tasked with holding an arc of trenches under the shadow of the outer buildings and edifices of the District. "Johnn." I wonder how many have died now. Millions, tens of millions, a billion? "Johnn."Something nudges my shoulder. Is it death? Am I dead and simply stuck in this horrible state of existence. "Johnn!" The voice is a little louder and a second, harder, nudge hist my shoulder. A female face, half covered in dirt, and her brow covered by the lip of her combat helmet. She was laying right next to them in their forward observation slit. A shallow trench with slits to observe through as the ground before them sloped downward into a drainage channel. "What is it?" Johnn's voice is raspy, his throat dry, and his back ached from a night of restless sleep. The female didn't look at him as she held out a pair of binoculars. Her voice is pleasant, almost like it should not belong here, "1km forward and slightly to the left of that half destroyed building. The one with the black rooftop." Johnn raised the binoculars and squinted through them as the auto-shade feature adjusted itself. The building was half rubble from a mortar barrage fired from their lines the night before. Supposedly in an attempt to get enemy snipers to withdraw. Peering through the binoculars he slowly panned them from left to right and back again. "I don't see anything, you sure it's not a shadow or something?" Her voice comes back more urgently, "Look slightly to the left back corner and beyond.

Where the hill slopes downward." Johnn trained the binoculars exactly where she instructed him and he stopped. He could see the top of something that was not their before and not reported by the last shift watching from this point. His partner was already speaking into the hand held radio, the quality was up and down to the say the least, as military supplies were low. The KTDF had to do with what little it had and the Imperial Army forces did not have as much to spare on top of that. So second or third rate equipment which included re-purposed civilian hand held radios. "Mikal can you get a line of sight on the back of the half destroyed building with the black roof top from your perch?" Mikal was fifty meters to their right on the fourth floor of an abandoned tenement building and fulfilling the roll as a forward observer for the KTDF Artillery units back from the front lines. His response came back a second later, "Negative that Calaspa. What do you see?" Her reply never came as the whine of objects moving rapidly through the air screamed over head. Johnn threw his hands over his head and tried desperately to become one with the dirt under him. The boom-pang of shells bursting behind them signaled the obvious as one, two, three, four shells rapidly came down.

All across the line shells landed in bursts of shrapnel, detonations, smoke, debris, and fire. Yells of men and women rang out to the left, right, and rear of the duo. Calaspa and Johnn together breathed heavily as dirt rained over them, a brick crashed down and struck his leg. He'd bruise the size of an apple. Then they both froze as they heard voices in a tongue both knew not saveit was spoken by the enemy. Looking through the forward slit they saw groups of soldiers in camo gear rushing towards their trench. The rattle of support fire answered in response as the heavy weapons teams opened fire with whatever they had. Johnn looked to his left and pulled up his own weapon. A Mark X Battle spear. It was a cylindrical shaft that could alter length from three feet up to seven and fire from the spear tip. It had a trigger that could be adjusted to operate like a human designed gun or be a stud to fire. Pressing it the blade at the top of the spear split and a pulse of energy fired out. The red-gold beam lanced out and was followed by Calaspa's and finally others as to the left and right comrades scrambled into position. Enemy soldiers went down. Torn up by rapid fire-explosive shells or pierced by lasers. Then came the answering Imperial artillery. Shells rained down on both sides. Bodies tossed up like rag-dolls hit the earth. Limbs and torsos torn apart by shrapnel. Johnn saw as he fired an enemy soldier, probably no older than he was, dazed and confused as he searched on the ground for something. Stopping to pick up his severed right arm before a shell burst near him. Reducing the young man to a bloody stain. Johnn fired again and again yet the enemy seemed to get closer and closer as they advanced from shell craters or juked while running. It was chaotic, hectic, with death has the only option of escape. Then the foe was at the drainage ditch and running up the other side. A thunk right in front of them caused Calaspa to slam Johnn's head down. A grenade burst in from of their position. The throw being to short or it would have landed nicely into their observation point. "We got to go!" said Calaspa as she slithered out of the observation trench and ran hunched over. Johnn a moment behind him as they kept below the trench line. Dirt and rubble rained down from artillery strikes. Concussive blasts assaulted Johnns ears like a pair of gongs were strapped to his skull. Ringing a random tempo to a merciless beat. The dull beat of boots sploshing through ankle deep water that sat at the bottom of the trench acted as a pacer for Johnn. Only ending when he entered the door way allowing access to the bottom floor of the tenement building Mikal is positioned in. "Johnn loo-" Johnn was lifted off the floor and felt the crunch of his skull strike something hard as his helmeted head burst in agony. He fell awkwardly onto something else and remained their, blackness filling his business while his ears rang. He felt something oozing our of his left ear, the rough floor, and the taste of the dirt as his face rested upon it's cold surface. Everything went dark. Green field, gentle rivers, forests on the slopes of the nearby mountain ranges. The sight of the factory district filled half the panoramic view of his home. His neighborhood of several houses nestled within a small niche in a hillside. He remembers taking his vehicle to work, fixing something...ah yes software. Then the sirens roared, the sky filled with fire, and the world became so full of death.

*CRACK!*

*HISS!*

*KSH!*

The darkness swam as sensations coursed through his body. He felt something strike his leg, something warm was oozing from his left ear, and was he falling or sliding? Maybe being pulled into whatever after life followed from death? His eye-lids felt heavy, like waking up from a long sleep, and his pupils became assaulted with light. Nausea swept his stomach and he felt like he was going to unleash a torrent of bile. His head slunk back leaving him to stare up at the broken masonry of a ceiling. Light from a yellow sun with a tiny hint of orange lanced onto his face and caused him to snap his eyes shut. Again he felt himself sliding as the visuals mixed with audio.

He heard familiar voices, yelling, screaming, grunting with effort. He cracked open his eye lids to see his booted feet and fatigue-clad body being dragged along the rough concrete floor. Dust and debris mired the colors of his combat fatigues and coated his brown boots. His vision swam as another concussive blast came to his left echoed by more screams. Pain rang in his head. He looked ahead to see Captain Bondaur yelling orders at the soldiers around him. Bondaur grabbed Mikals shoulder and pointed him to something in the distance, Mikal began to snap off bolts from his battle spear, Bondaur moved on as he grabbed a communicator from his radio operator. Talking into it rapidly, suddenly his head thrust forward as an enemy round clipped the top spine of his helmet. Bondaur grunted in pain before swinging around and unleashing a torrent of energy bolts from his weapon out of the gaping hole in the building that had been blasted open. It's walls and surfaces pockmarked with round hits or black smudges from energy strikes. A Heavy Autocannon team swung their two man portable weapon off to the left, unleashing a torrent of .90 caliber shells as the hopper fed in ammunition.

Again the dragging continued as soldiers rushed from behind into his vision and out of sight around a corner. Rolling his aching head to the right he saw a hall way lined with wounded soldiers with bandages wrapped around heads, shoulders, legs, or were parts of their body should be. Some looked at him, past him, staring with eyes too traumatized to recognize his existence.

"Johnn?! Johnn can you hear me?" the voice came from above, perhaps some heavenly spirit to whisk him away? He looked up into the alarmed eyes of Calaspa. She was dragging him along a half destroyed hall way as the boom of artillery shells seemed to come from every direction. He felt the ground vanish from under his rear, followed by the impact of tailbone on step, she was dragging him down stairs. He looked forward once more to see the resolute Captain urging on his men and women despite rounds whipping past him. The scene being obscured by the rising staircase as he was dragged on wards. It was only then he realized he felt the flow of air on his scalp. He had lost his helmet. The thought had not even crossed his mind. Being pulled around a corner he tried to clench his hands to no avail. Maybe his spine was broken, maybe he was paralyzed, or had they been blown off? He tried to swing his head down and see. No, they where still there. Just covered in grey-white debris and grime.

"Don't worry Johnn, I'll get you out of here." The panting breaths of Calaspa sounded from above as he grunted from the pointy rock his body was being dragged over. Better than being left on the front line with his brains oozing out. He didn't have the energy to complain. Another detonation and cries came in from shattered windows. His eye's felt heavy. Like lead weights drawing the curtains of life closed once more. He let them descend, he let the darkness come again...

Johnn's eyes flicked open to the illumination strips on the ceiling. The beeping of machinery, the shuffle of feet, and the coughing of individuals nearby filled his ears. He jolted and his head drooped, he was sitting up right, and the ground was moving! Another bump and his vision swam into clarity. Johnn was in a wheelchair, medical staff dashing to and fro, a cry came up before him and he was swerved off to the side next to the plain white walls. His right arm brushed up against the cold painted concrete.

"Out of the way!" A pair of KTDF doctors sprinted down the hallway with a hover-bed between them. The screams of a man as he wrestled against restraints erupted as they past. Johnn could see the rear doctor holding a leg up in the air, or the stump that remained. Blood soaked bandages and stained the fatigues of the wounded man. Tears of pain came as he was injected with something quickly. He could hear shouts as other staff followed the new patient's passing, whispers and shouts, "I need 50cc's of Sylenphen C stat!"

The cries faded away as Johnn moved once more. Only now did he look back to see the young woman, pale faced and tired, with black and blue bags under her eyes. She probably had not slept in the forty-eight hours. She looked at him and managed a weak smile as she guided him along. Rounding a corner they entered a large space about 20 meters across full of other soldiers and staff meandering about. She knelt next to him as he came to a stop, "You suffered some concussive damage to both your eardrums. Luckily we were able to preserve your hearing and you should be fully recovered in a few days. Your hearing should be fine by now, though you may experience pain if their are loud noises. Ok?"

Johnn quickly nodded and the same weak smile came up on her lips. She nodded to herself as she got up off her haunches and walked away. A young girl, roughly fourteen years of age, came up to him wearing the badge of the KTDF Auxilia Medical staff. She had a holo-slate and a steel-grey stylus. Reaching for Johnn's chest she grabbed something, causing him to look down and see a manila tag stapled to his left breast pocket, she read what was on it and marked down notes on her slate. She walked away with out a word. Leaving Johnn to look about at the shambling groups of people. Most of the soldiers seemed to be suffering from light wounds, mild trauma, and non-lethal concussive injuries. A group lined up to the far left was getting their tags removed and being led out a side door. No doubt being cleared to return to their units.

Reaching for the side wheels he moved himself over to an empty cot, hefted himself out of his chair, and crashed down onto it. His thoughts wondered on what happened to Calaspa, Mikal, Captain Bondaur, and how the 174th was doing. How many died in that last action? How many crippled? Shifting his head to the right he glanced about the crowd. He did not recognize anyone bearing 174th Volunteer Battalion insignia. A simple 174 VB on their upper sleeves followed by company designation.

His thoughts drifted...

The attack had been sudden. He'd been traveling to work on the light rail when news erupted on all broadcasters. People stared at their mobile devices in shock, moments later ships and craft came roaring from the upper atmosphere while bombs fell. Explosions, screams of the dying, and thousands upon thousands of enemy soldiers spewing forth from transports. Some gunned down civilians where they stood or attempted to flee. Others were lined up against walls and led away. I had escaped in a stream of refugees to the mountains in the north. Attempting to get away from the combat zones. Then they were stopped by military forces, some panicked thinking it was the invaders, but it was the KTDF. Universal Conscription for those aged 18-40 was decreed. I had been scooped up with over a dozen others as first picks in the new pool of potential recruits. Trained for thirty days at a camp in the mountains, then assembled into "Volunteer" Battalions, many were not volunteers of any sort. Then it's been roughly five days at Dy'ax in the perimeter trenches. Dy'ax being the manufacturing district located just north of the planetary capital of Aesul, situated across the River Dy'ax, and providing a vast bulge in the front lines.

TDF COMMAND BUNKER

Eastern Territories

KYRAN IX

A grey hair man sat behind a well worn oak desk. Holo-slates, data-discs, and papers were stacked neatly across the fore. He gazed at a map of the planet, its topography, and made stencil notes of unit positions and movements. His eyes squinted as he peered at the small type on the map, the light from a single glow-lamp providing yellow light in his office. He preferred the lighting this way, the somber mood for such a job.

A knock on the door did not even warrant a look, and he just said, "Enter." His voice showing a man exhausted. The door opened to allow a wiry fellow bearing the tabs of a KTDF staff officer, a major to be exact, and he came in bearing a slate. His black hair was cropped short and to the left side under a peaked cap. His fatigues some how ill fitting and slightly loose on his slender frame.

"General Zolan. Report from Colonel Quintus of the 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment." Zolan waved a hand and the major began to read the report. Zolan waved again, his own way of telling his staff to fuck off with the fat and get to the meat of the issue. "Colonel Quintus reports that a minor offensive operation was conducted against Dy'ax District today lasting approximately six hours from time of enemy artillery commencement too last small arms fire ceasing. Enemy offensive primarily targeted the 173rd and 174th Volunteer Battalions front trenches and failed to penetrate except for a small incursion of roughly 1000 meters where the 173rd and 174th lines meet. It has since been cut off and encircled with reinforcing elements of his 3rd Cardash troopers. He will move to squeeze the pocket immediately and estimates the operation to conclude by noon tomorrow."

"Casualties?" said Zolan and the major skimmed down a few lines, "173rd suffered 42 dead and 66 wounded. Bringing unit strength to 798 individuals. The 174th only lost 16 soldiers and 9 wounded with unit strength at 853 valids. Citation goes to Lieutenant Pomin, Sergeant Kul'sheen, and privates Maningen and Illbin of the 173rd; citations for Captain Bondaur of 2nd company, along with privates Mikal, Banen, and Roman of the 174th for courage under fire."

"Anything else?" said Zolan as he leaned closer to the map. Examining a small detail.

"Yes sir. Colonel Quintus also requests anti-vehicle mines be made available to him. Cites that enemy vehicles have been sighted with increased frequency in his section of the front. He believes the Kharadonese will be mounting an assault within the next few days with full armored support."

Zolan set down his pencil and folded his hands. "Tell Quintus I will do what I can. All of our armored units are currently operating in other areas as we speak. Get me the current operation strength of all armor in the 11th Corps and 10th Corps." The 11th and 10th held the left and right flanks of the 5th Corps occupying Aesul, and had lines stretching the entire width of the Bimul Peninsula in which the Southern Army was located. Not only defending Aesul by the main Imperial Military Starport facilities, Southern civilian star port, and the city of South End.

"Shall I notify the CO of the Southern Army?" asked the Major.

"No. I deal with all matters detailing joint Imperial Army and Kyran TDF operations. Dismissed." The Major stiffened, saluted, and left the room with the door closing behind him. The Imperial Army and TDF were two separate organizations. Each world when able raised their own planetary defense forces and system defense units. The Imperial Army was under no planetary government authority and its Regiments were the campaigning military arm, the Imperial Navy was the same when dealing with void warfare. Regiments only came under planetary operational control when not receiving orders from their Army superiors.

Zolan returned to the map at hand, lifted up his pencil, and began to once again go over it piece by piece.

Kyran IX, Kyran System, Imperial Colony

Sub-Sector Carpathia, Carpathia Sector

3067 Imperial Calendar

Day 36 Since Invasion

Outskirts of Dy'ax Manufacturing District

174th Volunteer Battalion (Attached to 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment) Front line

punk! punk! punk!

The steady pelt of morning rains assaulted the urban landscape around them. Crouched silhouette's, in broken windows, doorways, peeking from collapsed masonry, and standing next to blackened out doorways. Soldiers of the 174th Volunteer Battalion kept their eyes trained at the buildings across the street, the buildings sloping gently down and away with the natural elevation, and then onto the perimeter trenches. The Kharadonese, the enemy, had penetrated where the front lines of the 173rd and 174th met. Taking a thin slice of buildings centered around a small courtyard. Occupying a block of bombed out tenements apartments that had previously belonged to low-class factory workers. The murmur of hushed conversation occasionally wafted from the rear troopers hidden from view. To the West, troopers of the 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment crept along a set of warehouses, on the other side of the block 173rd troops would be forming the third line that would squeeze this pocket.

"So your brain wasn't turned to goop?" whispered Calaspa as she peered from over Johnn's left shoulder. Attempting to see out onto the wide street separating the 'front lines'. No movement had been reported on the opposite side of the street. No pot shots at each other, no sniper fire, nothing. Dead silence.

"I feel like this is a trap." said Mikal matter-of-factly. Off to the right, and squinting into a pair of field glasses, their comrade panned from left to right. Mikal, always possessing the dry humor you could practically bake eggs with, short and robust. Possessing little black stubble from side burn to side burn in an oval shaped face. His brown eyes where like pinpricks as he squinted into the field optics.

"Pessimist much?" replied Calaspa, sticking out her tongue at Mikal. Johnn simply shook his head in faux annoyance. Whipping his head to the right as movement caught his eye Johnn saw hand signals and whispered voices. A pair of 174th troopers dashed from cover, sprinting across the street, it seemed to take forever. Like watching land tortoise in a foot race. The duo hit the wall on the other side and crouched. Waving back at their comrades the whole of the 174th moved up by platoon. Johnn, Calaspa, and Mikal sprinted from cover as the platoon behind them provided cover. The dull slap of his combat boots hitting the pavement only matched the panting of his breadths. Calaspa was a full ten meters ahead of Johnn, her Emperian physique markedly superior to that of Johnn's or Mikals own humanity, the run from one side to the next only lasting several seconds. But it felt like several minutes waiting for the rattle of enemy gunfire coming to mow them all down. It never came.

"Thank the Throne." gasped Mikal as she pressed his back against the wall. But even as they reached the safety of the wall they where already moving. Troopers slowly opened doors, checked corners, or vaulted through broken windows. Moving as silently as possible as to not disturb their foe. Calaspa was the firth through the nearest broken out window. Johnn went in after, swinging his battle spear low, he had it configured in 'gun mode'. Despite possessing no technical term it had became so common among human soldiers of the Empire for it to be called such that it became a practically universal phrase. That and the fact many human Regiments still used guns instead of Emperian designed fire arms.

Mikal brought up the rear as he looked about himself. Feeling the crunch of glass beneath their feet. It was unavoidable, the damage done to this place being so close to the front line was obvious, made painfully obvious as the squad before them had to negotiate a partially collapsed doorway and wall. The second floor practically piling on top of the first.

"We'll go around, form up behind Banjeri's squad." said a Corporal who with the dim lighting Johnn could not make out. Following the outstretched arm of the Corporal the trio, and the troopers around them, moved to the right. Negotiating debris as they melded in with Banjeri's own squad now creeping through a bombed out gallery. Crouching low, hands on the ground, on all fours. Banjeri was seen scuttling across the gallery, hugging the low stone wall, as all the glass windows had been shattered. Exposing them all to harsh sunlight and a possible kill zone.

One by one Banjeri's squad scuttled across the gallery as sweat trickled down from their brow's. Calaspa knelt down on all fours. Moving left hand first she began the tenuous journey to the other side as Johnn peered out across the Gallery. On the other side Banjeri and a few other troopers had already disappeared to secure other chokepoints.

The rattle of gunfire, the splintering of stone, and Calaspa's cries struck Johnn in the span two seconds. Calaspa was prone as the rattle of enemy gunfire struck the gallery from the opposite side. The second story building was alive with gunfire as the enemy opened up about them. Johnn raised his weapon, letting fly two bolts, before ducking back into the doorframe as the snap-ksh of return fire met his position.

The shattering pang of a grenade raised yells from across the gallery. Dust and shrapnel fire off in all directions. Johnn could see Calaspa slowly, desperately, crawling to the other side of the gallery. Johnn turned to Mikal, "Smoke!" Hastily fumbling the green cylinder into Johnn's grasping hands Mikal handed the smoke grenade over. Johnn pulled the pin and tossed it deftly into the center of the gallery. Smoke gushed out of both ends to fill the gallery in grey haze. Johnn rushed out Mikal took his position, opening up full auto with his battle spear. Grabbing Calaspa from the back Johnn heaved her up and threw themselves through momentum alone out via the doorway. Landing in a narrow hallway Johnn looked to his left and saw Banjeri with a trio of his squad firing through broken windows. To the right the hallway had been demolished with patches of sunlight pouring through. Johnn could make out the rest of Banjeri's squad there occupying a small room firing back into the gallery or in various other directions. Answering gunfire peppered their position while a woman in the fatigues of the 174th was rifling through a fallen comrade's pouches.

Johnn hauled Calaspa up as they began to move towards Banjeri. Masonry blew inwards as the wall to the right burst forth. Johnn whipped around and pushed Calaspa back the way they'd come. Banjeri was yelling, "THEY GOT A.T.!" over and over again as he directed the trio of squad mates around him. Splashing through a puddle Johnn peered around the corner of the now busted wall. He could see a wide court yard positioned a full story lower then them. To the East and North Kharadonese troops battled the Imperials coming via the West and South. A towed triple barreled weapon occupied a sandbagged embankment. It fire three times in rapid succession. Ripping across the battlefield spewing HE rounds. Volunteer troopers exploded into red mist as the shells detonated.

"Come on!" said Johnn as he sprinted to join Banjeri's squadmates held up in the small room, which, at first glance must have been a file storage closet. Thousands of pieces of paper fluttered about the place or covered the floor. The chaos of battle was evident in the confusion on the troopers faces as they did what basic training had instilled in them. Fire, go to cover, fire, cover, fire, cover and on it goes A concussive blast ripped frm the right. Looking through the window Johnn could see a support team from the 174th systematically firing hand held rockets into the Kharadonese positions overlooking the gallery they'd crossed mere minutes before. Mikal was still crouched and firing off snapshots from his doorway position.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzh-shew

Everyone hit the floor as the crash of an artillery strike erupted just North of their position. Someone was shelling the large courtyard Johnn had just observed a minute before. "That's not ours!" said a trooper, Johnn didn't catch who, quite frankly he didn't care. Scuttling over to the North facing window black smoke wafted up as another artillery slammed into the Kyran positions straddling the Western edge of the courtyard. he Kharadonese must have communication with their artillery located outside of the pocket beyond the imperial perimeter trenches. Able to call in strikes and have them fall over the outer trench onto the advancing Imperials seeking to squeeze this pocket!

Kyran IX, Kyran System, Imperial Colony

Sub-Sector Carpathia, Carpathia Sector

3067 Imperial Calendar

Day 36 Since Invasion

Outskirts of Dy'ax Manufacturing District

174th Volunteer Battalion (Attached to 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment) Front line

The shrill impact of artillery tossed dirt, brick and mortar, and limbs into the air as the Imperial forces reeled in the face of these strikes. Each shell left a crater, shattering walls, collapsing buildings, and troopers vanished into red haze. Those close enough torn apart by the shrapnel, their innards pulped by the concussive forces, while those farther away lost limbs or died from bits of metal traveling at extreme velocities. The flash of laser's and the bark of rounds leaving chambers filled the air. The cries of the dead and dying filled the atmosphere. The fury of war enveloping the courtyard and surrounding area as brutal urban warfare played out.

A Kharadonese soldier lost his head when he popped it out of cover. Another was near a half-obliterated pile of wooden crates, frantically trying to scoop his intestines back into his body, as if he could just pack it all in again. It was madness. It was horror.

Johnn peeked his head around one of the gaping holes in the wall that made up the filing closet he and several other troopers had taken shelter in. Raising his weapon he instinctively began to dire off bolts of energy, pot shots, the troopers with him seeing this began to copy his actions. Creating a half-disciplined defilade of fire into the flank of the Kharadonese soldiers. Meanwhile, troopers of the 174th under the command of Lieutenant Grisby tried in desperation to silence the enemy AT.

Lieutenant Grisby crouched in cover, his back against a low stone rockrete wall. The booming deonations of artillery casting dirt all about him. Bits of masonry struck with speed to bruise. He couldn't hear himself from all the noise. Ringing resounded in his ears like some absurd bell. He pointed at a team of troopers, one carried ammo cases while the other wielded a heavy repeater cannon. They moved at his command to rush forward. Sweat glistened on their faces.

Grisby blinked as a flash of yellow erupted before him. Mist struck his face like spray. He blinked, smelling the coppery tang of blood, he saw no sign of the trooper team. Only a black boot covered in dirt next to a crater. All he could do was stare.

Johnn squeezed the trigger of his weapon. A bolt of energy shot out to strike the rockrete foundation near a sprinting Kharadonese trooper. A second squeeze pitched the enemy soldier on his face. Half the man's neck atomized. His heart still pumping red ichor onto the dust covered stonework of the courtyard.

A voice came from his left side, Johnn went back into cover, and looked left to see Banjeri. "Focus all fire on that AT gun!" Banjeri was upon them, the wide shouldered Sergeant making hand gestures and shouting at the top of his lungs. Johnn nodded like a few of the others and they began to train their weapons on the AT gun as it fired off again. Their bolts struck the ground around the enemy gun crew. Causing them to shirk in alarm and desparately begin toe swivel the gun on its 360 degree mounting. Bolts struck metal, leaving scorch marks on the blast shields, a trooper went down. Bolts striking his left shoulder and chest. A second trooper rushing to take his position met a similar fate. The AT flashed, a round striking the floor below the troopers, the masonry shook. The female trooper who had been rifling through their deceased comrade from before yelled and fell. The vibrations causing her to loose balance. Orange fire consumed the courtyard. A rocket trail coming North and the uniforms of troopers belonging to the 173rd could be seen filtering through the burnt out landscape. They'd pushed through and launched a rocket into the back of the AT gun; which, was now a smoldering wreckage of blackened steel.

Johnn kept firing at nearby Kharadonese, even as Calaspa gasped, "Where the fuck is the Cardash!" True, the Imperial Army troopers were absent from the battle. They where supposed to be approaching from the West to strike along the length of the enemy penetration of the Imperial perimeter trenches. Rolling up the bulge from it's point back to the original front lines the day before. Yet none had appeared, only troopers of the 174th and the 173rd coming from the North.

"I'd like to know where the hell our artillery is." replied Banjeri as he walked along the line of troopers.

"Anyone hear engines!" shouted a trooper down the line. EGHERT stitched onto the front of his combat vest. The din of artillery crashed as Banjeri stopped pacing to listen. True enough, amid the deafening cacophony the sound of aircraft moving at attack speed close to the ground could be heard approaching, like a growing roar. Calaspa looked up and pointed. Shiny dots moving faster than the speed of sound were rocketing down from the heavens. Banjeri held up a pair of field glasses. "Shit!"

"Those ours?!" screamed Eghert. His voice hoarse. The shapes slowly materialized even as they swooped in at high speed. The swooped forward wings, streamlined build, and eagle emblazoned on the nose of their craft marked them out as belonging to the Kyran System Defense Force (KSDF), the space-aerial arm of the Kyran Defense Forces. They roared over the battlefield and towards the perimeter trenches. Johnn followed their course and saw multiple missiles leap from their swooped wings. Striking beyond his field of vision. The Kharadon artillery ceased.

Johnn looked back at the courtyard to see enemy soldiers attempting to retreat back East. But, they found their route blocked for from the buildings emerged the armored figures of the 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry. Their body armor made themseem bulky, but they moved with practiced precision, their weapons forming exact suppression arcs. Mowing down the disorganized resistance as the Imperials cheered.

Grisby, shaking, stood up as the smoke began to clear. There was silence about the battlefield as troopers milled about. Some carried wounded, others put comrades into black bags, or the parts they could find. Troopers bearing symbol of Aesculapius rushed about with heavy back packs and litters. Placing the wounded upon these stretchers they would carry them back through the haze to the rear positions. Shaking, his left hand twitching, eyes wide, he saw a medic shove a needle into a screaming trooper. Holding a red blood bag aloft as the crimson liquid coursed down the plastic tubing. The trooper was screaming as he held his side. He'd been hit, and the medic was having him apply pressure while he stabilized him, he'd make it.

"Lieutenant!" Grisby snapped his head to look East. A figure was striding towards him. Helmeted with a full face mask. His voice a harsh blurb as it was vocalized by an automatic comm-bead mounted in his helmet. Grisby slowly walked forward, legs shaking, his face covered in grime. The striding figure stopped five paces away.

"Lieutenant Remilan Qar'tesh, 4th Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Cardash Heavy Infantry Regiment." spoke the armored figure. His voice harsh and synthetic through the helmet. Grisby blinked as he stared forward at the armored figure.

"Lieu-*blink*-Lieutenant Grisby...Alan Grisby. 2nd Company, 174th Volunteer Battalion."

"Are you acting SIC."

"Yessir. Captain Bondaur is CO." The 'Yessir' was the fact that Imperial Army officers when meeting a Defense Force officer of technically equal rank held seniority of command regardless of experience. It allowed for Imperial Army officers to take command of local forces expediently.

"Casualties?" asked Remilan.

"Sht...Still counting sir." Remilan if he was looking at Grisby made no obvious sign of looking away to view the carnage.

"We encountered enemy resistance in the sewers." Grisby lifted his head at that statement. At least that explained why the 3rd Cadash troopers alotted to this assignment vanished minutes into the operation only to appear on the opposite side of the firefight. Grisby remained silent. Remilan continued,

"The sewers are supposed to be only accessible from within the boundaries of the district. I have orders from Colonel Quintus to stop this enemy infiltration and I am requesting additional troops from your battalion be seconded to me."

Johnn, Banjeri, Calaspa, and the others filtered from the half destroyed building onto the courtyard below. Mikal and other troopers coming in shortly after. They passed close to Grisby and the armored figure as they tried to find their comrades. Grisby turned and grabbed Banjeri's arm. "Sergeant, take your squad with Lieutenant Remilan."

Banjeri looked puzzled, but didn't offer a counter, and simply nodded. Grisby's stare was uncomfortable. Like the man had been reduced to a ghost of a human being. A stare of a thousand yards. Banjeri turned to his squad and also motioned Mikal over with the troopers around him. Grisby turned away, saluted Remilan, and shuffled off. Johnn watched him go. A broken soul.

Before Banjeri could speak Remilan was upon them. The armored figure was a full head and shoulders taller than Banjeri, standing at about 6ft 4 inches , with only Calaspa and Johnn coming close at 6ft 3 inches. The face plate of Remilan's helmet split down the middle and slid away to reveal a pale face, green eyes, and a scar running along his chin. Remilan was handsome you could say, in a rough cut manner, a soldier through and through. Apparently Calaspa wasn't the only Emperian present. They being a very small minority on Kyran.

"Sir." said Banjeri.

"Walk with me." said Remilan, his voice surprisingly smooth without the automated transponder adding a metallic tone to his voice. Banjeri turned with Remilan as the Cardash officer turned on his heel to head back the way he'd come. Johnn, Calaspa, Mikal, and a dozen troopers belonging to Banjeri's squad followed close behind. Some still scanned the buildings, their eyes roving from window to window, from blasted out hole to blasted out hole. Waiting for a sniper or straggling enemy soldier to gun them down in a moments notice. Urban warfare was like hell times two and a million blind spots thrown in. Every building could house the enemy, every wall can hide an opponent, every window or hole a firing angle. Needless to say after the horror so far endured by the day a secondary firefight in the sewers was more than a bit...edgy.

The sunlight once more gave to grey, dark, rain clouds. Moving in from the North, a cold breeze beginning to pick up as well, wafting through the buildings like a shrill whistle. Remilan spoke abruptly as they began to enter the large squat structure he had originally emerged from. A full squad of Cardash troopers manned the entrance. Still looking alert and covering interlocking firing arcs. As they moved into the building, a machinist shoppe by the looks of it, Remilan spoke, "We've secured the building. Apparently our little friends here have been busy." Rounding a corner they saw a trooper guarding a hole in the floor. Black abyss yawned. The corpse of a Kharadonese soldier, his face covered in a gas mask, red liquid oozed from his neck. His throat had been cut.

"That explains a lot." whispered Mikal from behind Calaspa and Johnn. They forming the front group of soldiers with the rest of Banjeri's squad about them. "Shh," shot back Calaspa with a raised finger. Mikal mumbled something under his breath as he rolled his eyes. Turning both their attention to the gaping hole in the ground where a person can easily slide down through. Well, save for the metal latter off to the side which is probably how the enemy came and went.

"So you noticed them retreating them into the sewers when you approached?" asked Banjeri. Remilan nodded, "I know, way to blow their operation's cover, but we assumed it was a trap. They had a fall back position or explosives primed somewhere perhaps to bring down the sewer structure down on us if we tried to follow. But no, we engaged and swiftly took the fight underground, my guess is that we moved directly under the courtyard since it felt like the ceiling was going to cave in on us."

"They had artillery support." replied Banjeri. Remilan again nodded. Odds are he probably knew already and just went along with it for the sake of conversation. Remilan continued, "We managed to take a sewage intersection under this very building, my guess is that it leads to a central processing area before being piped further into the district up North towards the waste processors, they probably mined underneath the trenches and blew their way in."

A sound theory and Remilan's knowledge of the districts infrastructure showed just how much planning the 3rd Cardash had used in their defense of the district alongside the KTDF. Banjeri peered down into the blackness. "You or me first Lieutenant?" said Banjeri with a grim demeanor on his face.

"I'll do the honors." said Remilan as he took the ladder and descended swiftly into the gloom. The white light of a helmet illuminator flared to life as he reached the bottom. Banjeri followed after, a flashlight between his teath, and thus it continued. Johnn, Calaspa, Mikal, and the rest of the squad clambered down the metal ladder until they reached moist rockrete. The stench was more than overpowering. Calaspa covered her nose with her index finger and thumb. Case and point.

Johnn mounted his own flashlight onto a pair of lugs on oneside of his battle spear. Still keeping it configured to a few feet long and the trigger pulled out like a human gun. Much easier to use in such confined spaces. His illuminator was added to the growing amount of others as the troopers mounted their own flashlights. They followed Remilan and Banjeri single file roughly twenty spaces before slowly maneuvering over a narrow walkway. Lights could be seen ahead. Johnn tensed as he expected incoming fire to mow them down. Only to meet more helmet, faces masked by helmet plate, illuminator wielding Cardash troopers. Looking about Johnn could see that this must have been the intersection. Panning his light around he noticed black scorch marks, pocked rockrete walls, and something slick. He looked down and saw a moist crimson blood stain. Remilan was not kidding about the whole sewer battle.

The file of troops continued, and took a left turn, clambering over another narrow walkway and past crouched Cardash soldiers. Moving forward more cautiously now Banjeri motioned for every one to dim their lights, and the glow of their lug mounted lights became a shallow glow, also pointed away from the forward direction down the tunnel. Only Remilan still had his pointed forward and was making various hand signals with his right hand until he reached up and turned his helmet illuminator off completely. The red flash of a tiny LED light came from further down the tunnel. It was sequential, and the flickering light came in groups, a code of some sort. Getting closer Johnn could make out the outlines of Cardash troopers positioned within a set of recesses in the walls. Remilan crouched next to a trooper who was prone on the ground. Whatever was said had been clearly done over an internal comm-frequency because Remilan got up not a minute later. Turning back he spoke to Banjeri, whispers that Johnn couldn't seem to make out, but he swear he made out something along the lines of, 'movement a head.' Great the last thing they needed was to walk into a kill zone. Johnn had reservations on death and dying face down in the mire of a sewer was definitely not high on that list of reservations on how he wished to go out.

Dy'ax Sewage Line 47B

Banjeri looked back at his squad and whispered to Johnn, "Movement ahead." Confirming Johnn's fears of them walking into a potential killzone that would only end with their innards mixing in with the rancid sewage next to them. Johnn smelled it all, it was like being inside a landfill, maybe worse because everything felt dirty to the touch. Even the air felt thick and fuming. Looking ahead into the gloom he could make out Remilan and several Cardash troopers fiddling with their weapons. Screwing on some type of device. Banjeri, almost like he had some psychic telepathy, looked back again, "We're gonna hit them with flashbangs and grenades. Then attack."

By attack Banjeri ment, charge with the extreme likelihood of getting your brains blown out by an entrenched enemy positions-tally-hoo! It was days like today Johnn wished he'd been drafted into an Artillery company to safely rain destruction on the enemy from relative safety. Banjeri made the hand signal to get low, and everyone did, the smell intensified. Someone gasped.

plump-plump plump-plump

The dull thud of cylinders ejecting from a launch stud and whooshing forward signaled what could possibly be the end of Johnn's miserably young life. A supernova erupted in a dazzle of lights and sharp concussive force. Cries and shouts echoed down the tunnel as Remilan, Banjeri, and the restof the squad charged forward. Remilan let it rip with his weapon, so did Banjeri, bolts of energy ripping forth to illuminate the tunnel even more. Johnn, rather by instinct or no, jumped to the right over the sewage waters onto the ledge on the opposite side. A couple troopers followed suit as they rapidly moved forward.

The zip-ping of rounds striking stone added to the zap-hiss of Imperial energy weapons. Johnn continued to run forward and a shadow erupted from the side howling. Johnn kept ripping away as he went full auto. Blowing the shadow back against the wall. The splashing of water was heard to his left and he turned in time to see a dark shape cursing in a language he couldn't fathom. Johnn brought his weapon up, but a bright red light zapped from behind him, smacking the figure right in the chest and into the water once more. Rising to the surface still and murky.

Johnn kept going, a light slowly coming into view as they raced on wards, finally materializing into a lights. Remilan and Banjeri where the first to burst forth into the light and dove into cover as rounds splattered against the masonry around them. Troopers behind them ducked back into the tunnel, hit their stomachs, or literally dove behind anything resembling a hiding spot. They'd reached a sewage treatment plant. The cavernous space was alight with sleuce ways and canals. Machinery, long since stilled, would have been mixing and cleansing the waters of pollutants to be recycled back into the plants self-contained plumbing system.

Now it had served the purpose of an improvised staging area with Kharadonese soldiers dashing from cover to cover firing as they went. Johnn peeked from cover, he counted a dozen of the enemy, something sharp hit his cheek. A concrete chip, Johnn hugged the wall, rounds pinging off of the concrete preventing the enemy from turning him into red mush.

"EAT THIS SHITHEADS!" Mikal's small form rose from cover bravely. A small green sphere in his hands as he vaulted it over. It struck against a metal grate and detonated. Shrapnel ricocheted, striking an enemy soldier in the back, he fell face first onto the cement floor. Bullets kicked up masonry as Mikal yelped back into cover. They where stuck in a dead lock...

Dy'ax Sewage Line 47B

Firefight in the Sewers

*Clatter-clatter-clatter*

Bits of concrete ricocheted around the sewage treatment plant, clattering to the stonework, whistling off helmets and body armor, and crunching underfoot. The steamy sewage haze as water was evaporated from laser strikes, the walls pockmarked from bullets, and the splitting din of a grenade going off. Johnn craned around a half demolished wooden that had been filled with some green substance. Now it was leaking across the floor around him from the bullets that had pierced it's container. Judging by the smell it was sewage samples taken to be tested for certain disease vectors. Left here when the invasion began. Snapping up Johnn squeezed off a tight spray of beam fire. The bolts struck an enemy trooper in the shoulder, vaporizing it and the upper arm, the lower unceremoniously falling away on the floor. The trooper slumped behind a set of metal boxes.

"We need to collapse the tunnel!" said Banjeri pointing to the makeshift the Kharadonese had used to tunnel their way under the Imperial defenses. Unable to go over Imperial defenses due to air defenses and the energy shield protecting Dy'ax from bombardment, and through the Imperial defenses by ground being costly, the foe had decided to go under. Johnn looked at the tunnel, wincing as a round whizzed past his head, ricocheting off the nearby wall. It was a small tunnel only allowing three abreast to march through. Did we bring explosives? Thought Johnn as he ducked into cover, rolling to his right, and in a crouch maneuvered behind a few troopers. Crouching next to Banjeri Johnn said, "Do we have anything to blow it with!" Banjeri didn't look, intent on pouring fire on the last few enemy soldiers still alive, clustered behind a set of hastily erected metal crates. No doubt piled up moments before the Imperial came pouring out of the Sewer Line.

"CLEAR!" A Cardash trooper flung a stick grenade from their boot over the metal box crates. Everyone ducked, frantic enemy yells were immediately silenced by the pang-crackle of fragmentation. Their bodies reduced to three crumpled heaps in a rapidly expanding pool of blood. "Alright, bring up the K4." K4 was one of the plastic explosives used by Imperial forces and generally considered a standard ordinance. A pair of Cardash troopers hurriedly ran up to the tunnel and began planting more than enough to collapse the tunnel. In the end simply dumping it along the sides. Followed by a frantic sprint away as Remilan held up a remote detonator. Flipping up the small cover he pressed a red stud. A resounding crash, a shudder through hthe masonry of the treatment plant, and the tunnel was blocked by rubble.

"Mission accomplished...that was easy." said Mikal from behind Johnn. Johnn smirked.

KYRAN IX

TDF COMMAND BUNKER

Eastern Territories

General Zolan, grey haired, deep blue bags under his eyes. He hadn't slept well in days, and it'd been weeks since he could sleep peacefully, it was telling how desperate things where. "We were caught with our fucking pants down!" bellowed Zolan thumping his fist off his desk. Holo slates clattered to the ground. The staff officers froze or averted their eyes as their commanding officer raged. An aide went to gather the slates but a stern look from the staff Major across from him told him otherwise. The aide simply returned to standing with squared shoulders. The large map before them, pinned across the large desk used by Zolan, was covered in a mosaic of symbols and counters representing various units and positions. Using more modern methods was out of the question since the beginning of the invasion, when all military satellites in orbit had been captured or brought down, they were back to rudimentary methods.

"Again, by the numbers." said Zolan fuming. The staff Major who regularly reported to Zolan cleared his throat.

"As of two hour ago a intelligence reports estimated two enemy corps strength formations in excess of 400,000 soldiers with full orbital-aerial and mechanized support launched an offensive on our defenses along the hyper-rail line between the planetary capital of Aesul and the city of Gavensby. The 10th TDF Division was pushed back in Gavensby itself and is probably under siege. The 10th Corps has been pushed from out immediate West to our South-East in positions around the Southern Starport. Casualties for the 10th TDF Division are unknown but expected to be heavy, losses for the 10th Corps at last reports being 153,210 personnel, the 66th, 102nd, 103rd, and 140th Volunteer Battalions where reported destroyed. The 10th Corps also reports all mechanized and motorized formations are down to 30% effectiveness."

"What of Major General Brucken and Lieutenant General Zelion." asked a staff Colonel grasping a holo slate so firmly his knuckles had bleached white. Brucken was the commander of the 10th TDF Division and Zelion was the commander of the 10th Corps.

The Major was about to reply when Zolan shot out, "Lieutenant General Zelion was killed during the initial attack. His HQ was destroyed by enemy orbital based attack craft. Lieutenant General Cerran has assumed direct control of the 10th Corps." Cerran was the CO of the Southern Army tasked with the defense of the Bimul region and the planetary capital of Aesul. The situation was tenuous since the Kharadonese now surrounded Aesul on almost three sides.

A staff sergeant entered quickly and saluted, Zolan nodded, and the sergeant stepped forward giving a small piece of paper to the General. "Some bloody good news. The breach in the Dy'ax perimeter has been resolved. But reports persist of enemy movement in the area." Zolan grimaced. The enemy had orbital supremacy, and that hampered transportation of resources since they could strike from orbit with impunity! Dammit a Navy squadron would be a fucking miracle I'd give an arm for. I can't order armored support to Dy'ax without the enemy taking wind and attacking the deprived 11th Corps...the 10th Corps is now out of the question with their formations cut to ribbons. Zolan knew the specific numbers as they shot up to the surface of his consciousness. The 10th Corps has what...40 tanks left, primarily in the 2nd Armored Battalion; the 11th an understrength armored division with what...130 pieces of armor?

"Get me Reckendorff on the line." ordered Zolan abruptly. His staff stared for a moment until a staff corporal darted out to retrieve a headset. Handing it to the general, the radio operators in the next room syncing up signals and going through various security codes, you never knew who might be listening. At the nod of the corporal the General began speaking. "This is KTDF Actual." The reply was static for a solid minute until a husky voice sounded on the other side, the voice of the CO for the 11th Corps. "KTDF Actual this is 11th Actual, sir?"

"Reports of enemy activity near the Dy'ax defense perimeter suggests a mass offensive is in preparation. I need to know how much AT and armor you can move to link up with the 3rd Cardash under Colonel Quintus." Static.

"I can have a company of mobile AT and an armored squadron ready in an hour to begin movement to Dy'ax. They won't get there for at least 24 hours."

" Get them there in 20, KTDF Actual out." Zolan took off the headset and the radio operators cut the link. The Kharadonese had taken over or knocked out all communications except for radio.

3067 Imperial Calendar

Day 36 Since Invasion

Outskirts of Dy'ax Manufacturing District

174th Volunteer Battalion Front Line

"Cardash, that's not even in the sector?" said Mikal as he, Johnn, Calaspa, Banjeri, and Remilan all were arranged in a circle. All standing except for Remilan whose armored form sat on a wooden chair scavenged from one of the burnt out buildings. There was an uneasy quiet about the front and the rear areas. Sentries in the trenches about 800 yards away reported no signs of enemy movement. So the 174th had taken the time to assess themselves. Captain Bondaur oversaw a group of soldiers cleaning and stripping their weapons. The blonde haired Captain of the 174th's second company was seen in a rare moment with his trusty helmet off, dangling by the straps on his utility belt, with Fernik the company radio operator standing in close proximity. The squat radio man was ever busy fidgeting dials and muttering under his breath.

Remilan looked at Mikal, the brown eyed and haired human known for his short robust stature and humorlessly pessimistic attitude. Remilan on the other hand was quite the opposite. Remilan was an Emperian, they look identical to humans except on average taller with more hair and eye color variation while known for their universally light colored complexions. Remilan's green eyes, the prominent scar on his chin, eyed Mikal softly. "Very astute. Cardash is in the Korran Sector. Quite a ways away."

"So how did three Regiments from your homeworld end up here?" asked Mikal curiously. Banjeri leaned in on his battlespear, curious as well. "We were originally tasked with routine garrison duties on Carpathia itself till six months ago when we received orders to head to Kyran for training exercises with your own defense forces. After that our service would be up and we'd be demobilized back to Cardash."

"Seen combat before?" said Calaspa with a finger pointed her chin. Evidently motioning to know the story behind the Lieutenants scar. "Ah, this old thing. Yes, and no." Calaspa frowned for a moment until Remilan continued, "Got this during a bar fight on Carpathia. But the Regiment saw action on the Moons of Drage XIV."

"Huh." spat Banjeri almost instantly. Remilan smirked, "Anti-guerrilla operation over mining rights."

"Oh." said Banjeri as he leaned on his weapon. Looking off into the distance as soldiers of the 174th trudged here and there. Some with duties to attend too, some simply because they had nothing better to do, and some sat to rest from the rigors of war. Indeed, a trio of 174th 'Volunteers' despite the irony of that name were crouched in a nearby alley tossing a pair of dice. A few smoked cigarettes while they hunkered down under a balcony. The LMG in front of them resting on its tripod. aiming upwards, with the belts of ammunition dangling lazily.

"So, Calaspa, you born on Kyran?" asked Remilan as he peered at the attractive woman sitting next to Johnn. Calaspa, which wasn't her name officially, it was a bastardization of Caleia'spa'ira. Emperian phonetic structures tended to be a bit more longwinded and complex than typical human linguistic patterns; was caught off guard by the sudden interest. But when you're the only non-human in an entire Battalion you get asked questions from time to time. "Yes, my parents were part of the original colonists though they've since resettled on Carpathia." Johnn blinked, sometimes he forgot how much older Calaspa was, since she easily was in her forties by what he'd learned of her. Yet, to an Emperian that was a mere stripling. Remilan shrugged at her answer like it was a casual response.

Kyran IX had been settled about seventy years prior and boomed for most of it in all aspects. It's fertile valleys hosted farms and vineyards, its rich natural resources made for large mining complexes, and it became a manufacturing hub home to thousands upon thousands of factories and warehouses. It made perfect sense to attack and hold as a strategically important world. For its factory districts could pump out entire arsenals if given the time to retool. Johnn had been born on Kyran in a quiet hamlet in the barely settled Eastern Territories of the planet. Kyran was largely his entire life and all he has known. Having never been off world.

Johnn looked down at his helmet resting between his feet. He felt the exhaustion in his bones. What h would give to just sit down and sleep for days. The sun was descending on the horizon and none of them had trench duty, a proverbial godsend, he could sleep tonight without worry of getting a knife in his throat from infiltrating enemies. "So where is your company set up?" said Johnn as he bent over to scoop up his helmet. It felt heavy in his hands as he dusted off some dirt. Remilan's head swiveled to Johnn, "Set up?"

"He means where are your guys camping out for the night or are you leaving us." chimed Banjeri. The sergeant looked bemused he leaned on his weapon. Remilan made an 'o' with his mouth before replying, "We'll be in an abandoned warehouse a couple hundred yards down. We haven't got the order to redeploy ele ware so you're stuck with us." Johnn and Banjeri chuckled while Calaspa smiled. Mikal remained silent, lost in looking at the ground, and his own boots. Remilan put his hands on his knees, "Well I must get my company in order. It's been quaint." said Remilan as he got up, sauntering off into the rapidly approaching sunset. Leaving the group in silence.

"Who the hell says the word quaint?" starts Mikal. Calaspa signs as she gets up, stretches, and makes way for where her kit had been placed. Mikal and Banjeri following a moment later leaving Johnn alone to watch the sunset.

3067 Imperial Calendar

Day 37 Since Invasion

Outskirts of Dy'ax Manufacturing District

174th Volunteer Battalion Front Line

The early morning rays of the Kyran sun cast a growing flow on the Eastern horizon. As it came over the hills several kilometers East over the low hills that formed a loose ridge running North-South. To the West the Dy'ax perimeter trenches traced along the districts boundaries until giving way to the flatlands, woods, and low hills that ran to the Sea. Johnn's eye lids slowly parted as the sun trickled through the destroyed windows of the building their unit had hunkered down in. In the beginning Johnn had trouble sleeping without a bed, minimal blankets if there where any, and no pillow. Now, he could sleep on rubble if required. Across the way Mikal snored. Johnn felt a pressure on his shoulder and peering down he saw the head of Calaspa resting on his shoulder. Her expression was peaceful, calm, and tranquil. Her black hair smooth like silk and face fair, soft, defined.

"Up! Up! Rise and shine!" came the gruff voice of Captain Bondaur. Walking between rows and groups of troopers swaddled in blankets or sleeping bags. Rousing the troops for another day which may or may not be their last. Bondaur wound his way through, stopping between Johnn and Mikal, smirked, and gave a light kick to Mikal. Sputtering as his eyes flew open Mikal grasped his weapon. "Good dreams private?" Bondaur left before Mikal could reply. Johnn nudged Calaspa lightly, her eyes slowly opening while her left hand snaked up to her face to rub sleep away, releasing a yawn from her pink lips. Johnn grunted, legs stiff, as he stood up. Calaspa followed getting up a minute later. Packing their gear into the small kit bags they slung them over their backs and walked into the sunlight. Individual squads mustered before departing to their postings. Relieving the night rotation who would head to the rear staging areas for their own turn at sleep.

"Banjeri! Ulkanen! Shanne! Get your squads moving up to the support trenches!" the voice of Lieutenant Grisby, loud, but strained. The man's eyes showed no sign of emotion, mentally fractured, the horrors of war straining his very mental faculties. Only training and the realities of the day kept him in check. Johnn fell into rank with the rest of the squad as Banjeri appeared from the building they'd just left. Led by their Sergeants the trio of squads that made up the 1st Platoon of Bondaurs Company began their march to the perimeter trenches.

KYRAN SYSTEM

DAY 37, Luna-Cruiser Remus

The ship silently slid through the void of space. It's smooth superstructure complimenting it's artistic renditions, of crenellations and aft basilica castle that housed the bridge. The Ship was shaped much like straight edge dagger set sideways. 3km long with two fluting banks that projected from the ship three fifths of the way aft. Housing the ships hangar bays for its six squadrons of attack craft and squadron of small support shuttles. The dull grey hull, blackened and blotched, signs of battle damage. In some sections around the portside hangar bay their where visible holes in the outer armor. It had taken a beating but was still in fighting condition as it slowly crawled through space.

The captains quarters was situated aft of the Bridge and six decks down. Not spacious by any stretch of the imagination, but at 500 square feet it beat the crew bunks by several miles, and in the captains study a pair of figures sat. One, a blonde haired man with his hair cut in a military crew cut, dark blue uniform unadorned. His head was wrapped in bandages from a probable concussion that had thrown him from his feet to strike some hard surface. Old blood stains seeped through the septic bandages. Dried and crusted. His green eyes looked down at his clasped hands, totally aloof to the star chart printout before him, simply lost in the lines of his palms. The other man wore the same dark blue uniform, but his had several pips and badges adorning his, whole his right arm was in a sling. Feet up on the chair next to him, making him at a 90 degree angle to the first figure, both silent. A piece of paper with a silver stylus sitting haphazardly near the edge close by.

"Thirty-seven days, Slipspace Drive offline, half the crew dead or wounded, munitions down to 46%, and a third of the fighter wing gone." said the second man with the adorned uniform. His brown hair was longer on top and cropped to the side in a part. Matching brown eyes staring at the gunmetal bulkhead. Indeed, the situation was evident on their faces-grim. The older man with the unadorned uniform remained silent, prompting his compatriot to glance over, "Captain?" This drew the older man's eyes upwards. "No communications from Fleet Command?" asked the Captain.

"Negative, our long range communications relay was knocked out in that fight with the frigate, remember?" replied the younger man. The captain nodded and cleared his throat. Putting his elbows on the desk he picked up a magnifying glass, and began to examine the stellar chart. "The enemy hasn't moved save for scouting sorties for the past thirty-seven days." remarked the younger man.

"I know this Lieutenant. We are alone out here, cut off, and unable to leave the system. We must do what we can." said the Captain as he released a yawn. Neither of them had slept in the last thirty-three hours. Much of the remaining crew was running on fumes due to the lack of duty rotation. It was all hands on deck 24/7. It was beginning to tell, the ships chief engineer had collapsed two hours before and was put under in sickbay to sleep. The Lieutenant swung his legs from the chair and leaned over the desk. Peering at the star chart. Abruptly placing a finger approximately 4.1 light minutes from Kyran IX. A small planetoid surrounded by space debris held in orbit by the planetoids gravity but not yet strong enough to pull the cloud down to the surface. "Here. The enemy supply convoys routinely stop near here as a staging point. Its far enough away from the enemy warships in orbit over Kyran that we could potentially lay in ambush. We'd only be able to get a few volleys off before the Kharadonese come on top of us though."

"We will be just 4 light minutes out? We still don't know the limitations of their weapons ranges." said the Captain again as he sat back in his chair. The Lieutenant frowned, "What if we moved in at extreme torpedo range and use the planetoid as a shield. It'll give us precious minutes to get the drop on them."

"What about their sensors. We'll show up on their stellar readouts long before we come within weapons range." said the Captain matter of fact. "Are you suggesting we come in at maximum thrust, make a torpedo volley, and then swing away as fast as possible? How do we even know the convoy will show up when we make our pass?"

"Sir, I said they come routinely, and I have this." The Lieutenant pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. Putting it on the desk before his commanding officer. The Captain took it in his hands and looked at it. A smile coming to his lips. "You had the ships computer run an analysis on enemy shipping times." The Lieutenant grinned, "It's not one hundred percent precise by any means. But it's something to go off of."

"Set the course Lieutenant." said the Captain standing up. The Lieutenant sharply went to attention, "Yes, Captain Zeigust."

CARPATHIA, CARPATHIA SYSTEM, CARPATHIA SECTOR

LORD HIGH GOVERNOR'S RESIDENCE

CITY OF SOLUS

Solus was the planetary capital of the world which in itself is the sector capital that bears its name. Carpathia. The wealthiest planet in the sector and center of Imperial governance. The invasion had caused a panic as several worlds came under attack. Imperial officials quickly took control of the media and inter-system communications at the order of the Lord High Governor: Reginald D'Lauzie. The incumbent Imperial governor for the entire sector. His office, mahogany desk, and exquisite tapestries adorned the 1600 square foot space. The soft carpet was clean and immaculate. The lighting bright but not glaring on the eyes. The windows were reinforced, thermal resistant, and stopped outside sound from disturbing the governor. The man was short, standing at five feet six inches, and portly. His balding head showed some thinning brown hair. He had been handsome once, decades ago, now he showed all the signs of gluttony and greed. Fine rings adorned his fingers along with diamond studded fasteners on his clothing. A memory pen worked its way across a page of yellowed paper. The tiny silver stud attached to his temple allowing him to translate thought to paper. One of the large oak doors, sixteen feet tall, yawned open to reveal a thin woman with short blonde hair. Her plain white clothes showed her to be an orderly.

"Yes." said the Governor sharply.

"Your Excellence. Lord Marsh-."

"Send her in." There was a slight aggression to the word 'her,' when he spoke it. Grasping the small metal stud on his temple he effortlessly pulled it off. Placing it on his desk as he looked forward. The orderly was already gone. "What does the bitch want now." Muttered the governor as he awaited for the commander of the Imperial Army in the sector. D'Lauzie at first tolerated the military, seeing them as necessary but secondary to his own personal agenda, this was evident in how unprepared the military was in the face of the invasion. But the Lord Marshal had wasted no time in sending out orders independently. This was his sector. He decided what was to be done executively.

The doors opened with the blonde orderly walking around to hold it open. In walked a woman, six foot five, muscular but also possessing curves, her stalk straight back a sign of military discipline. Her black hair cascaded to past her shoulders, complimenting her icy grey eyes that bore a hint of green and blue. She was beautiful, and looked to be no older than twenty-five, an Emperian. She bowed slightly-evidently the lack of respect went both ways. "Lord Marshal." said D'Lauzie with mocking sincerity. The Empire made no formal difference in titles, so despite being female the 'Lord' in her title was formally such. Informally she could be called Lady Marshal, but never to her face unless by close individuals, and never in a formal setting.

"Lord High Governor. I trust you read the recent report." said the Lord Marshal with a neutral face. She knew he probably skimmed it at best. The man had no inkling of warfare, let alone being involved in one, and his mismanagement of sector resources was borderline treasonous. Could she sentence him? No, not outright and without solid proof, she'd have the possibility of facing charges as well. She quickly shoved such thoughts to the back of her mind. She placed her black boots apart a little as she squared her back. Her white uniform was clean but showed signs of wear. She'd spent many nights up managing the sectors military forces. Gathering what she could for the defense of Carpathia and other worlds; while, also amassing forces for a counter-offensive. She could not let the embattled worlds fall or Carpathia itself would be in the gunsights of the enemy.

"I noticed the enemy is still occupying many areas of several planets." said D'Lauzie in an accusatory tone, continuing, "What has happened to your counter-attack, Zaratyr?" He leaned back in his chair. The use of her last name was another sign of his hate for her. She'd talked back to him at his decision to order her to gather vital military forces for the defense of Carpathia and not allow them to be used to strike back at the enemy. He'd also curtailed many of her attempts at allocating resources to the warfront. See, D'Lauzie had solidified his political career on economic de-regulation and putting large amounts of power in the hands of industrial cartels. A war, and the according military requisitions of resources, well that would not set well with his wealthy friends now would it.

"Yes, though we will liberate them within three weeks time. I have worked with Admiral Eren-."

"Erenthus is to not move any ships from this system!" bellowed D'Lauzie. Zaratyr remained silent for one minute, then two, as if saying 'are you finished?' She began to speak again, "I am here to tell you that to win this war I require the full support of Naval assets." Zaraytr's discipline momentarily cracked as her voice held a sharp tone. D'Lauzie flinched but quickly tried to hide it by letting his face go red in anger. "You can-."

"Lord High Governor my duties are to protect the Imperial worlds of this sector to the fullest of my abilities. These worlds belong to the Emperor, not to you, and lest you wish to find a Kharadon fleet entering the system by this time next year then let me do my job!" Zaraytr took several steps closer and D'Lauzie sunk in his chair humorously. Despite all his boisterous attempts he was a coward. "The Tagmata of Legionnaires operating from Consula Secundus have pledged their support and question silence on your part." This made D'Lauzie blanche. See, Imperial Legionnaires only answered to the throneworld, and there was nothing stopping them from simply executing him for whatever reason that was believable. While there was no Legion in the sector itself, a Tagmata was a small independent contingent, a self contained mini-Legion that was semi-autonomous.

"I..."

"Will sign this order allowing me to enact conscription and immediate requisition of any resources I require." Zaratyr walked up the mahogany desk and gently placed a holo slate before the Lord High Governor. Her motions openly mocked him. But he was in a bind, he could not say no, he could not simply out of spite. She had cornered him. Grudgingly lifting up the steel stylus in his drawer he quickly signed his name across the bottom. Then placed his finger upon a small square pad. It analyzed his DNA print and a green light flickered. His authorization clearing the security systems in place.

"Are you done." said D'Lauzie fuming.

"Yes, Reginald." said Zaratyr as she scooped up the holo slate, turned on her heel, and left the office. As the door closed D'Lauzie stood up and threw the eagle paper weight at the wall. The steel eagle chipping the paint and falling with a thud. A moment later the blonde orderly peaked her head in, "GET OUT." The blonde orderly practically slammed the door shut.