Things were going seriously wrong.
Sergeant-Major Rolph Schaeffer ducked back down into the safety of the trench and passed the magnoculars back to his companion. He let out a deep sigh.
“Well Dormagen, my friend, things are well-and-truly terminal!”
Schaeffer calculated that most of the 1st Company was scattered and probably out of the game. The Regiment as a whole had been decimated, worn down by pointless frontal assaults. Luckily, what remained of 1st Platoon was dug in around him. They were still relatively intact and putting up a good fight. Casualties were thankfully light. One of them was Trooper Dietz who sat propped up opposite. Schaeffer gave him a cursory look which seemed to be the signal for him to speak.
“Is this mortal Spiess?”
The wizened NCO hacked a globule of phlegm across the trench and sneered.
“Yes, it’s mortal. You have an infected stomach wound. The time for your recovery is over and now you are truly fracked. Sit there patiently and die like a good Guardsman.”
The sound of giggling and soldiers idle chit-chat caught his attention and he watched two white-helmeted medics saunter towards him via a communications trench. When they saw Schaeffer their faces visibly paled.
“Sp..i..ess!”, one of them managed to mutter, realising their mistake.
“Never mind Spiess you vermin. It is Sergeant-Major to you! Young Dietz here is dead now because you think it is all a game. You frack up like that again and you’ll be in the stockade being used as a punch-bag by the provosts. Take this sorry sack back to the field hospital extra quick.”
A stocky Trooper clattered over the lip of the trench and plunged head-first into the mud between them. When he shuffled to his feet, his pugilist face broke open into a wide grim. It was Maag, the platoons Comms-officer.
Schaeffer ripped the Vox unit out of his hands and scanned the screen.
“Totally shagged!” Maag growled, pulling off his helmet to reveal a mop of thick brown hair. Dormagen, the third member of the gathering offered him a small hip flask.
“Well, what did you discover?”
“We are surrounded and well-and-truly cut off from the rest of the Division. I see red flags everywhere. They are big brutal bastards and they aren’t taking prisoners so you don’t want to get caught.”
Schaeffer handed back the Vox and then slid down into a seating position.
“A monumental disaster is unfolding here my roughish friends. Heads will roll.”
“I would not want to be the General right now.”
* * *
The command room was deathly quiet and no one moved. None of them had or could say anything that might make a difference. The General looked up from the map table and scanned the faces of his staff officers.
A tactical officer jogged up to his side and forced a smart salute. He held out a Dataslate as if it was a poisonous chalice. The General gave an imperceptible nod and a junior officer took it from him. His raised eyebrow spoke volumes.
“We have lost the Spaceport Sir.”
General Bakano was from a line of hereditary officers that hailed from the esteemed military academy on Rebrinda. He was one of the very best that his planet could produce. He was destined for great things, maybe even the exalted rank of Lord Marshal… but not today.
“Explain?”, he hissed through gritted teeth.
“Drop pods have been detected. Enemy Space marines have landed in company strength. They have overrun the PDF stationed there and built up a substantial bridgehead.” He paused and then added, “They have taken our only viable reinforcement point.”
The General circled and area on the map. “This area of blue here…”
“The 3rd Jirmania Sir, or what is left of them. There is only a single company left. They are still holding out and have formed a salient in the enemy lines.”
“Have them abandon their positions and advance towards the Space Port. I must take it back, whatever the cost.”
There was a creaking sound of leather and then the tap of metal against metal. All eyes turned to an obscure alcove in the corner. A towering figure in black stepped out of the shadows. The air pressure seemed to drop like the calm before a storm.
“Commissaar Rabe, I had no idea….”
“How true,” the figure interrupted, “You have no idea.”
The General ignored the slight.
“We will match the enemy Marines. I have my own. There are two squads of Vengeance marines in orbit. Have them assist the 3rd Jirmania….”
Rabe slammed an open palm down hard on the map desk.
“At this moment, your precious marines are repelling boarders aboard their battle barge. No help will be forthcoming from that source.”
The General was unmoved. A tiny bead of sweat formed on his forehead.
“Switch the reserve artillery from their interdiction action in sector five-zero and have them neutralise the enemy in the Space port. Inform the battery commanders that they should choose their targets wisely. I do not want unnecessary destruction of the facilities. Any miscalculations could see them bound for a penal battalion.”
“All communications are being jammed in that sector. That message will not get through.” An aide hastily interjected.
“Release Legio Metensis
. The six operational engines will easy neutralise whatever resistance it encounters.”
Bakano’s face turned crimson, his body quaking with hidden rage.
“Call it now General. Give the order before this expedition becomes a rout.”
“I will never give General Order Nineteen. I can still turn this around.”
“Current casualty predictions exceed sixty percent General. A forlorn hope by a Titan Legion will not turn the tide.”
“The 3rd Jirmania are already advancing. We shall see.”
* * *
“Which idiot ordered an assault?”, growled Schaeffer so everyone in the vicinity could hear.
Maag was holding the Vox-receiver to his ear. He grinned again. The Sergeant-Major would go apoplectic and when that happened, teeth would be shattered and bones broken. It was always a thing of beauty to watch his Spiess go into berserker mode.
The Sergeant-major scratched his head.
“Belay that,” his face turned to stone. “Tell all our units. General Order Nineteen, repeat, General Order Nineteen. Resurrect! Pass it on loud and clear. Resurrect!”
He threw the handset at the Vox officer.
“All units resurrect. Get back on your feet, re-group and make our way to the harbour area. Fracking end-ex*, END-EX! Exercise is now over. Thank the Emperor. Another monumental cluster-frack. Emperor-only-knows what would have happened if this was for real, eh Maag?”
“Situation normal Spiess. Situation normal.”
* * *
*End-ex… Military terminology for End of Exercise or end of manoeuvres.
Resurrect is the term used by re-enactors at the end of a battle. This is shouted out across the battlefield. Anyone who is ‘dead’ suddenly resurrects and is fully fit and functional again!
The word (or rank) Spiess came originally from 040M2-era Europe (Europa), specifically the country called Germany. It was unofficial title for the most senior sergeant in a regiment.