“Call for reinforcments to the main entrance of the temple! Pull from every available squadron nearby!”
broken radio transmission
“Ye..s…ir! Doing….wh…t…can. Every squ…ron…figh..ng….throughout…..city!”
“God damn it, we don’t have enough to fight off a full frontal assault. They weren’t supposed to have this many troops.”
“SIR! LOOK!!” my 2nd in command yelled as I turned to see.
It was as if time slowed to spite me. I had a perfect view of the nightmare moving straight for us. The once bright blue sky of the capital city had been darkened to blood red mixed with the black smoke of smoldering fires. The Commander of the Temple Praetorian Guard had been right. Our armies were scattered throughout every part of the city. There wasn’t an alleyway, intersection or neighborhood were you didn’t see the muzzle-flash of gunfire, sparks of clashing swords and explosions. The Sacred City itself had become a battleground. But this blasphemous sight had been normal now for the better part of a full day. It had started in the dead of night continuing into midday and fast approaching the next night. What my 2nd had been pointing at was the column of enemy forces heading straight up the city’s main pathway leading to the Temple.
They were clad in black armor to signify they were part of Ember’s personal guard. Ember, God curse his name. Our forces on the ground nearest to them were too occupied to focus fire on them so they steadily marched forward almost unabated.
“PRAETORIAN GUARD! FORM LINES AND FOCUS FIRE ON EMBER’S PERSONAL GUARD! SHRAPNEL CANNONS FIRE FIRST TO FOCUS THEIR SHIELDS UPWARD!! FIRE!!!”
Even in the middle of a shit-storm with hell all around I knew I could count on the Praetorian Guard to be professional to the last man. I just hoped they would outclass Ember’s Guard on this dark day.
With the loud rapid succession of BOOMS of hand-cannons and then crackling like fireworks I could see the strategy worked. The black column instinctively raised their heavy shields up to brace for the sharp metal barrage raining down on them. Then 2nd line began firing on them from straight ahead with focused automatic burst-fire towards the center in the hopes of scattering the column. They were beginning to finally face resistance. Black armored troops began falling here and there. But they were holding formation while still moving steadily forward. A piercing explosion lit up the sky just to the right as one of our aerial fighters was shot down by a pursuing enemy fighter, crashing into a distant part of the city like a bolt of lightning.
“Even the air fighters are too busy to spare a strafing run for fuck’s sake.”
My 2nd stole a quick concerned glance at me as he understood the gravity of our situation. My voice projector had been damaged some hours ago in hand to hand combat so I had to scream over all the gunfire and explosions:
“FOURTH AND FIFTH LINE!! FOURTH AND FIFTH LINE!!! BLADES AND SHIELDS AT THE READY!!! WE WON’T STOP EMBER’S GUARD FROM REACHING US BUT THIS TEMPLE WILL NOT FALL! THIS TEMPLE WILL NOT FALL! DO YOU HEAR ME?! CUT DOWN EVERY LAST MOTHERFUCKER THAT COMES UP THESE STEPS!!!”
The roar of my troop’s affirmation could surely be heard by Ember’s Guard. And almost as if to confirm it they began a jogging pace. Shields still up and forward like some metal centipede scampering toward us, the gunfire from our barricades was deafening. But Ember predictably placed his largest fighters-bruiser types, upfront with heavy shields to absorb most of our resistance. So they kept charging while the metallic clang of bullets pounded against their armor. Then the inevitable was upon us.
With a deafening roar my Guard and Ember’s Guard clashed like a clap of thunder. The stronger among the fighters were dismembering and decapitating with their blades even through the armor of their opponents. The stench of blood, sweat, and puke filled their air mixing with the smoke to create a concentrated hell upon the steps of the holiest site in our Kingdom. I turned hearing an ear-piercing scream of agony as multiple bursts of gunfire riddled my 2nd in command before another 3 round burst slammed into the face of his helmet releasing a red vapor into the air as his body collapsed. I yanked back on the lever attached to my heavy warbelt. The Droneblade detached from my back and took flight. I gave it its target with the two-finger signal as it zipped through the violent maelstrom of armored bodies to my 2nd’s killer. He barely had time to register a panicked expression before it descended on him like a wild animal. Spinning its blades in a fury all over, cutting through his armor like paper. He screamed and pleaded as his flesh, guts and bones erupted into the air before the Droneblade mercifully mangled his face into an unrecognizable slop leaving him a bloodied and disfigured corpse. It was a small consolation.
As I recalled the Droneblade and locked the lever back in place I heard his raised voice over the crowd…
“Still playing with toys, old friend?”
Ember smiled through the gap in his helmet before taking it off completely and dropping it to the side. A couple of men engaged in an all out wrestling match nearly shoved into him before he grabbed the Praetorian Guard by the shoulders lifting him up and choking the life out of him as his own guard slowly staggered up catching his breath then running back into the fighting. Ember’s eyes were on me the whole time as my Guard twitched and flopped like a fish out of water. He was daring me to signal the Droneblade. But I knew he could cut it down and I may need it soon. After he snuffed the life of my Guard out, he tossed him aside.
“Nothing? After all this time? Is this how you greet your old comrade?”
Holding up my blood-stained and battle worn sword, I gazed at it admiringly.
“My blade will greet you.”
He smiled before assuming his animal-expression and we ran into each other shield-first, blades at the ready.
End Pt 1