Warzone Resurrection story: A Hard Decision (Part I)
A Hard Decision
A Warzone Resurrection story by Alexander Merow
The landing ship quaked and Nithard Rankenwald held his breath once more. Icy storms had gripped the aircraft, shaking it like a furious frost giant. Then the landing ship started to dive into the maelstrom of snowflakes that was raging in the cold darkness above the pole.
“Calm down, Rankenwald! The Dark Legion is much more dangerous than a cold gust”, said leutnant von Waldfurth with some kind of fatherly smile. He laid his hand on the shoulder of the young soldier who stood beside him.
Nithard exhaled while a red lamp above his head began to light up. A minute later the transporter had landed somewhere in the ice desert.
Von Waldfurth examined the fifty Bauhaus soldiers who were waiting in full get-up in front of a giant steel hatch. Nithard Rankenwald put on his hussar helmet with the characteristic pickel on its top. The pale young face of the soldier disappeared behind a face mask just like his fair hair.
Nithard held his breath again, he felt the adrenaline painfully rushing through his veins; Rankenwald`s heart began to pound faster, his guts cramped. “Are you allright?”, he heard the dull voice of leutnant von Waldfurth behind his back.
“Yes…yes, Sir! I`m fine!”, answered Nithard, trying to supress a panic attack.
In the eyes of the older soldiers he was some kind of hero. They all showed him a lot respect after that bloody skirmish in the Venusian jungle. But in these seconds Nithard didn`t feel all too brave. To the contrary, something deep in his mind tried to warn him of setting foot in the cold darkness outside the landing ship.
The hatch opened with a loud rumble; snowflakes whirled into the hall where the Bauhaus troopers had gathered. Rankenwald turned his head to the right and spotted a tall man in a white armor. The stranger had positioned himself next to leutnant von Waldfurth. With blank face he stared into the icy darkness beyond the open steel hatch. Then the put his helmet on.
“They don`t know that we are coming! Let`s do this quickly!”, shouted the man in the white armor towards the hussars who immediately began to move. Again Nithard felt von Waldfurth`s hand on his pauldron.
“We will soon be back here, boy! Don`t worry! Just follow me!”
Nithard started running and finally jumped out of the landing ship into the snow. A few meters ahead the recognized the tall man in the white armor driving the soldiers forward. Nithard didn`t know who the stranger was and why he accompanied the hussars and rangers although he could imagine that he was a high rank cleric from the Brotherhood.
While Rankenwald struggled through the knee-deep snow he remembered his first and only fight in the ranks of the Bauhaus soldiers. Meanwhile, it was four months ago, that patrol mission which had finally ended in a slaughter. Four long months since Carl had died in his arms.
One year ago, Nithard and his younger brother had both volunteered for the Bauhaus army in hope of a better life under the banners of the corporate forces. “Being a soldier is so much better than spending a life as a worker in one of the factories in the outskirts of Heimburg”, they had told him back in school.
His father had been so proud of his sons when they joined the army to fight for the protection of humanity and the glory of Bauhaus. Only his mother had not been pleased to see their two sons become soldiers in a never ending war. Nonetheless, corporate citizens of lower heritage could rise in the Bauhaus society by making career the army. Or they just died young somewhere in the muddy trenches.
A group of five juggernauts stamped past Rankenwald through the snow; they looked like grey war elephants in their heavy suits. For a moment, the young soldier was absorbed in thought. Once more he saw his brother`s face in his mind`s eye. Carl had been mauled by a creature the Bauhaus officers called “Praetorian Stalker”.
In reverse, Nithard had killed the monster after he had fallen into a state of psychotic rage. Not only it, even one more of its kind. And three so called “Undead Legionaries” and not less than eight heretics.
Ever after the older soldiers showed him a lot respect. Nithard had gone into the jungle as cannon fodder to return as a hero with an iron cross on the chest – but all that didn`t bring Carl back. “There will never be a real chance to defeat the Dark Legion. We can just drive them back again and again. This malicious force will always be a part of the Solar System. Our world has been infected and there is no cure – only procrastination”, said the veterans who had already seen lots of battlefields.
So Carl had died in vain in a war that was already lost, Nithard thought sometimes. This was a shattering realization, a bitter truth that had suffocated all the nascent heroism in Rankenwald`s heart. After the soldiers had covered about one mile they reached a group of snow-clad hills that rose out of the icy desert. Von Waldfurth waved his hand, the hussars, rangers and juggernauts stopped.
“Okay, the research facility is about three hundred meters behind these rocks. We will go in and capture every person we can get. But we must strike fast…”, it resounded out of the little earpiece in Nithard`s helmet until the Bauhaus officer was interrupted by the cleric. “No, I`m the leader of this operation and not you, leutnant von Waldfurth. I have already told you that your order is
to eliminate everyone in this facility. The Brotherhood will mind for the rest.”
“But you said that we are here to capture…”, the officer tried to counter. “No, I have never said anything like that. Your squad is the fist in this mission – but I am the brain. Everything I tell you has been coordinated with the Bauhaus group management and the leaders of the Brotherhood. Now do what I say, leutnant!”
Several minutes passed in silence. The troopers stood like statues in the cold darkness, stock-still and confused. Nonetheless, they had to follow the orders of the white armored man.
“Well, then…”, leutnant von Waldfurth muttered through the radio network to finally start advancing towards the hills. Nithard and the other soldiers vanished in the cold polar night.
When they had passed the group of rocks they recognized a dome-like structure; white like the snow in this frosty wasteland and the armor of the cleric who had just ordered them to kill everyone they would meet.
Slowly the hussars advanced, Nithard considered the white cupola which looked abandoned like the last relict of a lost civilization. Not a single light shined in the distance, there was nothing but the eerie looking building, the howling wind and the dancing snow flakes.
Rankenwald`s hussar armour held back the deadly coldness of the polar night. However, the young soldier was still freezing. He clenched his panzerknacker rifle and felt several times for his combat knife and his ammunition. The more time passed, the more Nithard was tortured by a growing tension.
After a while the dark dome was hardly hundred meters away from the Bauhaus soldiers who were waiting in the cold night. Leutnant von Waldfurth made a sign, the squad stopped.
Rankenwald recognized several small entrance doors around the building. He considered his weapon for a second, then he stared warily up to the top of the dome.
“They don`t know that we`re coming…”, he said scarcely audible to himself.
A blink later a wave of bright light caught the Bauhaus soldiers and the cleric who started to scream with a mixture of confusion and wrath. Nithard suddenly stood in the centre of a giant light cone. He immediately slipped to the ground while all hell broke loose around him.
Two Hussars were rushed off their feet by a blaze of gunfire coming out of the dome. Several explosions followed, Nithard saw a helmet flying in his direction; the bloodspattered headgear landed right next to him in the snow.
“Take cover! Down! Down!”, shouted von Waldfurth at the top of his lungs. His voice was so loud that it cut deeply into Rankenwald`s ears.
Two dozen of strange looking soldiers poured out of an entrance door in the centre of the building which was brightly illuminated now. Nithard crept a few meters through the snow, aimed and opened fire.
“They don`t expect us, right? What do you say now, inquisitor?”, screamed von Waldfurth through the voice network but he got no answer.
Nithard saw the tall cleric waving his hands around, he yelled something the young soliders could not understand in the deafening chaos.
Meanwhile even more enemy soldiers had left the dome. They welcomed the attackers with a storm of machinegun and plasma fire. Desperately Rankenwald shot back. He killed one of the strangers with a lucky hit in the head, three of the other soldiers turned into living torches. They screeched in pain while they staggered towards the dome`s wall.
Nithard had never seen anything like that. He guessed that the cleric had used one of his mysterious powers. But his help seemed not to be enough. More and more enemies came out of the building. The first group of them had been some strange looking humans, now the second wave started its counterattack on the Bauhaus forces.
In his childhood Nithard had heard a few stories about the cybertronic megacorporation which was hiding in the darkest corners of the Solar System. Indeed, he had never imagined to fight against some of their scary creations one day.
Several robots carrying big machine guns, marched through the ice and opened fire. Nithard pressed his face mask into the snow while a hurricane of bullets ripped the bodies of his comrades apart. Blood splatters covered the white ground, the robots came nearer, cutting a swath through the lines of their enemies.
Nithard reloaded, he emptied a whole magazine trying to hold the robot soldiers back. Simultaneously the juggernauts concentrated their fire on the attackers. They stormed forward and threw themselves on the robots, smashing them to the ground with their powered fists. Sparks flew around when the heavily armored hulks tore them to pieces.
Nithard exhaled, he reloaded his panzerknacker again, peering in the direction of the dome only to see that the fight was far from being over. Even more enemies had gathered around the building. Humans with gray armor plates on their bodies, furthermore some big metallic creatures who were towering over them.
Suddenly, Nithard saw leutnant von Waldfurth crawling towards him; the veteran pointed at the group of enemies and growled a curse.
“Sorry, Rankenwald, I didn`t expect something like that. This damn cleric has given us false information. To hell with him!”, he fulminated.
Before Nithard could give him a reply, the ground was shaken by an explosion. Rockets and grenades rained from the dark sky, some hussars and rangers were hit and mangled. When Rankenwald turned around in panic he saw the leutnant being thrown to the ground by a huge blast wave.
“We will all die if we remain at this place! There is no cover, we are on show! The only way is to get into that building! All or nothing! Attack!”, screamed the cleric and charged forward.
For better or for worse, Rankenwald had to admit that he was right. About twenty Bauhaus soldiers were already dead while the rest of the squad would soon follow if they poised cowering in the snow.
Nithard try to blank out all thoughts and started to run. He followed the juggernauts who tried to pin down the cybertronic warriors in front of the dome. Death cries echoed through the night but Rankenwald didn`t stop running. There was no escape in this godforsaken ice desert, the flight forward was all that had been left.
Finally he tore his combat knife out of the sheath, jumping at the first enemy in his way like a wild animal. It was a chasseur, an ordinary footsoldier of the Cybertronic corporation, with a strange looking rifle in his hands. Before he could point his weapon at Rankenwald a sharp blade cut his throat. The cyborg stared at Nithard with empty eyes, more confused than scared because of the deadly wound. With brute force Nithard pushed him back and threw him into the snow.