by M. Ben Dall
Story about futuristic Roman Legionaries, story under construction though
As shots scream around him, Tycho begins to wonder when the promised reinforcements will come. The rest of his legion is in pieces, shredded by the Parthian ambush. Most of the senior officers are already dead or wounded, and he appears to have sole command of his nine man squad, his Karacer. “Those woods,” he thinks to himself for the third time, “if it weren’t for those woods we wouldn’t be in this rat trap!” The legion is pinned down in a small valley, with thick, impenetrable woods on one side, and hills rolling away into mountains on the other. “We never should have come this way, we should have made a way through the forest, where they couldn’t have attacked us, but no, that would take to long! It’s gonna take a lot longer now! And where in Hades is Marcus’s legion?”
He activates the infrared sensor in his visor and scans the battlefield for targets and Roman units, denoted by red for enemies and green for Roman transmitters. He sees a group of Parthians beaten back by a few Romans, and hope surges within him. Lifting the repeating sniper rifle he has used for as long as he can remember, he looks through the scope and sees a Parthian officer giving orders to two men in camouflage with long grey sticks that are probably high powered sniper rifles. He waits until the snipers have gone before taking out the officer. Tycho then turns his attention to the camouflaged snipers. Luckily in the melee of gunfire they haven’t noticed one more shot.
“Just as well,” he thinks to himself, “because this would be a lot harder if they new I was gunning for them”. He looks through the the scope on his rifle and lines up the first target. As the sniper creeps to the top of a hill, he depresses the trigger, dispatching the man and sending him spinning like a rag-doll.
Instantly, the other sniper hits the dirt where he will be protected by the long grass carpeting the battlefield. The grass, Tycho reflects, that made this fiasco they are currently in possible. The legion had received orders to bypass the last real forest before the great empty plains and steppes. Unfortunately, marching alongside the forest left them completely vulnerable except for the little warning the outriding Springhawk scout vehicles could provide. But this time not even those had spotted the enemy waiting in the grass, and the lightly armored vehicles had been all but destroyed in the first few minutes of fighting. A few still swerve around the edges of the battle field, and one that had been immobilized but not destroyed is still being defended by its driver and gunner, although how long they can hold out is questionable at best.
The legion has been hit from three sides simultaneously, the Parthians rising up from the long grass, only fifty yards from the column, and opening fire immediately, to devastating effect. Somehow Tycho’s whole unit has survived the first few minutes, when the confusion was greatest, and has become one of the few centers of calm in the raging storm of gunfire. Tycho is brought back to the present by the sniper’s bullet biting into the ground next to his head, showering him in dirt and lodging itself in the side of the shallow ditch. He and his karacer had dug it in the field as soon as the ambush was sprung and are managing to defend it quite decently. Tycho settles down to wait for the other sniper to let down his guard, the waiting game he has not lost even once, obviously, since he is still alive. He thinks to himself that this is going to be a long hard day. But then, that’s average for the best legion in all Caesar's armies. They will come out of this victorious, as they always do. After all, they’re death’s own legion. They are the Apollonarius.
the rush of blood and death began to fade as Tycho surveyed the battlefield, replaced by a feeling of loss. the loss of the many brave soldiers and officers that day, and the loss of their beloved centurion, Angelus. They had been friends since they had enlisted together, and they were the best of comrades. He had been with him in his final moments, and Angelus had charged him with the remains of the legion. Angelus had told him “Don’t take them back to Rome, Rome has betrayed us, left us for dead. They would only be sent away, or killed. Caesar does not reward failure, or embarrassment, and we are both now. We won, but we failed because we are still alive to show how dearly we paid to win. Press on, keep going east. Far from Rome is where you will be safe, until you are strong enough to return, and make Caesar pay for what he has done.” His rage and grief spent, Angelus had slipped away in his friends hands, going to join his comrades already waiting on the banks of the river Styx, waiting for the boatman that would faery them across to Esylum.
Esylum, where all soldiers would eventually find themselves, ready to march and fight on for eternity beside their brethren and comrades, both living and dead. Tycho looked out over the battlefield again, littered with dead parthians and overturned vehicles. The parthians had brought none of their lightning quick but heavily armed Scorpions with them, but they had brought the heavy weapons to take care of the Roman’s vehicles, and most of those were still burning, although the few usable or reparable ones were grouped together and being worked on by some engineers. Three Springhawks, one missing the top turret; one Troll, a medium armored tank that looked vaguely like some wild boar; and an infantry carrier with a blown wheel. Also one of the experimental Blackbird aircraft had survived, it’s lacquered black finish scratched and dirty, but amazingly, the thing was still completely functional. The Blackbird’s an interesting concept, Tycho thought, but not much of a success. It used a large propeller to stay aloft, and two more for maneuvering. The weapon load was rather formidable, with three individually controlled machine gun turrets, a large cannon, and more than a few missiles. The armor wasn’t bad, but the failing weakness was the fans, which apparently weren’t all that hard to hit, and couldn’t take bullet for anything.
A blue armored hand rested gently on his shoulder, it’s owner standing beside and slightly behind him. The hand’s owner, Gracilis, smiled up at him with a look of sorrow and pity.
“I know what it’s like. Angelus was my brother, as much as he was your friend, but for his sake we have to go.”
Gracilis had stood by her brother during the entire battle, and the only reason she hadn’t been in front of the shot that took him was a concussion grenade that threw her down and broke a leg. She stood next to Tycho on servo-crutches, an expandable rod that attached to the armor above the knee, keeping her foot off the ground.
“I know I couldn't have, but I can’t help but feel like there was something I could have done to save him. I know you feel the same.”
It always mystified Tycho how she seemed to read his mind, and had often wondered if that was exactly what she was doing. But she was right again. They had to move on, or risk the Parthians coming back, or worse. This was the farthest Rome had ever ventured east. These thoughts all flashed through his head in a few moments, and he turned back to where the few dozen remaining legionaries were nursing their wounds with the scanty medical supplies that had survived undamaged.
Parthians were ruthless and efficient, targeting medical supplies, command units, and anything that would leave surviving enemies stranded and helpless. He walked in among them, attracting a few glances with the black shoulder pauldron he now wore, making him the highest ranking legionary in sight. Reaching the center of the makeshift camp he entered the command tent. At first no one noticed, but after a moment Oulixes looked up from the battle report he and half a dozen other centurion hopefuls were examining. Oulixes began a sneer, but suppressed it when he noticed the shoulder pauldron.
“What about the rest of us?” He said angrily. “ Don’t we get a chance for centurion?”
“No time.” Tycho said as he brushed by him, activating his helmet so that it covered the top of his head and his eyes. “Legion needs a general, and for now that’s me.”
Oulixes moved over to look at where Tycho’s eyes were.
“You? Really? Just because everyone else was off doing more important things? Or because you were Angelus’ favorite?”
Tycho looked at him, disgust struggling with anger on his face. Most of it was hidden by the half face-mask, but Oulixes noticed it anyway.
“Come on Tycho, we both know you don’t want this. Why take it? You don’t want to. But I do.”
Tycho stepped forward, looking down at Oulixes, “I’m the one in charge now Oulixes, for better or worse. You would do well to remember that.” He turned to the other commanders, leaving a fuming Oulixes to glare at the back of his helmet. He retracted the helmet visor so his face was fully exposed and looked at Fulvius, the senior map tech, expectantly.
“Alright big guy, here’s what we got.” He spun the holo-map around so Tycho could see, and circled their immediate area with his hand. The map focused a closer view of a mile around them, and Fulvius reached over, using two fingers to highlight.
“This is where we are, and this green area is the forest. The Parthians most likely came from this direction, so it’s generally considered safe to assume they’ll come from that way again.” He looked up with a grin, but quickly sobered up at Tycho’s grim face.
“I’m not risking the legion on assumptions and accepted facts. Not after what we’ve been through. We’ve already learned that these Parthian raiding bands can strike from nowhere, and disappear in a heartbeat. We can’t just start off in some direction hoping they won’t catch up. We have to disappear.”
Oulixes sauntered up behind him, peering over his shoulder. “And I wonder, how would we do that Tycho? Go through the forest? How would we accomplish that?”
Tycho turned to him, this time keeping his anger simmering below the surface. “I was hoping someone with a wealth of bright ideas might have an explanation. Care to give it a shot?”
Oulixes’ chest swelled with pride, even though he new the complement was rife with sarcasm. “As a matter of fact...” His smirk faded, “Well, actually, I don’t know. But I’ll think of something.”
Tycho looked away, feigning disappointment. “Well?” He asked suddenly, looking up at the rest of the officers in the tent. No one met his gaze at it raked them expectantly, mockingly.
Suddenly, the room began to spin and Tycho dropped to one knee holding his head in one hand, while bracing himself on the table with the other. He looked down at his dark green armor, which seemed to turn to black, just a moment before the rest of the world.
Gracilis watched the new general walk away, and sensed the weight that seemed to physically rest on his shoulders. She shook her head and wished there was something she could do, but knew it was something he would have to work through himself, as she was doing already. She turned to follow him, but stopped when she noticed a movement at the edge of the forest. She looked closer, but whatever it was had gone.
Gracilis walked through the camp, observing the general morale of the troops and logging away any possible dissenters in her exhaustive memory. After a few minutes she found herself on the opposite side of the camp, looking out at the eaves of the darkened forest. As she watched with something very like apprehension an armored figure strode from the shadow of the woods. His armor was neither Roman or Parthian, nor anything she had ever seen. She warily drew the Stinger pistol she carried, noting he wasn’t openly armed, but she knew that didn’t really make a huge difference. He reached out an arm to her, which could have been a gesture for her to follow him, or he could be readying some wrist-mounted weapon. Instantly she snapped the pistol up, but before she could do anything, her vision quickly began to cloud, and her arm, held out in front of her, began to turn a blinding white, and she wondered at it as the world followed suite.
Tycho regained consciousness in total darkness, not sure if his eyes were open or shut
story revolves around Tycho’s Karacer, ten person squad
Perspective jumps from person to person, Tycho still main character, leader
revise entire prologue battle (change back from present tense. That was a bad idea)
squad mates: Gracilis, Oulixes *traitor?*, young noble and his older guardian (Gennadius and Alexius), etc. (modeled loosely after the Halo: Reach Spartan team)