Ready Or Not, Here They Come
"Cover!" Came the shouted call as the whistle of incoming artillery shells broke the quiet of the morning air. The patrol dived off the path they had been travelling down and hunkered behind several trees. Unfortunately, several of the trailing members had not heard the call clearly and those few seconds of indecision cost them their lives as the trio of shells landed and detonated.
"Damn," Lieutenant James Tragger commented as he looked out from where he had dived to gaze upon the remains of the trenchers that had died. "Anyone see what was shooting at us?"
"No sir," came the reply as Senior Sergeant Kenneth Harris came up beside him, his scattergun held at the ready. "Can you sense anything?"
"No," Tragger said after focusing for a moment. "But that means nothing really. I've never been very sensitive."
"I remember you mentioning that before," Sergeant Harris responded. The sergeant had been assigned as his adjutant/companion when Tragger himself had been assigned to Commander Charles Sydney as a journeyman warcaster. He had told Tragger that it would ease the burden of his transition from the Trencher Commando he had been before discovering his arcane abilities to the warcaster that he now was. For his part, Tragger had been grateful for the company of the older man. With more than 15 years of service as a Trencher on practically every battlefield that Cygnar had fought on, the man was a fount of experience and knowledge that Tragger could and did draw on as needed.
"Options?" Tragger asked, although he already knew the answer.
"Sir, you're second guessing again," Sergeant Harris shot back. "You know as well as I do that we cannot stay here."
"Right," Tragger acknowledged as he drew his hand cannon. "Fall back by units. Stay to the sides of the path."
"Understood," Sergeant Harris said. "And your position sir?"
"I'll be the rear," Tragger stated as he gazed up at the Charger and Sentinel warjacks that formed his battlegroup. "Me and the 'jacks can cover our retreat from whatever is likely to continue shooting at us."
"I'll grab several of the lads to stay back with us," Segeant Harris declared as he turned and moved off. As he departed, the Charger released a low whistle.
"No Echo, I don't have a good feeling about this either," Tragger replied to the warjack he had first gazed upon during his training at Point Bourne. He had demonstrated what his instructors had called ‘beyond average’ abilities with the Charger and they had recommended that it be assigned to Tragger to see if anything came of it. "Infact, I have a decidedly bad one instead."
They had been travelling for perhaps half an hour, each unit of the patrol moving in turn as the others watched for whomever had fired at them. But no one came.
"Sergeant, you ever been in a situation like this before?" Tragger asked Harris, hoping to draw upon the Senior Sergeant's experience.
"Like this, sir? No," Harris responded without taking his eyes away from where he was watching for any signs of who attacked them. "I've had to retreat while under fire. I've had to circle away from friendly lines to avoid enemy patrols and such. But I've never retreated to friendly lines after only three shots were fired at me."
"Yeah, it doesn’t make any sense to me either," Tragger agreed as a trencher dropped to the ground next to them. "Yes corporal?"
"Sir, friendlies approaching up the path. Looks like Commander Sydney, several 'jacks and at least a platoon of infantry," the corporal reported.
"Why would they be out here?" Tragger wondered idly. "Commander Sydney didn't tell me that he would be joining us."
"They must have heard the shots from earlier," Harris suggested as his mind worked through the situation. "And they are coming to reinforce us."
"Away from the town and the majority of our forces,” continued Tragger as a thought occurred to him.
“Out in the open,” Harris finished as the same thought came to him. “It’s a trap.”
“And we’re the bait,” Tragger said as he jumped to his feet, Harris mimicking his movement as they raced along the edge of the path. As he ran, Tragger mentally called for his ‘jacks to follow him as quick as they could as he leapt over a fallen log and the pair of trenchers that were using it for cover.
He was just coming up to the bend in the path when he heard the sounds of heavy warjacks approaching. Pushing himself harder and wishing he had some way to use his magic to increase his speed, Tragger continued to run. Rounding the bend, he almost ran into the lead squad of trenchers that were the vanguard of his commanding officer’s relief column.
"Where is Commander Sydney?" Tragger asked as he slid to a stop.
"Back with his 'jacks, sir," the corporal in charge of the squad replied as he pointed behind him. As Tragger looked over at where the warjacks were now standing his eyes settled on the short-cropped grey hair of his commanding officer. Holstering his hand cannon, he picked his way through the arriving troops and stepped up in from of the senior warcaster.
"James, good to see you're alright," Commander Charles Sydney said as he looked over his journeyman. "When we heard the explosions earlier, we feared you had been ambushed."
"I lost several men, sir," Tragger reported as sorted his thoughts into coherent words. "But I don't think we walked into an ambush sir."
"Then why shell you?" Trencher Lieutenant Albert Pratt asked from beside Commander Sydney.
"To get our attention," Commander Sydney observed as he looked around.
"To what end?" Lieutenant Pratt wondered.
"We're the bait," Tragger said even as the sounds of shells whistling through the air came again.
"TAKE COVER!!!" Commander Sydney yelled even as he pushed Tragger towards the edge of the path. Around them, men rushed to follow the shouted command before it had even finished being issued.
So, this is Chapter 001 of a short length Fanfic I wrote by hand over my Summer Holidays. A friend offered me a month away from everything and after what 2017 gave me, I needed it.
But I am back now and the remainder of Heir Apparent awaits. I'll also be typing this up and editing it in my spare time between everything. It is a complete work so it just needs transcribing and editing. Enjoy.