Ready Or Not, Here They Come
"How did it go?" Commander Sydney asked as James dropped into the large foxhole. Judging by the dimensions of it and how much time had passed, James knew that it had to have been excavated by magic. Which made sense because Commander Sydney had taught him the same spell.
"3 Man-O-War Shocktroopers killed for sure and I saw a handful of Winterguard killed or wounded," James reported as he accepted a canteen from Sergeant Harris, who joined the two men.
"More than a handful is probably more accurate, sir," Harris corrected. "I heard at least 3 of my traps go off and Khadorans never travel alone."
"Where is Echo now?" Commander Sydney asked as he observed the Trenchers around them digging and preparing for the Khadorans.
"I sent him back to the Combat Engineers that were just arriving for a reload and refuel," James answered.
"They are here momentarily. Half of them are returning to Greyglen with the wagons and supplies," Commander Sydney stated. "Only a single team of engineers will remain here in case of damage to the 'jacks."
"Prudent, I guess," James remarked as he leaned against the side of the foxhole.
"What can you two tell me of the Khadoran force?" Commander Sydney asked.
"We didn't see much of it from where we were," James began. "Shocktroopers in front with Winter Guard in support. Hard to get an accurate count. I saw at least 2 'jacks though."
"That is all I saw as well, sir," Harris said as he accepted several grenades from a private. "But I'd hazard a guess and say that they have Widowmakers or Kossites with them for sure. They'd need them with all the trees."
"I'd have to agree with you Sergeant," Commander Sydney responded. "The men probably already know as well but would you pass the word along to keep their heads down when possible. No sense in giving them an easy target to shoot at."
"I'll remind them, sir," Sergeant Harris said before moving off to do just that.
"How long do we stay here?" James asked his mentor.
"As long as we can safely do so," Commander Sydney stated. "I have ordered that Greyglen prepare for siege. The remainder of our force is reinforcing the defences there now. We need to give them as much time as we can to do just that."
"What about the civilians?" James wondered.
"I have asked that they begin evacuating to the other side of the river," Commander Sydney replied. "Let us hope that the impending arrival of a Khadoran force will be enough to spur them into action this time."
"Here they come, sir," the nearest sentry called out from where he was stationed. His call started a wave of motion down the trenches in both directions as men and women roused from where they rested or ate, grabbed their weapons from beside them and prepared to defend themselves.
"So, it begins again," Commander Sydney observed as he climbed up onto the fire step and looked out through the loophole that the sentry had vacated for him. Thanks to the delaying action that his journeyman had accomplished, and the unexpected but welcome delay from the advancing Khadorans, he and his men had had almost 2 hours to prepare themselves. Now they would find out if it was enough.
"How bad is it sir?" James asked as he stood to the side.
"It's not good," Commander Sydney responded as he analysed the Khadoran's formation. "But as you saw them earlier, they have Shocktroopers in front with Winter Guard behind them. They have also deployed Assault Kommandos just inside the edge of the treeline."
"Destroyers?" James asked as his mind worked to keep a tally of what they were up against.
"Looks like 4 of them, with at least two more of a similar chassis," Sydney said. "I can't make out what they are from here though."
"Heavy and light infantry, 6 heavy warjacks and the warcaster that is inevitably controlling them," Tragger counted off for his mentor. "This is going to be a tall order, sir."
"Remember, we are not here to hold them back," Sydney reminded, turning to look at his student. "Only to delay them as long as we can without sustaining too many losses. If our position becomes untenable, we retreat to Greyglen."
"Do you have a plan for that, sir?" James asked as he felt the impatience of Echo through his link with the 'jack.
"We wait until they get within range of the Long Gunners and then we open fire," Commander Sydney stated calmly before adding. "I'll extend the range of one of the Trencher squads and you can extend the range of Echo and yourself; the Grenadier too when they come closer."
"And if they decide not to come closer?" Tragger wondered, trying to think of alternatives even as he asked the question.
"Then I extend the range of some Long Gunners and between them and the Defender they will target the Destroyers one after another. They will have greater range and more accuracy than the bombards those 'jacks carry."
"Understood sir," James acknowledged.
"Remember James, you will one day need to do all of this yourself. Always have confidence in your abilities," Commander Sydney reminded his student. "If you lose confidence, then the men around you will as well. And when that happens, all will be lost."
"I'll remember that, sir," Tragger said as he thought about those words.
"Good man," Commander Sydney responded, looking out at the Khadorans again. "Now off you go. The Khadorans appear to have grown tired of waiting."