Death or Glory | Chapter 24 of 25 - Part: 1 of 66

Author: Sandy Mitchell | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1532 Views | Add a Review

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TWENTY

JURGEN'S PESSIMISM notwithstanding, we made pretty good progress over the next few weeks. As we continued to hop from supply dump to supply dump our numbers grew, each stop adding another trickle of isolated units responding to our vox hails, and our scouts ran across the occasional straggler, themselves. It wasn't until after we'd left the desert behind that things really started to improve. Gradually the heat and the sand gave way to cool green vegetation, and the ruins of untended fields replaced the monotony of the unending dunes.

That led to other problems, of course. Now we were entering what had been more civilised climes, we were being funnelled into what remained of the road network, the cultivated ground being far harder for our motley collection of vehicles to plough across than the open desert. Not to mention the walls, fences, and other obstructions, which would have bogged us down if we'd tried to negotiate them. Luckily, Kolfax was still equal to the challenge, having found an official mapslate of the road network at the regional office of his former employers, in a bombed-out township we swept through the morning after leaving the desert for good. (Adding another bunch of civilians to our baggage train in the process, but on the whole I suppose the trade-off was worth it.1) With that in hand, we were able to split our forces, spreading them out along several parallel routes, co-ordinating the whole thing over the vox. That kept us moving through the main agricultural zone at a reasonable speed, avoiding too many bottlenecks, and on a wide enough front to reinforce any groups who ran into more greenskins than they could conveniently handle by themselves, without too much difficulty.

'So far so good,' I said one evening, settled comfortably in the kitchen of an isolated farmhouse in the foothills of the mountain range, which just for once had turned out to have its roof still on. We'd reached sufficient altitude for the air to be growing perceptibly chiller, much to Jurgen's evident delight, although everyone else seemed to share my reservations about the fact, keeping as close to the fire he'd kindled in the grate as possible. Kolfax nodded, studying the mapslate.

'You've got us this far,' he acknowledged, in the tone of a man admitting that this was something he'd never expected to see, 'but now it gets really difficult.' The rest of our little group leaned in across the polished wooden tabletop, scarred from generations of use, and heaped with discarded plates, which Jurgen was just beginning to clear.

Piers and Tayber were there, of course, the de facto leaders of the military contingent. We'd acquired a few more officers and NCOs of equal rank to both in the course of our travels, but they'd been with me longer than anyone else, and I trusted them accordingly (or, to be a little more accurate, distrusted them less than anyone else in the unit apart from Jurgen). We were up to about company strength,2 although our patchwork organisational structure was like nothing the authors of the Tactica Imperialis would recognise, and I'd granted them battlefield promotions to keep the lines of command relatively clear. Piers was now a captain, at least in theory,3 and Tayber his CSM.4 I'd also invited Norbert, who had stayed on top of the increasingly complex logistical problems presented by the steady growth of our merry little band with an ease which astonished me, and Felicia, both as our technical expert and because she was by far the most congenial company in the bunch, to join us.

'You mean the mountains,' I said, and Kolfax nodded.

'Precisely.' He gestured at the display, zooming in towards the sector we currently occupied. 'At the moment, we're spread out along a two-kilometre wide front, running along these roads, here.' We were roughly in the centre, of course, with the armour spearheading our advance,5 the mechanised infantry on our flanks, and the scouts ranging ahead to spot any unpleasant surprises.

The irregulars and the civilians were with us too, as protected as we could contrive, and, if I'm honest, adding an extra layer of expendable cannon fodder between me and any greenskin formation large enough to threaten us directly. 'The problem is, we're almost into them already, and the higher we go the fewer options we have.' He indicated the network of highways, which were already beginning to narrow towards a single choke point. 'We'll be at the pass in less than a week, and once that happens there's only one way to go.'

'And the greenies will know that,' Tayber put in helpfully, as if I needed his assistance to spot the blindingly obvious. We'd made enough of a nuisance of ourselves on our journey so far for me to be pretty sure that they'd want to shut us down once and for all, and, dim as they were, it should have been pretty evident, even to them, where we were making for. My palms tingled, anticipating the ambush I was certain would be lying in wait for us as we tried to thread that narrow gorge.

'That would explain the reports we've been getting from the outriders,' Piers added. I nodded soberly. Our scouts had spotted several large formations of greenskins following our trail in the last few days, but hanging back with a patience completely at odds with everything I thought I'd begun to understand about the creatures. No doubt they were waiting for us to begin traversing the pass and engage the ambushing force, before falling on us from behind.

'You're absolutely sure there's no other way through the mountains?' I asked Kolfax, already knowing what his answer was going 1 The ork garrison in the town of Sandsedge was wiped out in the engagement, the Imperial column having taken them completely by surprise. They took some casualties themselves, of course, but by this time the steady trickle of newly contacted stragglers joining the group more than made up for the losses they sustained.

2 Probably around three hundred soldiers, if Cain is being literal, although as usual he's infuriatingly vague about specifics.

3 Technically, all such promotions conferred by a commissar would he subject to subsequent ratification by the Munitorum, although, since to oppose the decision would be likely to attract commissarial attention to the objector, this would just be a formality in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.

4 Company Sergeant Major, the senior NCO of a company.

5 By this time Sautine's Leman Russ had been joined by two more tanks of the same type, a Basilisk, and a pair of captured orkish battlewagons apparently based on a looted Chimera chassis.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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