Within the Walls of Dis

Plywood Fiend

Rear Admiral

First off, for regular readers of Front Lines I know it's been a long time since my last update. The reason being, if i'm honest, I think it's going downhill on an increasingly steep slope. Too many new characters and story lines disguising my growing lack of direction and interest.

So, i'm overhauling the thing. I'm going to put the chapters up to the destruction of the H'varkann into one 'book', most of the aftermath chapters plus the Ghorah Khar segment will form something of an intermission, then once that's finished i'll start on book 2, which i'll say nothing about.

When all's said and done i'll hopefully have downloadable versions of the story. First off though I have a lot of spelling mistakes to correct.

As for this story, it's definately not for the faint hearted. It contains some pretty grisly description and expletives. Through it i'm attempting to present the Kilrathi war at its absolute worst. I hope you enjoy it.

Within the Walls of Dis

By The Plywood Fiend

* * * * * * * * *

Sergeant Eliza Everest

The air itself seemed to be screaming as each side hurled lasers, missiles, bombs and fighters at each other. Life expectancy had died down to a question of seconds as both sides closed in on what was once Landfall plaza on Cabrea 4.

The Kilrathi were pulling out of this system. Their orbital transports were running for the jump point home with what slaves and ore they could carry, what ground forces and expendable warships remained to fight were making interception of such convoys by the Confed liberators all the more difficult.

Intel had reported that two more slave convoys were yet to launch. If we were lucky we might be able to intercept them before they got in the air, but it was slow work. The cats were putting everything they had in our path.
“Incoming!” someone screamed over the battle armour’s intercom. I threw myself to the ground and covered my head with my arms. Sure enough a bright flash and searing heat erupted behind me, taking out four of our marines. The ruined road, strewn with the debris from the adjacent buildings as well as bodies burned beyond recognition looked little worse for the mortar impact.

I pushed myself up against a felled piece of wall that was large enough to hide my entire body behind. As a shield it would prove utterly worthless should someone decide to shoot at it, but here no one could see me. That gave me time enough to take a deep breath, swing around the debris and unload five cannon shots into the distance where the Kilrathi were probably better hidden then us.

I don’t think I hit anything, and I couldn’t stick around to look. As the fifth shot left the smoking barrel of my rifle I was already pushing myself away from my makeshift barricade and back the way I’d came. Laser fire from four different directions reduced my hiding place to cinders.

“Attention marines, this is Alpha leader from the TCS Ranger. We’re setting up for a bombing run close to your position. Fall back, E.T.A is forty seconds.”
“Everyone fall back!” Colonel Green howled over the intercom, in case we hadn’t heard the first time, “Fall the fuck back!”

I started moving backwards as quickly as I could with my rifle pointed towards the Kilrathi’s position. When it became apparent that I wouldn’t get away quick enough going backwards I turned and ran properly. Leaving my back exposed to any Kilrathi gunner who might be moving up behind us.

“FSSSS…Knew I should FHSSSS been a FHSS convoy!” Vinnie Robinson chose to share that with the rest of us. Though how he would’ve gone about being a convoy was anyone’s guess.

Above the sounds of laser fire and explosions, the spontaneous roar of fighter engines sounded overhead. Two seconds later it was gone, along with most of the street behind us. The detonation of at least three high yield charges sent all thirty of us to the floor. As soon as the shaking stopped I found I had to fight the urge to stay down. It faded, grudgingly, and I stood up along with the rest of my unit. It didn’t look like anyone had been too slow.

“Keep in tight people,” Green ordered, “Let’s get moving. Keep your eyes open for survivors.”
“Theirs or ours sir?” Someone asked. Green ignored her. That should have been obvious.

We moved forward slowly, checking each crack and hole large enough for a Kilrathi to hide in. There were a hell of a lot of them, my rifle’s flashlight revealed a body or two lying next to them more often as not. There were far more human bodies then Kilrathi, and a lot of them were civilians wearing the standard slave uniform. Poor creatures caught in the crossfire.

There were more civilians left alive, huddled in shattered rooms or under piles of debris, huddled together and terrified as their world seemed to shake itself apart. We’d gathered who we could back at base camp, but they were getting overwhelmed quickly. Until we could push the cats off of the planet, we’d have to leave any other colonists where we found them.

“There!” Sergeant Russell shouted as he unloaded two rounds into what looked like it was already a dead Kilrathi. Maybe it had been twitching. Either way it was now definitely dead. We carried on walking.

I kept my rifle pointed between Corporal Pritchard and Sergeant Odell, I had suddenly come to find myself surrounded by marines and the space between them was the only one available to me.

The street opened up into a small square where shattered husks of buildings faced inwards. All forming a courtyard of sorts for whoever lived here. Children used to play in this courtyard. Now I could see one from behind a cracked window, his face looked pale and stretched, he must not have eaten for days. Another child was wailing by the body of her mother. Her head had been crushed flat under a slab of dura-crete from one of the homes. Blood pooled out from under it and coated the child’s legs where she was kneeling. I doubt she’d even noticed.

“Oh my fucking God.” Someone said for all of us.
“Secure this area!” Green shouted, his booming voice tearing us away from the grisly sight. “Rowels, Opalko, Everest. Get her back to base camp. If Carson gives you that ‘we’re full’ bullshit, put a fist in his teeth.”
“Yes sir.” We responded, moving towards the child cautiously. In a way she was more frightening then the Kilrathi.”

She didn’t look up as we approached, she just kept clutching at her mother’s hand, sobbing and tugging at it.
“I don’t, uh, what do we do?” Jeremy Rowels asked. It was a fair question, I had no idea how to handle this.
“I’ll see to her.” Susanna Opalko answered, “I have a child, back home. Just watch my back.”
“Got it.” I replied.
“Sure.” Rowels added, making little effort to hide his relief.

Opalko walked to the girl, God she can’t have been more then five years old. Her face bore the same starved weariness as the boy in the window. She was dressed in a tattered shirt and trousers that seemed to be holding together out of hope.
“Come away my dear.” Came the voice from behind her, “Your mother wouldn’t want you to see her like this.”

The child’s head snapped round, at the sight of us she flung herself against one of the stone walls, hissing at us through clenched teeth. To the left of her there was a opening which led to another bombed out street, her eyes were darting towards it.
“Everest, cut her off.” Opalko said quickly.

I started moving towards the street, and as soon as the girl saw what I was doing she made a run for it. She limped as she ran, the poor thing had probably been sitting on her knees for hours. She almost after the first few steps but I managed to catch her. Hands clawed at my helmet, overlong nails trying to scratch my eyes out. It must have been our battle armour. To a child we might as well have been Kilrathi, or some other monster out of the nightmare world that she was forced to live in.
“Shhhhhhh.” Opalko said, gently prising the girl from my arms. Don’t ask me how but she seemed to take more to her then to me, despite the fact that with our helmets down we looked exactly alike. Must have been some motherly tone in the voice.
“Shhhh,” she continued, “It’s ok now dear. We’ll get you out of here.”
“Get moving you three.” Green said in as unthreatening a voice as he could manage, “There’s a lot more lives then hers at stake. Get her to base camp and then meet us at 34th street. Our forces will hit the transports from there.”
“Understood sir.” Rowels said, “Everest, let’s take up flanking positions. We’ll keep you covered Sue.”
“Right, let’s go.”

As we started to move away from the courtyard, the girl started struggling again. Her arms reached past Opalko’s neck towards her mother.
“Your mother’s not here sweetheart.” She whispered, “She’s not here anymore.”

I don’t know if the child understood her or not. This world had been under Kilrathi rule for nearly a decade, and I doubted there was any reason for them to train their slaves to speak, or do anything save for toil to further their war effort. Thankfully, she fell asleep as we left. Or maybe she passed out, either was more then fine with us. Her head rested on Opalko’s shoulder as we moved as quickly as we could back towards base camp.

We saw two more people on the way back. One old man who looked at us like we were ghosts. Another child who charged down a manhole as soon as he saw us. We had to leave them both behind.

“Oh my God… I…” the next sound I heard was retching, over the intercom. It seems I’d forgotten to deactivate the squad-wide frequency. I was about to do so, but I had to know what this was.
“What have they done?”
“Fucking Kilrathi shits! They’ll pay for this!”
“Keep your heads people.” Green said, “These people are dead. The colonists that the Kilrathi are loading into transports are not. We have to keep mov-”
“Sir! Colonel Green!”
“Holy shit, we’ve got-”
“It’s an ambush.”
“Fall back! Robinson, Foyle, Hughes, Baez, lay down suppression fire. Everyone else get out of the street.”
“Where are they?”
“I got one! They’re on the roofs, aim high, aim-”
“Jamie! Sir, they’ve got-”
“Fuck! They got my leg. I’m down. Man down!”
“There’s too many of them.”
“Call for fighter support! Someone call the Ranger.”
“Foyle is down, I’m getting him out of-”
“I can’t see! Where are the-”
“TCS Ranger this is Major Brooks of 434 platoon. We are under heavy enemy fire on the northern edge of 28th street. We require immediate air support. The enemy is on the roofs on the adjacent-”

Major Brooks screamed once, and then without thinking I tore my helmet from my head and threw it to the floor.
“Everest? What are you doing?” Rowels asked.
“What’s wrong?” Opalko added. They must have tuned themselves out of the squad frequency when we left.

I inhaled, with no filter the ash filled air made me choke, but I couldn’t go back to listening to my squad mates getting slaughtered.
“Liz?” Rowels asked, kneeling beside me, “What is it?”

To Be Continued

Mjr. Whoopass

<FONT color=lightblue><B>I was going to say someth
Wow. That really put you on the ground in the chaos that marines must deal with. First time I've read that kind of detail for ground combat in a Wing Commander story. I liked all of the details you included (the details of the mother were a bit gruesome for my taste, but it was the type of thing you might see in that situation). I thought this was a much better job of describing ground combat than the combat I read about in the sci fi book "In Death Ground" and even better than the "End Run" accounts of the ground battles. Some things I especially liked were the accounts of how slaves that grew up in captivity may have never learned to speak. Also the accounts of how these people were living in what was once a human city around all the old buildings despite the fact that they were slaves under Kilrathi control. Very surreal.

I'm also glad you started fresh. I read through a few pages of Front Lines and enjoyed it, but there's just so much to read that I didn't think I would get through it all. Nice work!