"They’re here," Lieutenant Alexandr Petros said as he lowered his binoculars. He shouted out to his soldiers, “Everyone in the trench! Get to your positions!”

He heard the thunder of enemy artillery opening up as he watched men scrambling to follow his orders. He turned to watch as the Crown Jewel of Decapolis, the capital city of Aglaia, was being destroyed in a maelstrom of hate and fury. Explosions toppled the cites towers, some of which were less than a hundred meters behind them, as screams began piercing the air.

What was happening here was exactly what had been happening around the whole planet for the last two days. He came here less than twelve hours after hostilities had begun with the fall of his home, Heliodora, as the only officer with what was left of his battalion to build up defences. The paradise of white sandy beaches and vineyards that covered the countryside that once was their home was being turned into an inferno that no one would want to visit.

“Stay in your positions! They won’t let up till their men get in range!” Lt. Petros shouted to those that could hear, adding under his breath to himself and Sergeant Paulos Gounaris beside him, “That’s when the real problems begin.”

“Amen sir,” Sgt. Gounaris replied.

As the dark of night was pierced by the light from explosions, he could see the devastation around him. Dead and dying men were lying all around, soldiers scrambling for cover, piles of rubble that were once sturdy buildings littered his view. The acrid stench of smoke filled every breath, the sound of explosions was deafening, and a veneer of dust dimmed everything with a pale grey.

The wind was knocked out of them as they were slammed back against the wall of their dugout when an artillery shell exploded right behind them. Deafened, they could only feel themselves peppered by small rocks and shrapnel, a soldier beside them was not so lucky. When they turned to look at the crater, they saw a soldier being propped up by a shaft to metal through his chest. Thanking God that he was still alive, and praying that he would make it through, Petros and Gounaris hunkered down deeper into their hole.

As the sounds of artillery shells died down, the screams of men became more prominent. Though mostly deaf, he could hear the shouts of medics trying to find and treat the wounded and leaders barking and relaying orders to the men piercing through on occasion.

“Alright men, they’re almost here,” Lt. Petros joined in, “Watch the line. Siska, get over here with that radio!”

“Roger!” Corporal Aetios Siska shouted as he got up and ran over.

“Everyone hunker down and take well aimed shots. Conserve your ammo.” he continued shouting to his men. Siska, a young man from the same unit as Gounaris, arrived as the lieutenant finished.

“We have a limited supply in the ship but there’s enough to last a couple of days.” Gounaris reminded the lieutenant.

Petros nodded as he took a few seconds to take in his surroundings and decide what to do. They were in a precarious position; however, with the edge of the city right behind there were still some advantages.

“What is the name of the sniper you brought?” Petros asked as he spotted a partially blown out building about fifty meters away.

“Vasko” Gounaris shouted.

“Sergeant” a young soldier wearing the same uniform as Gounaris replied and started running towards him.

Petros continued to scan, noticing two prominent piles of rubble that were flanking the building, he shouted “Mellis, Rodis!”

“Sir” Two men from Petros’ unit looked up from their heavy machine guns and replied. They hopped up to jog towards him, each came with another man, both of whom had different uniforms.

When Vasko arrived Petros ordered, “I need you to get in that building, fourth floor, set up a sniping position. You have a free for all on your hands. Fire at will.”

“Yes sir!” Vasko replied with cheer as he ran off.

“Vasko” Lt. Petros continued as the other soldiers appeared beside him.

The soldier turned.

“Please use discretion,” continued Lt. Petros.

“Yes sir,” he replied, turned and ran off.

“Mellis, Rodis” Petros said as he turned to the group of soldiers, “take your teams and get to those piles of rubble,” pointing towards them, “set up nests that can cover our sector. Grazing fire ‘til we repel the first wave.”

They replied with “Roger” and the two two-man teams set off behind Vasko.

Lt. Petros turned to address his men, “Men, we have nowhere else to fall back to. Our final battle is here. If you cannot hold your position, stagger your withdrawal so someone can cover your movement. We have to defend this city! I know none of you imagined that this could happen, much less like this. But it has, and it is my greatest honor to serve with you and die alongside those of you who fall defending our home.”

He hung his head in sadness, as did most of his men.

“Do you think any of us will make it out of here?” Sgt. Gounaris asked.

“I don’t know. We have to do what we can to protect the royals and the cabinet. We have to try and give the couriers a chance to get back, hopefully with reinforcements. The only way for diplomacy to have a chance is for them to survive,” Petros replied.

“We will do our best sir,” the sergeant said with the most assurance he could muster.

Lt. Petros dismissed himself and crawled up the berm next to Private Arquimedes Korba, a soldier from his unit, to look through binoculars towards the enemy. What he saw was unsurprising, but he still felt a pit in his stomach. The enemy was steadily approaching, though it was not orderly. He saw one soldier bark orders at a group of men. They didn’t do anything but cower, so the soldier shot one of them, and the others decided that it would be better to face their enemy than an angry officer. Just as the men made their decision to do as he said, another shot rang out. Petros watched a their leader fell in a mist of red.

“Nice shot,” Korba said looking down his scope.

“Yes it was,” Petros said as he slid back down to the berm and headed to his position.

Other snipers had joined Vasko in taking out the leadership of the enemy headed their way.

“Sir?” someone shouted from his right.


“Have they started shooting at us sir?” the soldier asked anxiously.

“Pitera, right?” the soldier nodded. “No they haven’t.” Another shot rang out. “What you’re hearing is our snipers.”

“Oh, ok sir.” the soldier replied. “Thank you sir.”

Lt. Petros replied with a smile, “You’ll know when they get here, and when you see their smug smiles. I want you to shoot. I want you,” Lt. Petros turned to shout at all the men, “all of you, to turn their confidence into fear. Make them want to run home to their mommies because the mean old men in front of them called them bad names and pushed them down.”

Lt. Petros smiled at himself as nervous laughter burst out all from all the men in earshot. Except for Pitera, who looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.

“Don’t smile so big sir,” Sgt. Gounaris said smiling himself when he appeared at his side. “My mom said your face could stick like that. No one could take you serious.”

“I can hope,” Lt. Petros chuckled. He continued as they headed back to their position “If Vasko and the others keep it up we might have a short respite from what’s headed our way.”

“If what we’re all praying will happen, does, then we might have a chance in holding the city,” Gounaris added.

“It would take a miracle, but there is a chance. Pray for your miracle sergeant,” he responded somberly turning to look at his men and thinking about the oncoming horde, “We desperately need one.”

When they arrived at their position, Petros looked at the spot on the line where Pitera was digging deeper into his hole. “If the men don’t fall apart, like I fear that one will,” nodding in that direction, “and reinforcements come, then we might stand a chance.”

Sgt. Gounaris turned to look at Pitera, “I’ll go talk to him. I’ll do my job to keep the morale high. You do your job and keep the men alive.”

“Roger sergeant,” he added sarcastically.

Petros watched as Gounaris walked away. He thought to himself that a man like Gounaris would be unstoppable, if given the opportunity.


“Yes sir?” came the reply from behind him.

“You were with Gounaris?”

“Yes sir.” Siska answered, confused for a second.

“Tell me about him.”

“Yes sir. I would follow him into hell. Well I did. Without him we would never had made it out of Antea.”

“I heard he took command of the regiment before you evac-ed?”

“Yes sir, Sgt. Gounaris was reporting back to the HQ when the colonel was shot. He said that the Colonel’s last orders was to get his men outta the city before they died trying to hold it. Sgt. Gounaris told the men relay the orders to everyone they could, get to the shuttles, and come here. He personally headed back to the worst of the fighting so he could get those men to the ship. I was the only one that came back with him.”

“A little foolish, but I’m glad I have him.”

“Me too sir.”

“I need you to call up to headquarters. Let them know what’s going on down here: snipers and machine gun positions at the edge of the city, morale slipping, in dire need of reinforcements and resupply. We have a platoon covering an area meant for a battalion. If they can send anything it would be appreciated.”

“Roger. Just to let you know, that’s pretty much all that’s been coming over the radio from everyone for the last hour.”

“Ok, well if they have anything that they can give us they will,” he concluded dejectedly.

“Roger. Is there anything else?”

“Yeah, a miracle.”

“I’m pretty sure HQ is outta those.”

“Let’s hope not.” He was spent from the loss that he had experienced in the last couple of days and from the dread of what he was facing.

Turning around he saw as Sgt. Gounaris finishing up talking to Pitera on the berm. There was another soldier in the position with him, Pitera didn’t look stable enough to make it on his own. Just as the sergeant slid down to the bottom of the berm, a mist of red bloomed from the back of the new soldier head. Pitera jumped up screaming, covered with blood. Gounaris turned around and shouted something incoherent. Pitera looked down at the sergeant with surprise as he collapsed with a hole in his chest.

“Snipers! Everyone stay down.” Lt. Petros shouted, “They must have thought that was me,” he added under his breath.

“Sir?” Siska interrupted him.


“HQ replied. There’s no one to send out. Everyone’s on the line, even the Generals.”

“That’s what I thought.”

He looked at the map on his tablet. The enemy was close enough to engage, but they hadn’t opened fire yet. He stared at it wondering when it would start.

“Call up Mellis and Rodis. Tell them to open up when they’re in range.”


As Siska called up to them, he shouted to his men, “When the machine guns open up, fire at will. Remember, we have a limited supply of ammo, so be accurate.”

He said a little prayer for his wife and kids in the city as he ran to the berm. That was when his machine guns opened up, followed shortly by the rest of his soldiers. Then hell itself seemed to open up before them.

He crawled up to the top of the berm, Siska right behind him, to join in on the mayhem. The enemy’s bodies were falling in droves, but it seemed like they hadn’t made a dent. The machine gunners were doing their jobs well. Criss-crossing their fire, two lines dropped with every pass that they made. Vehicles were blowing up in gouts of flame as rockets struck them. The few tanks they attacked with were destroyed before they had fired three volleys; not without doing damage first, five of his rail gun emplacements were obliterated before the tanks were taken out.

He joined in with his soldiers, firing round after round toward the oncoming horde. With every trigger pull another man on the opposing side fell. Whether it was from his fire or another’s he didn’t know or care.

No matter how many they killed it didn’t seem to be enough. Like the hydra of legend, for every one that fell two more filled his place. The fire that his men were putting out was effective, they were thinning out the forces, but there were more enemies coming, millions more.

Lt. Petros started picking his shots more precisely, looking for those who were ordering others around, taking out those showing courage. He spotted a pocket of terrified men hunkered down in fear. Someone boldly walked up to the crater they were hiding in. He pointed angrily at the city while looking down at them shouting.  Three of the men in the crater had just started to stand up when Petros carefully pulled the trigger. The man fell, the three that just found the heart to fight lost it and fell to the ground, their heads not reappearing again.

They were within a hundred meters of the berm when the horizon lit up again. A wall of fire erupted in the middle of the enemy ranks. Bodies and pieces of equipment flew through air landing on the other soldiers. Their advance was halted if only for a short time.

His men replied with a renewed vigor. The rate of fire doubled as did the number of men advancing on their position.

Petros started scanning the fighting positions of his men. He knew three of his men had been killed since the artillery stopped. There were also some wounded but not many and not life threatening. What made him stop smiling was the fact that he couldn’t find Gounaris.

“Siska!” Petros shouted while looking down his sights.

“Here sir,” Siska replied from beside him.

“Call up Mellis and Rodis, tell them to start talking. Call Vasko, tell him good job, pop off leaders then relocate. I need to find Gounaris.” Talking the machine guns meant that Rodis would fire then Mellis would, thus conserving ammunition, cooling the guns, and allowing more precise shooting.


The machine guns slowed their firing as the Petros were looking around for the sergeant.

“Do you see him anywhere?” Petros asked after Siska got off the radio.

“No sir.”

Petros slid down the berm to look around in safety, Siska followed.

“What are you looking for?” a soldier asked as they were walking around.

They both turned to see a corporal. “Sgt. Gounaris. Have you seen him?” Lt. Petros replied.

“Yessir, he was taking someone to the med station. Looked pretty bad.”

“I need you to go back and get him here ASAP.”

“Yessir,” he responded, turned and left at a full sprint.

“Sgt. Golias!” Lt. Petros called out. A soldier turned and looked at him. He motioned for him to come here. He slid down the berm and jogged over to the lieutenant.

“Sergeant, tell the troops to slow down their fire. Clean up but don’t waste ammo. Remind them to stay in their sectors. Plus I need a status update.”

“Yes sir. Anything else?”

“Not right now.” The sergeant turned to go. “Wait.” Petros called after him. “Do you have a radio?”

The sergeant turned back and replied. “No sir. It took a hit.”

“Ok. Well get to it, and report back to me.”

“Roger. Moving.”

He watched as the sergeant ran to two men. After a short exchange the three branched off and headed in different directions down the line to pass on the orders.

“Sir?” Siska got his attention.


“Vasko has relocated. He is in another building two blocks further back, three floors from the top. Clear view of the enemy behind the flames. They’re falling back to their alpha-alpha, there are a ton of tanks and artillery back there, he counts about 200 and 80 apiece. Plus carriers for about 1,000 men. What are your orders?”

“Stay there and keep an eye on their movements. Call us when there is any more news.”

Sgt. Gounaris appeared around a pile of rubble at a trot. “You wanted to see me sir.”

“Yes, I need to bounce a few ideas off of you. First, what do you think…”

“Lieutenant?” Siska interrupted, “The BC is on the horn, he wants all the CO’s on the line.”

“Tell him that I’m busy here. Relay to me what he says. Gounaris, what do you think they’re doing over there?”

“I think that they finally have all their assets in place and will hit us again but harder.”

“Why did they hit us with the last wave then? Probing?”

“That’s a pretty massive probe sir. I think that they were coming at us with that because they didn’t think that we would put up as strong of a defense as we are. A bit of a shock to their system.”

“Sir, the BC wants a sit-rep,” Siska interrupted again.

“Tell him we’re working on it right now. As of now we’re yellow, eight known dead and fifteen wounded, ammo’s yellow, equipment green,” he answered, then continued, “How many men do think that was? A brigade?”

“At least. And that was just for us, maybe four divisions around the perimeter. We must have taken out about half, call it six brigades.”

“They only brought ten tanks against us, so I think two divisions total is a good estimate. I think you’re on the money with the last engagement.”

“Lieutenant?” Sgt Golias returned with the other sergeants. “We have a total of twenty-three wounded, two critical, and nine dead, Sgt. Floros included. This is Cpl. Lillis, his replacement.” the sergeant nodded to Petros. “In all we’re good to go, but just barely. First squad got hit pretty hard, I’m having the men redistribute ammo and supplies. Second and third are shifting to cover the gaps left by first. Everyone’s green on ammo, I sent four guys up to resupply Mellis and Rodis. Can’t find Vasko, I assume you know where he is.”

“Siska, did you catch all that?”

“Roger sir, relaying now.”

“Good, I want you to have your men position their excess ammo at the second line, in the trench just in case. What they have on them on the line, everything else at the fall back. Send some of them to the shuttle and empty it, I want all the third line positions stocked with everything we have. Have the medics go raid the med station. We need all the supplies we can get. I don’t care what the docs say, we need it more than they do. We’ll need everything we can get our hands on.”

“Sir, what about the other units?” Sgt. Bolis asked

“I’ll have Siska relay the plan up. The others will at least know what our plan is. If they have half a brain, they’ll have thought the same thing that I have. You will carry this out no matter what anyone else says, I’ll take the hit if there’s any problems.”

“How many do you want to keep on the line?” Bolis inquired.

“Sir,” Siska interjected, “The major’s asking about gun emplacements. How many anti-tank do we have in commission?”

Petros scanned the line, “Tell him we have four in commission, repairing two more,” then returned to Bolis’ question. “Take no more than fifty percent off. Make sure they know to get back to the line as soon as they’re done with their tasks. Full mags for everyone.”

“Anything else sir?” Sgt. Golias asked

“Yeah, I want you to wire the berms to blow. Double trigger, one leading to my position at the fall back, the other to one of the other command bunkers. Any and all explosives we can spare.”

Siska looked up at Lt. Petros, “The Major wants all the CO’s to report to the med station in thirty mikes for orders.”

“Tell him roger.”

“Do we have enough men to do all this sir? We’re roughly at eighty percent strength,” Gounaris interrupted, “To get this all done before the next wave hits we’ll need to pull more than fifty percent off the line. Can we leave ten percent up as lookouts?”

“I agree sir,” Sgt. Bolis added, “When they start coming we’ll know. We can get all the men on the line before they hit.”

Lt. Petros thought for a second, “I don’t want them all pulled if and when they start raining down with artillery. We’ll be a bloody mess here and we won’t have enough men to do anything. I can’t pull any more than seventy-five off. Will that do?”

“I think so sir,” Gounaris answered.

“We’ll be pushing it but yeah,” Sgt. Bolis agreed.

“Ok. Here’s how we’ll do it. Sgt. Lillis, I want your men to pull watch duty. They have a break from the work and in protected positions if arty comes in. Make sure all your men have binos. Got it?”

“Yes sir,” the young man replied.

“Get moving. Make sure your men drop their ammo at the fall back as they relocate.”

“Roger,” his reply was empty as he turned and left at a trot.

“Bolis, I want your platoon to start setting the charges on the berms, I don’t care how you break it down, just get it done. Kill zone is facing us, we will need to clear out as we fall back. On the third line have it facing out. There’s no fall back from there. Same as before, have your men drop their ammo on the way.”

“Roger,” he said with gusto and headed toward his platoon.

“That leaves me with emptying the shuttles,” Sgt. Golias concluded.

“Yes,” replied Petros, “and helping the medics. But first I need you to answer a few questions. How did Sgt. Floros buy it and do you think that Lillis can do his job?”

“With the first, one of Floros’ men was hit in the leg. He was climbing up the berm to check on the kid. Right when he got there, he got hit in the neck. Single shot. Must’ve been a sniper.”

“They’re targeting medics now?” Petros asked rhetorically. “What about Lillis?”

“That I don’t know much about. Floros wouldn’t have put him there unless he’s a good soldier, but the old man said that it’s getting to him. His family died at Talia, as did most of the people he knows. Most of his unit died there and in Uriana, all but three of his men, and they died in the last engagement.”

He watched as the sergeant ran to two men. After a short exchange the three branched off and headed in different directions down the line to pass on the orders.

Petros felt for the man, all his men. This war had taken it’s toll on all of them, including him. Though not as severe. His family was here, had been the whole time. Most of the men from his original unit were still alive, they had also been here setting defences. Though his heart was breaking, he had a job to do.

“What do you think I should do about Lillis?” Petros asked.

“I would keep him close. Like Golias said, Lillis is a good soldier. He can do the job. We just have to make sure that he doesn’t crack. So keep an eye on him, but let him do his job.”

“Think you can do it?”

“I don’t think I should sir. Golias and Bolis are good soldiers, and leaders. I think it would be better for me to relay orders to them and help them any way that I can.”

“I don’t think that I can do it. I don’t know how to motivate him. Everyone he has known is gone, I don’t know him at all, or most of the men in his command for that matter.”

“It’s the same for everyone here,” Gounaris reassured the lieutenant, “It’s hodge-podge and confusing. We have men from every unit in the system here. Most of them don’t have any idea what to do. For God’s sake, the Navy cook from breakfast on the front line. I know my job and you know yours. What’re you gonna do?”

“You take keep an eye on third, I’ll watch first and second. Make sure they’ve got everything they need and they’re ready for the onslaught on it’s way. I need to get to the med station.”

“Roger sir. Don’t let me keep you.”

“Siska, you stay with the sergeant. I have my hand mike, if you need me for anything call.”


He turned to start walking toward the med station. Hearing footsteps behind him he turned around to see Pvt. Korba headed his way.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m following you sir. Sgt. Gounaris’ orders.” Korba replied.

“No, I need you to report to Sgt. Lillis, he needs all the help he can get.”

“Yessir, moving.”

As Pvt. Korba walked away, Lt. Petros turned back towards the med station dreading the conversation to come.


“Do you think there is any way we can hold them off long enough?” Gounaris asked Petros after he got back from the meeting. By the time he returned, the enemy had begun to advance again.

“Honestly, all I think we can hope to do is hold them off long enough for the city to evacuate. Hopefully they can get out of the system," Lt. Petros replied. He was not happy with the information that he was given. There was nothing from out system. The navy had been driven away, almost completely destroyed. This was the last pocket of resistance.

"Get out of the system?" interjected Pvt. Korba from above them, "With what navy to protect them? They don’t need to stay here and die. They need to get our allies involved, we can’t do this alone."

"Shut-up and watch the line, you don’t have the rank to get involved in this discussion." snapped Lt. Petros. Pvt. Korba returned to shooting every round he could at the enemy line, "the navy is up there and they will help. They won’t let the planet fall while some of us still have a chance on getting out alive," he explained as another large star winked out of existence.

"Sir!" Corporal Nicolas Siska cried out from behind him.

"What?" Petros replied.

"It’s gone...They’re gone." Siska was agast.

"What’s gone? Who’s gone? Talk to me Siska!"

"The King, the Royals, the whole Cabinet; they’re dead. The core took a hit. There’s no way anyone could survive that."

"Fuck!" Sgt. Gounaris shouted. "Are you sure?!? Is there any way that it could be another ship?"

"No sir. They’re the only one with that signature."

"What do we do sir? Who’s in command?" asked Sgt. Gounaris.

"I don’t know, I haven’t heard from HQ for awhile. Just keep fighting."

A man appeared on the berm in front of them. Before anyone could react, he pulled the trigger. Siska cried out, Gounaris and Petros turned around. A shot rang out and the enemy fell to the ground with a single hole in his chest.

"You’re welcome sir."

"Thanks Korba," said Sgt. Gounaris. "Siska, where are you hit?"

"My leg! He got me in leg!"

"Don’t worry, we got you."

"The radio’s gone." said Lt. Petros, holding the receiver. "There’s a hole clean through." He threw the useless bulk to the ground in anger and started to storm off.

He didn’t get two steps before he fell to the ground. Everyone was falling, everything was falling. The whole city was collapsing around them. Where Lt. Petros had been standing there was a massive hunk of what was the building behind them.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1