Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Lewis sprinted the last few yards across the wasteland and dove head first into the trench. He clutched his rifle tight against his chest as he lay in the dirt, chest heaving, heart pounding out of sync with the artillery barrage overhead.

Move, Lewis, get up and move.

A shell exploded nearby, showering him with sticky blue dirt. Ears ringing he pulled himself to his feet and, hugging the facing wall of the trench, half walked, half ran forward. He didn’t stop to pick a direction, didn’t reason which way was most likely to take him back towards friendlies, he simply ran.

Minutes stretched like hours, hours like days, energy weapon discharge cracked overhead and a constant pounding of artillery kept a beat and kept it strong. Lewis just ran, rifle clenched in his fists like the lifeline basic had taught him it would be.

His legs burning, eyes stinging from the smoke, Lewis ran past an advancement point in the trench. Here, a tee intersection had been cut out, hardened spray-plastigel buttressed the sides and a downed landing craft bridging the trench above blocked out what little sun was visible overhead. The trench continued on the way he’d been heading, but another trench met at right angles, heading towards the enemy. From ahead Lewis could hear gunfire, and not just the staccato blast of the enemy’s shard guns, but also the heavy thump, thump, thump of energy weapons like the one he still clutched white knuckled.

Lewis didn’t stop to think, just turned and ran towards the gunfire.

Within moments, he found himself at the back of a frightened young man huddled into a slit in the wall of the trench. If not for his shaking and the barrel of his weapon protruding, he might have run right past him.

“Soldier, let’s go, cover me.” Lewis barked at the frightened young man, glancing furtively along the trench.

“Sir, s-s-s-sir,” the soldier stammered, “I’m out of ammunition sir. I’m no use to anyone now sir.”

Lewis paused a moment, thinking for the first time of his own weapon, and the moments before he was sent diving for cover in the trench. He thought of the impotent whine that meant his rifle was fully discharged as well. Listening, he realized the staccato cracking of gunfire from farther up the trench had also stopped, and not even pausing to think he pulled the shaking soldier out of the hole in the trench wall and barked simply, “Barrel up, cover me.”

Together they marched up the trench, one empty rifle and one empty heavy repeater pointed towards an enemy they hoped was more scared than they were.

Within minutes, they stepped past a haphazard barrier of crates and plasteel panels, and found themselves staring down three of the enemy soldiers, guns levelled, mandibles clacking, multifaceted eyes reflecting the two commandos back a thousand-fold.

Lewis didn’t hesitate, just jammed the barrel of his rifle into the closest face he could find.

“Surrender. Surrender or I blow your fucking head off.” The force of his words for the moment drove out the fear in his heart.

Seconds ticked away like hours before the enemy soldier tossed his weapon aside and bowed down into the dirt.

“Surrender”, it said, in poorly translated mechanical English, “please, surrender.”

Lewis and the still shaking soldier stood over their prisoners for hours before reinforcements came up the trench and relieved them. Lewis walked twenty or so meters away from his prisoners before vomiting into the dirt.

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