“Fall back!” Blaze screamed hammering the recharge switch on his energy rifle. He flung himself flat upon the unforgiving ground as a flash of movement caught his attention. Kaboom! There followed a thundering explosion as a shell landed far too close for comfort, obscuring the trenches in a cloud of choking smoke.
Blaze scrambled to his feet desperate to escape before the Barren troops overran his position. Zad! Zad! A pair of crackling bolts of blue energy flashed through the tortured air, striking the battered walls of the bastion behind. Staggering backwards he picked his way between the bodies of the fallen, there were far too many of them. The cold white faces of the dead Dino soldiers almost accusing him. He had failed. He was the commander of legion R12 tasked with holding the northern front of the bastion, or at least, what was left of it.
“Commander sir! What should we do?” a nervous soldier queried as another huge explosion shook the very world itself. Blaze glanced at him, red uniform, rifle clasped firmly, but not with trembling paws, white rabbit-like face concerned but determined. The true picture of a Dino soldier.
“Come with me! We’ll fall back to the northern gate, try to hold them from there. We’ve lost the battle here,” Blaze ordered.
“Yes sir,” he replied shortly.
Blaze cast a glance over his shoulder; the previously picturesque plains that had stretched into rolling hills were now swarming with Barren troops and tanks. Hundreds if not thousands of them advanced like hideous blue clad army ants, an unrelenting swarm, a flood tide ready to crash upon the bastion walls. There was a lightshow of vicious proportions being played out as energy blasts from both sides hissed across the intervening gap. The crash of heavy guns was punctuated by the bangs of artillery and mortars. Snarling Blaze turned away and bent almost double ran along the communications trench, back towards the bastion. His boots thudded and squelched in the mud and dirt beneath him only serving to make running more of a challenge. Acrid smoke caught at the back of his throat and the air stank of death.
“Help! Over here!” a desperate voice called out. Blaze turned his head to the speaker and saw a Dino knelt beside a fallen comrade, who was clutching a brutal leg wound. Without even thinking he ran over, any thoughts of self-preservation swept aside by the urge to help his troops. Some of the members of Higher Command said this made him a weak leader, that he should be directing his troops not attending to them. Blaze saw it as being a real commander.
“The Barrens will be in the trenches in minutes, we need to get back to the bastion,” Blaze said in a hurry, more to convey a sense of urgency than to get the information over quicker.
“He’s too badly wounded, he can’t walk!” the injured Dino’s friend objected.
“Then we carry him! Come on buddy, let’s get out of here!” Blaze countered slinging his rifle over his back. He knelt down by the wounded Dino and, as gently as he could, took hold of his legs while his comrade took his shoulders.
“Barrens are in the trenches!” warned the first of the Dino soldiers he’d met. Blaze uttered something foul and hurried forwards, doing his best not to jolt the injured Dino too much, his groans of pain indicated he wasn’t doing too well.
Zad! Zadadadadad! The roar of a rapid fire energy weapon split the air with its vicious cacophony. Blaze’s large ears twitched uncomfortably at the loud sound as it assailed his senses.
Focusing only on keeping moving, Blaze led the way up the hill to the once white walls of the bastion. The walls rose about five metres from the ground, surrounding the base, which in turn was nestled on top of the hill like a keep from the days of old. Four large gun batteries sat perched along the nearest wall, all but one had been destroyed. None the less it still looked imposing; valiant UCEF soldiers fought back from it with volley after volley of energy blasts. The trenches might have been lost, but hope wasn’t.
“Nearly there!” Blaze encouraged redoubling his efforts. Shouts and footfalls sounded behind them, the Barrens were after them. The selfish and primal part of his mind screamed at him to drop the wounded Dino and run before it was too late, but he would not bow to its wishes.
“Sir they’re gaining on us!”
“Keep going, it’s not far now!” Blaze replied doing his best to inspire confidence and hope. He hadn’t got level ten in his grade six military training for nothing.
Zad! He flinched as a sniper bolt blew pieces out of a broken barricade a bare metre from his head.
“Sir!” the first of the soldiers warned, as if Blaze needed telling they were under fire.
The northern gate was only fifty metres away now. Two concentric rings of barricades stood sentinel around said gate, manned by three squads of Dinos, all of whom were firing away madly into the advancing Barren masses.
“Keep them back boys!” Blaze yelled as they rounded another corner and ran on. His arms were starting to tire; a fully grown Dino soldier clad in battle gear was not the lightest thing to carry. But Blaze knew there was no other option.
Zad! Zad! Clods of earth and dirt sprayed from the side of the trench as the sniper made a last desperate attempt to bring the fleeing Dinos down. However either his aim was off or he was firing too quickly as neither shot came close.
With a sense of utmost relief Blaze saw the first ring of the defences just ahead. The barricade blocking the trench had been pulled aside and a Dino was madly beckoning to them.
“Come on lads, a few pesky Barrens won’t stop us!” Blaze cheered with bravado as they staggered into the relative safety of the defences. But for his words, he knew this was far from over.