Chapter I: Whispers in the Wind

The Georgian race, which represents the oldest elements of civilization in the Caucasus, is distinguished by some excellent mental qualities, and is especially noted for personal courage and a passionate love of music. The people, however, are described as fierce and cruel, and addicted to intemperance.

Encyclopedia Britannica 1911

Ed Note: This one is for all of those who want fighting, chapter one is a bit slow, but chapter two will be the good stuff


"It is..." Tariel Gurieli aimed his binoculars at the shapes moving in the distance, zooming in, in the distance it was hard to get an exact look, but he could count "IT's trucks, camouflage, four of them, two escorts, armoured cars of some sort front and rear."

"Do we take them?"

"No... too far away," Gurieli replied, he lowered his binoculars and looked over at his companion "Nothing today." They were both similar men, wearing old Soviet uniforms, somewhat worse for the wear, the olive green having turned more brownish from the wear, they bearded and grimy. Yet they had the athletic wolf like build, not the massive muscle of their enemies, but a tough sinewy build where there was not an ounce of wasted weight or fat. They seemed lean and hungry, and eager for a fight.

Toting their SVTs they began to move back into the hilly landscape, the terrain in this part of Georgia was marked by wild wood covered hills and mountains, and the two men soon vanished into the forests. Following narrow footpaths, animal walks really, unknown to any outsider they made their way back to their temporary camp.

In the corner of his eye Gurieli noticed the well hidden shapes of his sentry line, armed men and women in strategic locations clutching SVTs and laying in wait for any Drakan Citizen or Janissary that would walk about this forest. It was still quite a bit of a walk before they reached the camp itself, after all there was no point in a sentry line if it didn't give you some warning and placing it a hundred feet outside your camp wouldn't give you much warning or defence.

They had struck a cold camp once again, not a single waft of smoke would betray their position, but even so the camp was well camouflaged. A set of camouflage webbing had been stretched over the common area, and then covered in branches and leaves making it invisible from the air. The rest lay down on the ground, on beds of leaves or moss, laying down on the hard ground with nothing more than their capes to protect them, even in the summer that was a harsh life.

"The Captains back!" Someone called as Gurieli entered the camp, he looked about and gave nods and greetings to everyone, taking care to make sure everything was in working order. Not that he thought that things would have collapsed during a half day absence, but he lived on the alert, every step he took was with his rifle slung so as to be available at a moments notice.

The camp seemed a mess, dirty men and women in old and worn uniforms, most of them wearing so much non-regulation kit that any sergeant in the army would have had an apoplectic fit. Here were scarves in green or brown, made from wool and lovingly knitted by prune faced grandmothers, old fashioned hiking boots, regular ethnic wear worn under a uniform jacket, and the trousers, boots and shirts that had been pillaged from fallen Drakas or Janissaries. The only taboo was wearing a Janissaries or citizens khaki coloured jacket or coat, that might get you killed after all.

He moved over to a moss covered rock where he sat down, at once one of the camps women brought him a tin cup of water and an opened tin can. "Thank you Iya, take care now", he pulled out his bayonet and began gobbling up the contents of the tin can, cold beef with some kind of vegetables, it was a thick brownish mass but it felt good, though a bit more spicy for a Georgian palate. Like much of their kit it was captured Drakan gear, saved the Red Airforce the trouble of airdropping food supplies to them.

As he ate he watched his command, little over company strength, a ragged company indeed, one that had survived much hardship. They were a tough bunch, sinewy and enduring, with the sharp wary look to their eyes that came about from being hunted, from killing and being killed. Even the women, most of them, looked like that, more like she bears than civilized women he thought, then nodded good, civilization gets you killed and bears protect their young. For a moment he could think himself back in time, when the Mongols travelled up and down Georgia hunting down everyone they could find if those bastards couldn't kill us neither will the snakes.

Yet sitting under a tree one of his men were strumming a guitar and singing some ancient Georgian tune, much to the pleasure of his comrades. They didn't sing songs of war and battle, the songs were simple songs of love, of the home, and of longing, but they were very heartfelt, the songs of partisans hoping their families were safe. "And I shall stand on the mountains gate" the song lyrics drifted over to Gurieli.

Then after eating he handed the tin can back to Iya, "Thank you Captain" she said, she smiled to him Gurieli noticed she finds you charming, and she's... he looked back to her as she moved away. She was in her mid twenties but her face made her look older, it had the beginnings of wrinkles, and her hide was weatherworn, she bore the marks of a harsh life, too soon, too damn soon he thought as he turned back towards the camouflaged centre area. The tin can would be used for something, probably for storing explosives, primitive bombs were always popular.

Beneath the camouflage webbing sat the bulk of his war council, and by one corner which was covered especially well with a tarp to keep it dry in rain, was the radio. It was a beautiful radio, the latest model, and the only contact the partisans had with their leadership, or would be on the rare occasion that they got orders. Gurieli looked at Sparky the radio man, he just shook his head no new orders, damn.

"Do you have anything new, Comrade Lieutenants" he asked his men, looking at his lieutenants Giorgi Solagov, and Murman Yashvili. Solagov was the quiet one, the intelligence gatherer, he handled the network of spies that reported to the Partisans, but the Draka had been depressingly effective in cutting down on it. Yashvili had been an artillery officer in the regular army when the Draka invaded, he too was a valued member of the group.

Of course they were very similar, in their late twenties, bearded men Solagov was slightly darker in hair colour and complexion than his artillery counter-part All of us... a pack of filthy hungry bandits, if this goes on our own mothers couldn't tell us apart a smile briefly crossed his face as he thought this.

Solagov shrugged a bit, and then feeling the pressure to bring up some news he finally spoke "I hear, Comrade Captain, from some contacts I have in the town, that the Draka are planning something, there's more of them than there's been in a while."

"Yes," Gurieli gave a nod "I saw some trucks, four of them, with escorts, heading up to the town, too far away for us to do anything," he didn't elaborate on what this meant trusting his lieutenants to figure it out themselves.

"I'd like to look myself, near the town," Solagov finally offered "Maybe I can find something."

"No, send someone else, it's stupid to send your intelligence officer into danger, what if you got caught or killed," Gurieli said.

"Comrade Captain, someone else might not be able to do what I could," Solagov objected.

"Nevertheless the answer is no," Gurieli said in a tone of voice that stopped cold any further discussions.




The sergeant threw up again, in between deep gasping breaths, he was down on one knee too, he had run so hard that he felt like his chest would burst wide open. Finally he looked up, puke still lining his long bristly beard, he whipped his mouth with his sleeve, "They're a coming!"

Gurieli "Calm down, get him some water," he said, then as it came he added "Careful, take it slow."

"Comrade Captain," the Sergeant began "The bastards," he coughed "The Draka, the bandits, they're doing something, something big, and ah, one of their columns is going this way, not a big one but one of them is definitely going this way." He took the battered tin can and began gulping down water, in between deep heaving breaths, until Gurieli stopped him.

There was excited mutterings at that, Gurieli leaned forward "Are you sure?"

"Jeltkov told me, and Jeltkov he... he ah has a head for remembering things," the Sergeant began, taking deep breaths "He, ah, he notice things, like a girl hearing the Draka talk, a Janissary talking I mean..." He didn't add 'Talking in bed' though everyone knew about that, "They're going this way, she told him about one of her relatives that live up there," he motioned northwards "Apparently he told her that they were going up that ways, and that he could tell her if he found something out."

"What men'll do when they smell..." Solagov began, he didn't complete it "The flesh makes us fools," he said instead respecting the women around him.

They continued to query the Sergeant for a while, getting a few more details before they began their private officer's council. They assembled under the camouflage webbing and sat down on crude improvised benches, then the old map was spread out on the ground. It was an old map, very old, the white had long since turned to yellow, and the lines along which it had been folded had worn so that there were long narrow holes it place, but it was also much more accurate, made before the fall of the Tsar and as such more reliable than modern Soviet maps.

"You know that valley Murman, the one you called the Valley of Death," Gurieli began, he pointed to the map with a stick, indicating a valley some ten miles away.

Yashvili grinned, a set of yellowish teeth in his dark brown beard "Yes, oh damn that's the sweetest ambush spot I've ever seen."

"Yeah..." Gurieli tapped the map at that spot "We've been scoping that place for months, and we were always saving that one for something good, well, this is about as good as it'll get."

"Comrade Captain, we'll have to evacuate this camp, and we could very well lose our contacts in town, some of them at least," Solagov commented, not really protesting, as he rubbed his beard.

"Well, it's worth it," Gurieli said in a very authoritative voice "We'd have to change camps anyway, for when we'd dig in for the winter, we'll just have to move a bit sooner is all."



It was dark, the valley was lit purely by the light of the waning pale moon above, but still it provided them with enough light to work. The pale moon light made the rocks and shrubs look like skulls and waving ghosts threatening them, and the shadows played in a way that made men cross themselves. In the light of the moon they could see the dirt road that crawled through the long valley, and the rough steep slopes of the valley walls littered with rocks and shrubs. There were many places to hide, a steep slope for the enemy to ascend, and a clear route of escape into the forested areas surrounding them.

Silently they worked, stuffing explosives into tin cans and attaching the detonators, stretching lengths of grey and brown wire between them, this best colour for a wire, since at a passing glance it looked like the thin roots of a tree.

"For Christs sake be careful," Yashvili extolled of everyone "This stuff is potent and much of it was cooked up in someone's bathtub, look at it cross eyed and it might go off!"

"Don't worry, we want to kill the Draka, not be blown up before the fight," the Sergeant said as he grabbed his bundle of explosives, clutching it close to his uniformed chest as he moved into the darkness.

Everyone spread out and placed the explosives according to a carefully thought of plan, taking care to stick them inside deep crevices in the rock, or else bury them in the dirt surface of the road and cover them with dirt or sand. Then the various explosives were linked, and the carefully husbanded wires lovingly stretched up to where Lieutenant Giorgi Solagov would lie in wait along with the units single DShK, a monstrous 12.7mm machinegun on a tripod AA mount. The wires were covered over by dust, or otherwise camouflaged, so that only a careful search would turn them up.

Five general areas were mined the entrance to the valley (Section 1) the exit of the valley (Section 2), the ambush spot (Section 3) and either side of it to cover their retreat (Sections 4 & 5). The exit had been given extra attention, due to it being the likeliest spot that any survivors would head to, and also in case the Draka sent a small detachment ahead of the main body, they would most likely stop around the exit of the valley and wait for the rest of the group.

The exit had been equipped with many smallish charges covering any areas where the Janissaries might hide, they were simple charges basically some barbed wire wrapped around gunpowder charges, however when detonated they would be quite nasty to anyone in the area. In addition of course they did a little trick where tin cans filled with kerosene were placed, set to act as primitive emplaced fuel bombs, though these rarely worked as well as intended they were included for intimidation value.

Their main worry was in fact that the wires would be cut at some point, to get around that they had taken special care to conceal the main wire, but they also strung two sets of wires from the most critical Sections 2 & 3. Of course this work took a lot of time, even with a team that was highly experienced, and it expended literally a couple of miles of dearly hoarded detonating wire.

"When the hell do we get radio detonators," Yashvili asked as he once more checked that everything was fine with the explosives before leaving Solagov in charge of the detonators.

Gurieli looked at him, and then said, perfectly dead pan "When they deliver them in a flying car," the lack of radio detonators was a persistent nibble for partisan movements and they were continually promised that they would be delivered 'tomorrow'.

That however wasn't the only trick they had in storage, some of those powerful wires were simple stretched between shrubs and rocks, lengths and lengths of wire covering one of the valley sides. These lengths of wire were linked together in a nexus to something as strange as a bicycle, obviously carefully and lovingly maintained, combined with a series of peculiar looking boxes one of whom looked strangely like a modified field-telephone.

It was really a small miracle what they did, even with a team of partisans that had made such preparations many times in the past. Still, though they might look and sound like little more than a bearded dirty bandits, but their long agile fingers were surprisingly adept at their work.

Yet even as the explosions were being emplaced the other combat dispositions were being made. The tactical operation was divided up into multiple discrete units, and therefore planning was vital in advance. That said the plan was in itself quite simple... One pair of machineguns on either side of the valley, the ten RPGs organised into a grand battery and commanded by Yashvili, and the DShK up high to grant AA fire and protection. Finally off course a couple of squads at either end of the valley, to bottle it up good and tight. All the eventualities had been plotted out, now all they could do was wait for the Draka to show up.

Hours passed by...



Inside the bumpy tank Centurion Wilson shone a penlight down on his military map, the vehicle seemed to twist and lurch with a malignant will of its own, making studying the map much harder. The penlight was a neat thing, made from shiny steel, not that duralumin bullshit with the six ink colours and slide rule that they tried to push on the paratroopers what moron thought of that anyway? What conceivable good could something like that be? Makes for a bad pen, a bad light, and a bad slide rule! He himself had a nice belt pack that held a Swiss army knife, a penlight, a slide rule and a pen all nice and safe, your basic toolkit.

He peered at the map through the magnifying glass of his slide rule another thing that monstrosity of the paratroopers lack, a proper magnifying glass built into the sliderule studying the map carefully and noticing the contours of the land. The road they were on had been drawn onto the maps later on, when it had become clear that Soviet maps were often little more than imaginative abstract art. At best they were irregular and erroneous, with towns and roads being depicted miles from their actual locations, at worst they were actively malicious with roads leading into swamps that weren't on the maps.

"Sergeant Mbeki, this valley," he tapped the spot in question, marked it with a grease pencil, the map was of course fully laminated like any map issued to the citizens so the mark wouldn't last.

"Yah Suh?" the large Sergeant asked, he was brown haired and chocolate in hue, the result of over a century of Drakan masters taking their pleasure in the quarters, but he was a reliable fellow.

"You've seen it?"

"Yah suh"

"So once more, lets go through it."

"Trac' shep'd intrance 'n exit, narrow, nasty old bumpy road, steep side walls, nuthin' ever go there least it haff to," the Sergeant told.

Centurion Wilson looked at the map again damn it, damn it, damn it, but there's no way around it... relieve the main traffic arteries my arse! The place was distant, perfect for ambushes, and if something happened, well they'd be screwed.


In the distance a small rising plume of dust could be seen, Captain Gurieli smiled here we go. He once more looked over the positions of his men, they were concealed beneath sandy grey blankets that let them blend in with the surroundings, or crouched behind big rocks, or hiding in cleverly made camouflaged shallow trenches. They were hidden so well that in fact he had trouble figuring out where they were even though he knew where they were at I'd better be having trouble, or this'll be the shortest ambush in the history of warfare.


Centurion Wilson looked at the valley entrance in front of him, all the while gently touching his falconers glove shoulder flash, the symbol of the Janissary commanders. He was a typical Draka, tall, with short cropped blonde hair, blue eyed, massively muscled from his years of training, and from his ears hang a pair of large gold loop ear rings giving him an almost piratical air. As a typical Draka there was only one thing that he could conclude when he looked at the valley entrance his instincts and training both agreeing that is perfect for traps.

"Sergeant, two trucks up now, fill'em with rocks and sand, weigh them down now, and then have them drive through the valley, have the men run alongside, and keep an eye on things," Wilson barked out to Sergeant Mbeki.

Mbeki saluted "Yassuh, as yaz wo' have it," he replied, then he moved out in a powerful stride, looking much like a bull rushing towards some offending target, and in the typical alpha male behaviour encouraged by the domination he himself began barking out orders to the troops.

Wilson watched disinterested as two of the trucks were emptied out, the troops grabbing their kit bags and rushing out, two lines of Janissaries formed as Mbeki began giving them orders. They were much alike these Janissaries, dark olive to African black, short cropped hair and bulky muscle, the result of recruiting from the healthiest and most docile serfs in the Domination.

The khaki dressed men began working hard now, first piling their kit bags up in a pile, with several rifle stands ditto, and then a long work chant went up from them as they began hoisting large rocks, and filling big canvas sacks with sand. They sounded positively happy as the process went on, and the large autosteamer drags were weighed down heavily, the massive vehicles beginning to groan softly against the weight.

"Thass enuff!" Mbeki called eventually.

"Drive on Sergeant," Wilson said motioning up the valley "Keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary."

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23


The plume of dust had died down, but Gurieli was glad to see that none of his group had tried to move or change their positions come on now keep your cool, keep your cool he thought as he waited. His own position was in a shallow depression in the ground, it had been concealed yet further with camouflage webbing, bits of branches and leaves making it look like just a large shrubbery. Next to him were the two Dagtaryev machineguns and the gunners, sturdy machineguns on their bipod mounts, and the loaders kneeling next to them holding topped up magazines.

As he peered out from beneath the camouflage webbing he saw two trucks driving up the road, big heavy autosteamer trucks. They didn't look anything like the trucks he was used to, over the rear section was a camouflage coloured fabric frame much like in a regular truck, but that is where the similarity ended. Normal trucks had somewhat square lines, a small discrete steam or exhaust pipe, and regular wheels, but instead these were huge things, rounded-edged metal boxes with running boards chest-high and wheels taller than a man, and large visible steam and fuel pipes. For crying out loud, they look more like steam tractors writ large than proper autosteamers he thought to himself, but he had seen enough of the Drakan technology not to be too surprised by it. Then he saw it, one of the trucks had a long whip like antenna Damn! A radio! Giorgi Solagov, you had better hammer that one well and good he thought to himself.

First came the two steamers, moving slowly up the road, and then behind them in double lines, running slightly crouched and looking from side to side were the Janissaries in their mottled khaki uniforms. Don't seem too eager to stick around Gurieli thought as he watched their swift shapes, they were big men, very big, massive ox like build, and moving at a good pace then again can't blame them, not knowing if a sniper or a mine is ahead is good motivation for moving quick.

The group passed by without noticing the hidden partisan force, not so strange really, but it was a monument to the discipline and experience of this group that no one made an unfortunate early move. Then the two trucks and their Janissary supporters reached the exit of the valley, the tract like exit, where they pulled over the trucks and one sergeant in the truck used the radio briefly. Gurieli couldn't see this from his vantage point, though Solagov could, and he took great pleasure in the signal he got Oh yes, we got your frequency now well within the boundaries for what they had intended wouldn't have mattered, but it's good to know.

Then the second group came rumbling through, the main party, it was led by the bulky shape of a Hond-IIC tank with its distinctive cannon and the added side skirts to protect it from shaped charges, it was followed closely by two Peltast eight wheel armoured personnel carriers filled with helmeted Janissaries. Finally behind this group again came four large trucks, much like the pair that had just passed by. They seemed to rumble against the ground as they drove up the road, the Janissaries lazily looking up the sides of the valley, but not seeing anything worth being excited about.

Up in the hills a sturdy young man mounted the bicycle like contraption he scratched his short stubbly beard before starting to pedal desperately, and then smiled as he heard a low pitched whine rise from the strange contraption that the bike was powering. Kneeling next to it a sergeant was fiddling some of the knobs on the contraption "Faster! Faster!" he called and the young lad on the bike obliged by putting his whole weight on it making the power generator spin at an amazing rate and you could practically see sparks rise from the modified field telephone, a strange sense of electricity seemed to fill the air.

Zero Seconds

Murman Yashvilli gave his last orders to his Grand Battery of ten RPG-1s "Steady, aim...", he held his hand up in the air waiting, his eyes narrowing slightly as he watched the tanks and APCs drive into position, and then with a violent motion he dropped his hand shouting "FIRE!"

WOOOSH WOOSH WOOSH ten fiery lances shot out from the hiding place, flashing through the air towards the enemy vehicles, four of them slammed into the side of the tank, one of the heavy HEAT warheads tearing apart the tracks as if they were a daisy ribbon, and the other three slamming into the side of the body the searing hot white flame flashed for the smallest fragment of a second tearing holes into the tank and letting the hot vapours inside. Immediately the interior of the tank caught fire, and several of the crew members were scrambled yet it lurched forward a few more inches as its turret began to turn under battery power.

Six more missiles were aimed at the two APCs, but here the gunners were not so precise, one of the shots flew over the APCs hitting the opposite side of the valley exploding there and sending up plumes of smoke and dust. Another slammed into the ground about ten feet on the side of the APC, the fiery blast of the missile expended against the ground. That however left two missiles for each APC, front and rear they tore through the vehicles, the explosion of the missiles overpowered by the explosion of the fuel tanks and ammunition as plumes of black smoke began to rise from the APCs.

At the very same moment shouts went up "NOW!" and suddenly the from carefully hidden locations two pairs of machineguns began to fire, sending row after row of red hot lead into the four trucks. What damage the first rounds did is uncertain, for at that precise moment the ground seemed to shake, windows shattered in all the trucks, and one of the trucks was literally thrown up into the air, it's wheels still spinning desperately, and then turned upside down before slamming down, like it had been lifted up by a giant, the roll bars twisted and bent like straw and a cloud of dust seemed to rise from the scene. Almost immediately a high pitched whistling sound began as the steam began to escape from minute fractures of the boiler WHEEEEEEET as a tine white cloud rose from the engine section.

Meanwhile the machine guns kept firing into the area where the trucks were, firing and firing, tearing holes in the fabric tops of the trucks as the first Janissaries began to scramble out, confused and clutching their rifles the khaki coloured shapes hit the ground.

5 Seconds

By now the Janissaries over at the exit had realised what was happening, and they were hurrying into cover, scurrying between the large rocks or diving beneath the protective bulk of the trucks. Only a few confused shots rang out from this part as the first eager Janissaries began to take shots at anything that they saw moving.

Meanwhile their sergeant was rushing to the truck which had a radio, he tore the door open and flung himself inside, grabbing the radio only to be greeted by a highpitched whine and static, like the devil himself was giving him feedback. Even as he desperately begun to turn the frequency wheel trying to find a undisturbed frequency the first 12.7mm rounds slammed home into the front of the truck, raising small clouds of steam as they did, and the rows of bullets worked their way forward penetrating the windows and part of the engine and pinning the sergeant down to his chair. The massive bullets punched through him, he didn't really realise what hit him as they tore through his stomach, ripping it open so that only his uniform shirt prevented his guts from pouring out, or into his chest shredding his lungs and heart so that he couldn't even scream in the last painful seconds of his life as his powerless hands dropped the radio mouth piece and his head dropped back with blood gushing from his mouth.

Up on the mountain lieutenants Giorgi Solagov was desperately shouting "OTHER TRUCK! OTHER TRUCK!" to the sergeant manning the DShK machinegun, but he had a wild crazy look in his eye and kept screaming "DIE DIE DIE!" as he poured more lead into the first vehicle.

Meanwhile over at the main ambush site the tank was crippled by the RPGs, but the batteries still enabled her turret to transverse enough to aim at the now exposed partisans. "GET DOWN!" Lt Murman Yashvili shouted at the top of his lungs as he realised that the gun muzzle was now aimed precisely in the direction of the RPG grand battery.

The cannon boomed out once sending a spray of canister, thousands of lethal metal balls, hurling towards the partisan position. The metal balls smashed through flimsy camouflage positions and ricocheted of rock faces, there was a loud CRACK as a big rock simple broke in half as it was struck. However the Grand Battery itself was relatively safe, all but one of them who did not hit the ground soon enough. He was struck in the head and everything above his jaw just disappeared. For a moment, a fraction of second, you could see a half head the teeth of the lower jaw standing up proud along with the pinkish spine and then suddenly there was a fountain of blood squirting up maybe four feet as he fell backwards spraying blood all around. Another Partisan was hurt by the cone of death, struck once in the guts spraying blood behind him, and once in the shoulder blade cracking it and making his left arm hang limply and uselessly down while his right clutched his stomach.

Inside the tank Centurion Wilson coughed madly, the tank was filling up with arid black smoke, or he thought it seemed black in the dim flickering light that he had to see by. He flung himself towards the radio, throwing aside the diseased Janissary radio operator before grabbing a headset and starting to spin the frequency wheel. Centurion Wilson was a brilliantly capable man, to be able to do all of these things in such a short period of time, but as he twisted the bakelite frequency wheel and watched the illuminated frequency area move up and down all he got was that high pitched whine "This is Convoy eight eight niner, requesting..." it was useless he knew but he would keep on fighting to the end. All he got was the same high pitched wine, and the whole radio seemed to almost crackle with static electricity Jammer, by the gods, a fucking jammer, but however did they manage to make one out here? he thought feeling oddly pleased that he had understood the reason why the radio was useless.

Then the engine fire reached the ammunition of the tank, and there was an explosion shaking the whole tank and sending huge plumes of black smoke billeting into the air.

Over by the other trucks Janissaries were now scrambling out and running for cover or else diving beneath the truck, but they were trailing corpses as they did so, they didn't scream or flip over they just dropped sometimes clutching part of their body. A few of the wounded Janissaries tried to scramble back up only to be cut down by a combination of machinegun and rifle fire. As they reached cover the Janissaries began to return fire, unevenly at first, but then as the surviving sergeants got back into play the fire became more co-ordinated as they aimed at the Partisans.

The nearest Partisans meanwhile was returning fire with their SVTs and a few PPSh-38 burp guns, the sharp cracking sounds of the SVT mixed with the long BRRRRAAAAAPPPPP BRRRRAAAAAAPPP of the burp guns, and the deeper sound of the Janissary rifles.

A couple of Partisans did go down, but not nearly as many as the Janissaries that were cut down, and now the feared Georgian battlecry resounding through the valley "TKSHENOSNURI!" drowning out the plaintive "BuLala, BuLala" of the Janissaries.

All the while hidden behind some rocks on the side of the valley the young lad on the bike was pushing faster and faster, and Sergeant Sparky was sitting by by the field telephone, laughing "It's working, by the saints it's working!" All the Draka's radios and all their taking pains had been neutralized by something that was whipped up by radio geeks working out of a bicycle garage.

10 Seconds

By now you had two discrete battles occurring more or less at once, the battle of the exit and the battle of the valley, and neither were going overly well for the Janissaries.

Over by the exit a couple of squads of Partisan troops were shooting at the Janissaries, perhaps a bit pre-maturely as they had little success at actually doing much harm just yet, and it meant revealing their position as well, but they did add to the misery of the Janissary command and clipping down a pair of them.

Lt Solagov however cursed Fucking morons! STAY DOWN! he thought as he saw them beginning their move, fortunately their sergeant grabbed them and prevented them from doing something seriously stupid. Then all he had to do was get the attention of his own machinegunner, angrily he gave him a little tap "SHOOT THE OTHER FUCKING TRUCK!" he shouted with a hurricane voice "THAT ONE!" he pointed angrily his finger shaking softly with fury, fortunately for all concerned this treatment got through the haze and the sergeant turned the DShK down to the other truck.

The DShK began pumping rounds into the other truck, tearing up the massive wheels like a child tearing up lengths of liquorice, and hammering massive holes in the engine tearing it so much that a steam explosion actually ripped away the engine cover sending it flying through the air. Then they began hammering the fabric top sending heavy rounds smashing through it and the bottom of the truck, ripping it apart with sustained automatic fire, reducing the seemingly massive truck in a matter of seconds.

From beneath the truck screams and shouts began to rise from a wounded Janissary, struck when the 12.7mm rounds had torn through the truck and pinned him to the ground. "Gaaaad! GAAAAAD! MUUDDAAAAAH" he screamed as he clutched the massive hole in his guts, surrounded by his dead and dying friends, only two of which were still walking wounded, their teeth clattering away like a Spanish dancers castanets.

Over at the main ambush things were going about the same, first the Grand Battery was still mainly hunkered down, all but four of the gunner and loader teams were grabbing long arms and loading them. Ammunition and manpower was far too scarce for the full grand battery to keep firing after the first exchange. The teams laid down on their bellies aiming their rifles down at the Janissaries, meanwhile teams one through four retained their RPGs and had loaded them with HE rounds.

Lt Yashvili looked over the Janissary positions shouting "Rifle teams, fire at will! RPGists hold fire!" Immediately the rifles began their staccato barking, and the Janissaries found themselves under rifle fire from both sides of the valley.

On the other side of the valley Captain Gurieli was giving similar orders "Rifles fire at will! Machine-gunners, focus on the trucks, sweep the area clean!"

Even as the two officers spoke the Janissaries were still organising their own responses. A few more Janissaries were cut down, but now the survivors had so much cover that they were beginning to organise sort of a rational response to what was happening, or at least they were able to keep from being killed. Plumes of smoke began to rise as the Janissaries threw out smoke grenades almost instinctively trying to cover the Partisan line of sight, a few of them were too cautious dropping the smoke grenades too close to their own position and doing little other than obstructing their own line of sight.

Suddenly three machineguns began to return fire TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA-TAKKA they went as the belt fed guns began firing at the partisan lines. The Janissary gunners was using an overall inferior weapon to the Dagtaryev, it was mechanically complex, required many lightweight components, and had a hellacious recoil that required them to often stop up in order to regain their bearings and aim. Nevertheless many Partisans began to go down, they went down quietly though, perhaps clutching a wound, but without the satisfaction that 'screamers' give snipers and machine-gunners around the world.

20 Seconds

Lt Yashvili was giving orders "Team One left MG, Team Two Centre MG, Team Three Right MG! NOW AIM! TEAM FOUR! Hit anything they miss!" The three initial teams carefully aimed their RPGs, their eyes narrowing softly as they aimed at the enemy machineguns, ignoring the occasional burst of fire that went their way. Even as they aimed one of their comrades now acting as rifle men was cut down, he fell backwards gasping, his breath rapid as he died within seconds.


Three RPG rockets flew forth tracing a flaming tail as they sought out the enemy machineguns, the first shot a little too high exploding above the enemy position rattling them but not stopping them from firing. The second round however landed where it should, instantaneously killing the gunner, the leader, and even the sergeant that co-ordinated their operations. Third rocket seemed nearly magical, it snaked its way in just right tearing the heart out of most of a squad literally bending the machinegun, and sending a pair of arms arching through the air the sun gleaming of the buttons on the arms as they flew so slowly through the air.

"TKSHENOSNURI!" the shout went up as the partisan command began the last part of their attack. The wild eyed bearded men seemed more like a mob than a military formation, but the killing look in their eyes and the confident way that they held their weapons left no doubt that these were very serious fighters. Guttural cries were occasionally interrupted by grunts as a couple of them were gunned down by the last surviving Janissary machine-gun, which in turn was slain as an HE charge from Team Four's RPG-1 exploded right in front of the machinegun.

By the exit of the valley the Janissary forces were now still pinned down, but were desperately fighting back, two machine-guns sending waves of death against the Partisan squads down on the ground forcing them to stay down. Meanwhile the first scattered rifle shots were going CRACK against the hill top where the DShK machinegun was placed, the Janissary sergeants were ordering their troops to take out the machinegun and they were doing their best to comply.

That is when the explosion came, four Janissaries died almost at once, flung up in the air by the burst, smoke rose from the charges and gouts of flame shot out as the kerosene carefully emplaced was set on fire. One Janissary caught fire, screaming as he tried to roll around and put the fire out, Lt Solagov thought he could smell the burning flesh, but he knew this was just him imagining things. He gently placed the detonator back on the ground, and watched as the machine gun poured round after round into the confused milling Janissaries. He had waited for the longest time, but now he was gratified to see the small avalanche begin, the Janissaries were forced to scurry out into the open where they could be easily gunned down by the MG or by the Partisan troops.

Meanwhile the Partisans aim was starting to be disrupted by the smoke grenades of the Janissaries, sending up huge plumes of dark smoke obstructing the view of the enemy. Even so this helped the machinegun crew more than the Janissaries as they could still blanket an area with rounds and count on the area effect far more than their Janissary enemies.

30 Seconds

"GET THEM!" Lt Solagov shouted indicating the Janissaries milling about, but especially the machine-gunners who were desperately trying to re-establish themselves after the surprise, and at the same time trying to dodge the hail of fire that was bearing down on them.

Then suddenly it happened, a series of gunshots rang out, and the sergeant firing the DShK reeled back, there was a neat little hole in his torso about the size of a dime, but in the rear there was something roughly the size of a fist, something open and very bloody. He fell down and made gasping breaths, but otherwise was stoically silent.

Lt Solagov roared something, he wasn't sure himself what it was, then he lurched forward and grabbed the machinegun, aiming it down at the enemy and blasting away at them killing several as he did and pinning down many more. He noticed briefly that he had probably cut down the crew of one of the remaining machineguns before suddenly his head exploded, a single shot piercing his brain and sending him on to meet his maker, bone and brains splattered all over the shocked and open mouthed teenager loading the machinegun, he had scarcely realised the sergeant was down before the lieutenant had taken over the machinegun.

Meanwhile encouraged by the detonation the two squads at the exit were attacking the Janissaries, who were by now in total disarray and able to put up only individual resistance. Even so the odd partisan was indeed wounded, but continued rushing forward shouting wild battle cries and toting SVT rifles with long threatening bayonets glittering in the sunlight. Alongside the riflemen ran the four submachine-gunners of the squad, firing their guns from the hip BRRRAAAAAPPP BRRRAAAAPPP perhaps not doing so much for actually hitting the enemy, but along with the bayonet troops it was almost too much to bear, and certainly made you keep your head down.

At the main ambush spot however things were going much better, the Janissaries put up a brief struggle, but were being overpowered by a combination of steady machinegun fire and a large group of Partisans advancing down on their position. However the Janissaries were far from defenceless, as the Partisans found out to their grief, several of them begun chucking grenades as the Partisans came within range, egg shaped grenades flew through the air exploding and kicking up plumes of dust, and sending sprays of shrapnel through the air. Several Partisans went down, either permanently, or silently clutching a wound, the rest however threw grenades of their own, often captured Drakan models, and continued their advance.

On top of the hill overseeing the exit Lt Solagov was blasting away at the Janissaries, making even the strongest cover seem flimsy, that alas was when tragedy struck. One of the bullets fired by the desperate Janissaries hit Solagov in the skull, there was a neat round red hole in the front of his head, but the entire back of his skull simply exploded outwards in a shower of bone and brains and blood, spreading in a fantail pattern on the rocks behind him. Then he slowly fell backwards. The young loader merely stood still and stared, unable to really comprehend what had happened as he kept his position working to feed ammo into the now silent machinegun.

40 Seconds

Over at the exit the expression on the shocked young loaders face changed from that of confusion to that of anger "BASTARDS!" he yelled, his white teeth showing through his blood strained beard looked like a snarling bear as he lunged upwards towards the DShK machinegun and turned it at the Janissaries below. Very quickly he went through the 50 round belt that he had loaded, sending loads of hot lead down upon the Janissaries, he was yelling a guttural "AAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" at the top of his voice as squeezed down the trigger, he kept screaming and moving the gun up and down across the Janissary lines for a couple of seconds after he ran out of ammunition. Finally he realised nothing was happening, and after a moment of confusion he rushed over to the side of the DShK and began working on a new belt of ammunition.

At the ground level of the exit to the valley the fighting was fierce indeed, while the projectiles from the DShK tore through the valley, punching through engines, trucks, and even rock covers, the Janissaries were forced to stick close to the ground or else risk being killed. That however was not enough as many of them were hit, such a round carried with it enough kinetic energy to kill you outright no matter where it hits, but more than that it would tear a limb clean off, leaving nothing behind but a shredded and pulped limb spraying blood around most often making for a screaming end before you passed out from loss of blood. If however they were hit in the torso they did not scream, even if they remained conscious, this would be because the lungs had been shredded or smashed.

The fighting around the trucks and the sandbags became very fierce, around one of them a small group of Janissaries were making a stand crouching behind improvised cover and levelling a deadly barrage of fire against the Janissaries cutting one of them down as the bullets punched through his throat and chest, and another fell down grunting as his knee was smashed into a gel like red mash.

The reply was massive BRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPP BRRRRRRAAAAAAAAPPP from a pair of PPSh's shredding the small stand as the full drum magazines of two burp guns was emptied into a very small area in the space of seconds. Two Janissaries were cut down at once, as the dum-dum bullets tore into the first one he was almost subdivided, his spine torn over and massive exit wounds spraying blood and guts behind him, his front actually tipped forward as his body was like a hinged mechanism connected to the rest of his body only by the front of his belly. The other had his chest shredded, his mouth flew open in a soundless scream as only blood gushed from his mouth as he desperately tried to breathe. A third one found himself cut off at the knees, as a long burst of fire smashed his knees and legs, making him collapse down on the ground with the bony pips of his leg bones sticking out from the squirting wounds as he desperately tried to staunch the flood of blood.

Elsewhere it came down to bayonets and rifles wielded like clubs in small hand to hand combats, one of the Janissaries a young sort tried to rush the Partisans, his efforts got him gut shot and them hit hard over the head with the butt of an SVT spraying blood and teeth around. Elsewhere the bayonets did their deadly work, a prisoner was taken, he was stabbed in the leg and kicked in the head, but surviving this treatment he was left alone to be a "tongue" for the Partisans. Wherever you looked one thing was clear the Partisans were winning, and they were butchering the Janissaries.

Meanwhile the ambush over at the main spot was being wrapped up, the groups of ragged Partisans had reached the group of four burning disabled trucks. They were rushing the last remaining Partisans, occasionally clearing out a group by rolling a live grenade down on the ground beneath one of the trucks. Meanwhile the Janissaries, fighting a last ditch battle, would occasionally rush out and attack, to be cut down to be sure, but sometimes they managed to shoot or stab one of their assailants before they themselves fell dead. Soon however the last few Janissaries were being brutally gunned down by the groups of submachine-gunners or nervous partisan rifle men with itchy trigger fingers, filling them with enough lead to type a newspaper.

Finally there were but three Janissaries left, what happened to them wasn't a very long story. One of them had mounted bayonets and shouted "BuLala!" AS he charged, no doubt his instructors would have been pleased to see his courage and dedication, but less pleased to see a "bushman" shoot dead their Janissary long before he could reach them. Two others decided to surrender, holding up their hands as they trembled and called "Pliiiz, surrendah, surrendah!" Unfortunately one of them was gutted with a bayonet by a nervous Partisan too hopped up on adrenalin to understand, but the other than last survivor was punched a couple of times in the face and stomach, and then tied up.

50 Seconds

Over at the exit to the valley things were being cleaned up, it was the last push and the last handful of Janissaries were being slaughtered brutally. There was no other word for it than slaughter, some of them tried to surrender but the four PPSh gunners had no mercy anymore, they gunned down any Janissary they saw. One of the Janissaries tried to crawl away, abandoning his rifle he crawled like a snake, only to be spotted and shot, but still he continued his crawl, desperate as he rolled on only to be shot again, he coughed blood but a man will do anything to live and kept going as the bullets tore into him, going, and going, and going. They shot him thirty times before he finally stopped, his eyes peering at something far in the distance.

Over at the main ambush site the Partisans could stop up, carefully examining their surroundings, and of course seeing that no one had exited the truck that had tipped over they rushed there first tearing away the fabric covers with rifles and sub-machineguns at the ready. A couple of long bursts were fired before the shout came up "STOP WASTING AMMO!" The men were dead, they had died the moment the truck tipped over, a couple had broken necks, but most didn't look damaged at all, they looked as if they were sleeping, but they were all dead.

"Fuck! The buggers are already dead!" one of the Partisans burst out, poking a convenient khaki clad Janissary corpse with his bayonet.

"Cut their throats just to be sure," the sergeant said as he proceeded to start the work, casually cutting open the throats of the Janissary troops.

"Funny... they don't look that badly hurt," another private mentioned as he too took up cutting open throats "Funny that I mean, fuck..."

The battle of the valley was over... less than a minute had passed since it had begun...

Ed Note: In case you wonder Stirling had this precise thing happen, a truck or rather an APC flip over entirely from a massive explosion, except in the books the Janissaries began pouring out the moment it landed. That is to be blunt not very realistic.

Georgia is a land divided into many different climates, and flanked north and south by massive mountain chains, prominent among them the Greater and Lesser Caucasus chains. It is a country cut by great rivers flowing through mountain gorges, covered with hills many of them forested, with narrow strips of flat land near the Black Sea coast and to the east against Azerbaijan. It is the country of a warlike and quarrelsome people that have a long history of fighting invaders, a people that the Mongols tried to exterminate...

A Brief History of Georgia


Captain Gurieli looked at the massive downed shapes of the Drakan trucks the question isn't really how men could make such things, but why on Earth they'd want to. His men were already swarming all over the remains of the Drakan convoy like giant ants covering a carcass now there's an image he thought to himself. Without him noticing a group of real ants were crossing in front of his boots, he lifted his boot and held the chevroned rubber sole about four inches over the ants, then as he watched them he half smiled and set his foot back down away from them no, today the ants get to live and feast.

Standing astride one of the tallest nearby hills were the lookouts, a couple of keeneyed young men. One of them carrying the only pair of decent binoculars that the Partisans possessed, it was a fine pair of 25 year old hand made foreign ones that used to belong to a nobleman before the Revolution. Their duty was simply put to keep an eye out for any airplanes that might draw near, in case of a ground attack airplane there'd be four or maybe five minutes between it being spotted and it arriving over the valley.

It was under these watchful eyes that the Partisans worked in relative safety. Some of them, those who had been trained as mechanics, were peeling open the trucks.

First they would siphon of fuel from them using improvised rubber hoses. Another favoured item was the fabric tops of the trucks, these would be cut loose using large knifes and quickly wrapped up.

However aside from the kerosene and the fabric tops there were countless other things that were collected: light bulbs, copper wiring, rubber, bits of piping, radio components in those trucks with radio, and so forth. In essence there was scarcely a single part of the trucks that would not be carted off given time, but of course with the lack of time only the man portable parts would be taken.

Meanwhile the rest of the partisans were stripping the Janissary corpses of their belongings. Eager hands, many of them belonging to the non-combatant women that had joined the fighters after the battle had ended, peeled off clothing, boots, emptied kitbags and scooped up rifles, grenades and ammunition.

"Ah damn this one too," one of the women laughed as she pointed to a dead Janissary "You want these, I'm not washing them!" She added tapping his soiled filthy trousers with her toe a filthy brown streak in the back complimented a huge yellowish red spot in front.

A couple of the partisans, big burly men with wild beards laughed at her remark "Marya, be nice," one of the sergeants joked back "It's not his fault that he was so scared that he crapped himself when he saw us!"

Captain Gurieli kept an eye on this, noticing with satisfaction that their own dead were being carried away reverently. Too many, far too many he thought as he saw the dead, and quite a few seriously injured being carried away on improvised stretchers. A primitive medical station had been set up away from the ambush site, it was not much really, a few cots and a tired old medic working beneath a large tarpaulin tent covered with pine branches to hide it from prying eyes from above.

Naturally every single SVT found on the ground was reverently picked up and assembled, there weren't too many of those about half the Partisans had SVTs or PPShs, and that was mainly because so many of them were former Red Army escapees, the rest the rear guard in particular toted the old Moisin-Nagants, or 12 or even 10 gauge shotguns. Up into the hills, where the snipers and the support lay, most of them carrying the old Moisin-Nagant, but down here on the ground in the thick of things, when a crazy half Turk Janissary needed killing, there you wanted sheer rate of fire.

Indeed, the SVTs Gurieli thought sadly as he watched the young awkward boys helping out with the looting which one of them gets an SVT and get to strut around as a real soldier, and which one of them have to hang his head for a few more weeks? That decision was his, all his, he gazed up into the hills and frowned a bit Where the hell is Solagov? he wondered as he walked among his men shouting an order or giving a pat on the back of encouragement.

"What is this shit?" One of the Sergeants, Ketsibiai by name, they were certainly a very cosmopolitan unit with people from all over Georgia, the Sergeant had been educated at Tiflis Mechanical and was considered something of a Mr Fixit when it came to mechanical things.

Captain Gurieli walked up next to him "Problems?" he asked while peering curiously down at the wrecked autosteamer engine and the tangled mess of wires, pinwheels and tubes that was found there. He scratched his wild beard.

"It's just so fucked up... I mean look at this fucked up junk! I mean! What is this shit!" he complained motioning towards the steam engine, the triple expansion steam engine with its flash boiler and elaborate super heater lay open before him.

"Later," Captain Gurieli decided "Scoop up whatever papers you can find and loot whatever is worthwhile," he quickly moved on What is it with gear heads and Drakan gear, it's like they never seen a steam engine before

"Where's Solagov," he asked someone without getting a clear answer, then he looked up to the position where Solagov was supposed to be Oh no he couldn't see much of anything, but there was this sinking feeling in his stomach something has happened, something bad. The young loader he had assigned them to was running down, he was covered in brains and blood, Gurieli sighed "He is dead isn't he?" he asked, and the young mans face was all the confirmation he needed.

"Dead Captain, it was... and I took the gun, but... sergeant and the lieu, they..." he blabbered a bit, probably never seen death up close and personal, he smelled of death and smoke.

"The gun!" Gurieli snapped, trying to keep the young private together might need a slap or two, or some good strong Vodka, and soon before he takes the others

"Safe, we ah, take it down with the donkey and..."

"Pull yourself together, Lieutenant Solagov wasn't the only one to die today," Gurieli pulled the soldier a bit by the jacket "Get back to your post, ensure the DShK is safe, you hear me? Repeat the order!" He was being deliberate, he had to pull him together now.

"Yes Captain, make sure the DShK is safe, get back to my POST and make sure the DShK is safe, yes Comrade Captain," the soldier saluted uneasily before walking towards the gun, he staggered a bit as if all the strength had fled his legs better give him an extra ration of Vodka, especially if he took over the MG after the last two gunners die Gurieli thought as he moved back to the scene of the fight.


I'm in Hell he thought to himself, his breath was belaboured and yet silent as he fought against the desire to cough or gasp, fought even as his body screamed out to be allowed to do so Yes this is the hell my tantie ma told me about. He was in so much pain, bits of metal and cloth were fused to his body, his lips were dry, and his skin had grown sore and brittle from heat even as his lungs felt sore from the smoke.

Outside he could hear them, the attackers, the bushmen, and he was very silent If they hear me they will kill me, he gritted his teeth against the pain NO! I will live I will live iwillliveiwilllive! he knew the mantra he needed The Mind is Master. They were looting his company, laughing, he could see them, barely, through a hole that let in the tiniest ray of light, they were shuffling about the bodies of his men, desecrating them and piling them in big piles wearing nothing but their trousers God damn bastards! They were good men, true to their salt, and you have ... he smiled his cracked lips hurting him the rights of the victory, Vae Victis, but you'll get yours you bastards.

He relaxed and focussed his mind on something else, anything other than his broken body, and the smoke filled hell where he was, where he somehow miraculously survived, even though his ears chimed and his body ached, and the corpses of his command were all about him. Somehow he survived, he alone.


"Can we crack open the tank?" Gurieli asked Sergeant Ketsibiai, looking at the mangled husk of the Hond-IIC, it was huge, a square squat piece of metal with carefully welded joints and four neat smoking holes in the side. Gurieli walked around it as Sergeant Ketsibiai climbed on top with a crow bar and began to work the opening, the metal groaned and squeaked but there was nothing.

The sergeant worked for a long time, long after it was clear he couldn't do it, sweat ran down his back and made his uniform stick, but still stubbornly he continued till finally, exhausted he conceded defeat "I think it's twisted Captain, I can't get it up," the Sergeant explained, then not feeling like giving up he added "Maybe if I place some explosives or make an opening in the side."

"Forget it, anything good in there is probably burned, and we don't have time, go back to helping out the others it's time we left this dump," Gurieli ordered, giving the tank a last kick Son of a bitch, but yeah, the papers are probably burned to cinders.


A couple of tears of relief rolled down his cheeks, the salt stinging the dozens of scratches and wounds he had there, they were walking away, they were leaving Hey sons of whores, didn't get me, no you didn't.



The mood in the camp was still elated after the victory, the celebration had been underway for a couple of hours, and midnight had just passed. Friday the thirteenth, hell of day to celebrate Captain Gurieli thought as he sipped the strong Vodka and listened to the native songs, they were deep, deep inside the Georgian hills, nearly forty miles from where they had struck.

Suddenly he turned around, and faced a massive figure wearing blue workman's overalls, and a shock white hockey mask, in his hand he held a long glittering metal tool of some sort. The dim light from the concealed kerosene lanterns flickered across him giving him a demoniac appearance as the shadows played across the hockey mask.

Captain Gurieli frowned and sat up as the figure moved towards him, the lights flickering of the sharp metal object.

"Hello Captain," he said as he removed the hockey mask "Just wanted to tell you that I've fixed up the mobile generator, so ah, yeah it'll work just fine." Then he put down the improvised welding mask.

"Relax Sergeant, have some vodka, you've earned it," Gurieli told Sergeant Ketsibiai, and motioned towards the bottles "Tonight we drink, see how many of us are still alive, and celebrate our good fortune."

There was no time to grieve, you fought in the morning, buried your dead in the evening, and celebrated your good fortune at night, no time for elaborate grieving rituals for anyone except maybe the closest family. For these partisans life might end at anytime, and so it had to be lived, and every drop of pleasure wringed out.

In the evening they had indeed buried their dead, already there was twelve dead, they were placed inside rough sacks and carried with as much dignity as circumstance would permit. The Partisans had split up into many groups as they made their escape, and the group that carried the dead had been a small one. It was a peculiar train bearded men in haphazard uniforms, and for each man a couple of women wearing colourless dirty dresses or else haphazard male clothing. Many of the women were crying even then, long streams of tears rolling down their careworn cheeks, their voices hoarse. They were driving several donkeys, and across the backs of the donkeys lay the burlap sacks, each of them large and holding a man.

The party had moved through the hills of Georgia, always keeping beneath the trees, looking up nervously to see if they could spot a survey airplane or a ground attack airplane. Then they had reached the burial ground, it was a small hidden gulch where the trees were tight, and the forest bottom was dark and covered in moss and the browning needles dropped from evergreen trees. They had to be very careful here, for the stones were wet, and the moss was slippery, a couple of times someone did slip once dropping a burlap bag that fell down and seemed to roll forever down the hard rocky surface. A grieving woman had howled and kicked and screamed at the man who dropped it.

There at the bottom of the gulch they had lined the bodies up in a single row, and the sturdiest men and women had begun to dig, they dug as deep as they could, and it is amazing what men can do in short periods of time if they truly must. Soon mounds of dirt lay aside, and the burlap bags were opened briefly to show the faces and hands of the dead, many of them hideously mutilated yet it hardly mattered. Lovingly an icon, usually a primitive one, was placed between the hands of each of the deceased, and then the hauntingly beautiful Orthodox funeral service began to be held.

Finally towards the end everyone gave the deceased the last kiss, kissing the icons and then as the bodies were lowered into the ground the icons were reverently removed. Then they sang the Trisagion before the priest sprinkled all of the deceased with a few drops of oil, carefully hoarded for months "You shall sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be clean. You shall wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." He took some earth and sprinkled it on them saying "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and all that dwell therein. You are dust, and to dust you will return. Through the prayers of our holy Fathers."

Then they shovelled the grave shut and began to move quickly, only stopping briefly to share Makaria, a fellowship meal where the grieving were comforted. "Remember that to the Christians is given the promise of life eternal, and the eventual victory over evil," he could tell them, "and our enemies are the agents of the evil one, and your loved ones, they were... slaying the Dragon!"

Finally Gurielis thoughts drifted back to the present, he felt very tired, and the Vodka warmed his belly nicely, he watched Iya in the distance, she behaved very properly Yes a decent woman... not one of these field mattresses he thought as he took a good gulp of the Vodka. Then slowly he got himself up again, and began to walk towards the improvised hospital.

His men there were asleep, strangely enough, one of them, the one with the pulped knee moved uneasily, stirring in his sleep. His right trouser leg had been cut away, and a nice white bandage tied around what was left. Already red stains were spreading across the bandage, and he tossed and turned fitfully, the other wounded had a more peaceful expression on their face, in many cases strangely peaceful, a trusting cast to their bearded features.

Gurieli looked to the doctor, or medic rather, he pointed to the man who had lost his leg, and the medic just looked at him, that sad glance said it all. Gurieli walked quietly over, like he would before the war when he wanted to avoid waking his children, and he placed his hand gently on the wounded mans forhead, it was warm and wet, feverish. Though he was not really a devout man Gurieli crossed himself and said a silent prayer.

They had been forced to hold the cripple down earlier that day, he had tried to be courageous, but the pain and blood loss was driving him delirious. They had used an improvised operating table, it was sturdy but primitive, and the medic had brought out his tools, long wicked looking knives and a saw. Then they had forced half a bottle of Vodka down the patients throat, and begun cutting, it was a miracle anyone survived such a treatment.

He left the infirmary and found a nice dry spot, then he pulled out his bottle of vodka and began drinking till he was well and truly drunk, able to forget how many of his boys he had lost.



The relief column was driving up the road towards the spot where the ambush occurred, they had been inexcusably delayed but then again arriving six hours earlier wouldn't have made any difference. The large autosteamers were trundling forward slowly, now at night they were slowed down even further by having to use special blinds on their carlights so they wouldn't be too visible from airplanes. Of course they still looked like a white snake trailing the landscape when seen from above, not that it'd make any difference since strafing attacks hardly took place at night.

Decurion Whyte was feeling quite annoyed as she tried to make sense of the map in front of her, and of course trying to read a map in the flickering light inside a cars cabin wasn't easy, especially as the map was one of those unspeakably unwieldy massively folded affairs that seemed to acquire a life of their own. "God damn where the hell are we," she muttered feeling increasingly frustrated, she squinted trying to make out the names on the map.

Suddenly the car she was in braked sharply, it was a regular staff car and it had good brakes, Whyte found herself flung forward with the map thrown into her face. Angrily she fought with the map for a few seconds, and then turned to face her Janissary driver, "Jus' wha'd'foook do yaz tink yaz doin'?"

He wasn't listening to her, instead his eyes were very big, very round, and very focussed on something, something that was inside the bright radius of the cars lights and coming closer. Something that was enough to scare even a Janissary, and so Whyte turned her head towards it, and saw, madness...

"HE HEE HE HEEEEHHEEE! Don't you SALUTE anymore? Don't you SALUTE a CENTURION!" it called out in a creaking horrid voice, like something blasphemous. The remains of its uniform, now burned to its body, was that of a Centurion, burned to its body with pieces of metal, and other things, in its head you could see parts of the skull sticking out, and across its body there were visible oozing wounds. That wasn't the frightening thing, it was the voice, and the mad wild glare in its eyes, it reached the bonnet of the car, slapped its hands down on it and laughed "THIS IS HELL! NOR AM I OUT OF IT!" It screamed, and so did someone else, Whyte was never quite sure who.

For a military unit there is nothing like the fear and uncertainty that a sniper can cause, they kill during the day, but they also kill the careless and unwary during the night. When the sniper is out there, if he is good, he alone can pin down a whole battalion, and for every man he kills ten more lose their nerve. If he is good the sniper saps the courage of his enemies, and terror builds a home in their hearts.

HILL 40140

The lone four wheel drive steamer was driving down the road, the steamer was one of those battered, but incredibly sturdy military models that had been turned out in greater and greater numbers in the last couple of decades. Yet it steadily ploughed on through the rough landscape, struggling as it cruised up the battered dirt road that moved in a sinuous pattern around and between the forest clad hills of Georgia. Every bump and rock in the road sent jolts through the steamer, rattling the teeth of the men inside and discouraging them from talking overly much.

Even so two of the men in the passenger area were talking, quietly mind, they were both very similar, so much so they could almost be brothers. Big rough men, their bodies sturdy and muscular, a build suitable for long marches and hunts, but their eyes were cold and flat, they were not mirrors of the soul but just sensory organs, yet there was a gleam of sharp perception in them. Both of them were dressed in camouflage fatigues only broken by an unfashionably broad brimmed hat that both of them wore.

"What you reckon'" one of them asked.

"Prime bushwackin' country," the other said.

The first one looked out the window and nodded "Ayup, gwine be might' hard ta find dem dar bushmen."

"Yah mon, mighty hard," the other agreed as they began to drive past the first signs of civilization, badly faded hand painted military signs, the remains of ditches and drainage, and rows upon rows of barbwire already showing signs of rust.

The military camp was cleverly enough placed on top of a hill, but whomever had command of it had not stopped at that, rather he had built a defensive wall of sort to protect the access road so that any sniper or mortar man would be shooting blind as much as possible. There weren't any tall towers, as often could be seen, nor were there any exposed searchlights, instead a series of low squat concrete or lumber bunkers could be seen each of them covered with sandbags. The hill that the camp was on had been cleared of not just trees, but even the stumps had been blown off, and here and there torn up animal carcasses testified to the existence of an extensive minefield. It didn't look like a minor fortification you'd pop up in a pacified region, it looked like a fort against a field army.

As they drove up the road they spotted dark skinned janissaries in green T-shirts and baggy green camouflage trousers working hard to pile up sand bags, dig holes, and otherwise improve the camp. Sweat was running down their firm muscular bodies, and they were kept going at a high pace, but even so they took the time to eye the newcomers curiously in the manner of men that had seen nothing new for a long time.

"Mak' wo'k wo'k," the first man in the steamer suggested.

The second man watched the sweaty janissaries and nodded "Ayup."

As the first one looked outside he commented "Oughta be plenty'o'real work for'em to do, don' look laik they too eagah."

"Nope," the second one agreed.

"Don' matter shit though, ah reckon' anyone that gwine get the fort dun' this stron' de'sirvs some cons'deration" the first added quietly Don't need my job being harder than it is.

As they pulled up inside they drove beneath a large set of camouflage webbing, and now the two men clammed up, the camouflage webbing carefully covered up all of the internal area of the camp so that if somehow someone got higher up than the camp they could not effectively shoot down into it. Mixed with the webbing were fresh branches, meaning that someone had the thankless duty of collecting them every now and again and pinning them up.

The quarters of the troops serving here were dug into the ground, some dug entirely into it, and some of the blockhouses dug half way down and then surrounded with sandbags. As they descended from the steamer they were approached by a stern faced sergeant "Suhs, da commandah wish ta see da gentulmen, kaandly come wi' me Suhs." The two men quietly grabbed their kitbags and the first man also grabbed his long rifle bag and they quietly followed the big olive skinned sergeant.

They were quietly guided to a particular deep bunker, one that also happened to have a lot of concealed wires going into it, suggesting that it was the command bunker. As they descended the stairs into it there came a shout "Get the hell inside!" from below. "Dah Kommandah has heah that yo comin', he wantin' to see yah" the Sargeant commented unnecessarily as he pointed them to the right door.

As the door to the commanders office opened the two visitors found themselves inside a cramped office filled with maps on the walls, filing cabinets of dubious origin, and a huge oaken desk that looked very odd in such a forward position it was the kind that would be appropriate for a gentlemans dressing room. Behind the desk however was an enormous man with short cropped hair, and a cognac glass with, horridly enough, two ice cubes in it "Get the hell inside and take a chair, you'll find something."

The first man grinned widely as he saw the commander "LOKI's BALLS! YOU!" he looked at the second man who seemed a bit surprised at this outburst and explained "Old friend from way back."

"Sammy, cognac and ice for the gentlemen," the Cohortarch called out, and a diminutive dark skinned man in white liveries served the mixture to the two new citizens.

The Cohortarch then introduced himself "Cohortarch Terrance Merle, commander of the Hill 40140 Garrison," he looked at the second man and waited for a reply.

"Decurion James Greyson, snipers spotter, corona aurea holder, on floating anti-partisan assignment," the second man, James Greyson replied.

"Well for etiquettes' sake," the first man said "Centurion Carl Greer, sniper first class, floating anti-partisan assignment," then with a dangerous look in his eyes "How bad is it?"

"Fuck, you're not one for small talk?" Cohortarch Merle said, then he laughed a bit "Bad? You got no idea," he shifted in his chair and leaned forward "I think there's one or maybe two."

"How many dead?" Carl asked.

The Cohortarch drank his cold cognac "How many? Well not counting auxiliaries maybe forty."

There was stunned silence, then Carl sat down firmly, carefully holding his rifle "Forty? Damn..." he took his cognac and drank deeply, feeling the burning cold fluid down his gullet Ice in cognac, damn Merle but you're the only one that could pull that off.

"I got the records, and the maps of course," Merle offered "But you see I think you want to do your own investigation, so I won't give you my conclusions, but I will give you a list of people you want to talk to." He leaned back a bit and drank another sip "So if you want something, men, gear, bait, anything like that just let me know, I can give you a whole century to work with if you'd like."

I'm probably supposed to say 'I always work alone' or something like that Carl mused as he sipped his drink to give him time to think before giving his reply, then he chuckled a bit at his own thoughts, "Ah Cohortarch, I know that in the pulps the hero would cheerfully go out there on his own, but this isn't the pulps, I and my partner are new here we'll need one of your better guides, preferably someone that also knows the barrack rooms gossip."

Merle nodded "Yeah, figures, so here are the documents," he shoved the thick folder over the table, "The Sergeant will show you the people you want to see, and, well if you want a good guide I got some young men..." he leaned forward and began noting down "Now these are mainly jungle bunnies, and there's... mmmm yes this one was promoted to Janissary from the auxiliaries, he's good..." he jotted down some names and then added "I figure I'd recommend that you pick a Janissary, if you absolutely need a citizen that's fine, but I'd rather..."

"Rather a jungle bunny got it and not you having to write a note to a poor boy or girls family?" Carl said.

Merle shrugged "Yes of course, what else? I mean that's what Janissaries are for."

Carl nodded True, true, besides much as we'd hate to say so most of these Janissaries probably do a better job than a citizen.

"Be careful, I had to pull some strings to get you two over here," Merle admitted "I'd hate to lose two snipers," then more seriously he added "Carl, don't underestimate this one, two citizens have already paid the price for that mistake."

Two citizens... great Carl noted as he began to flip through the documents he had been given, the notes were the standard sort, guesstimated positions that the sniper had been in, guesses about his tactics, and of course some rather depressing details about the last couple of detachments sent out to catch him.

"A whole Century sent out?" Carl asked with disbelief as he looked at his old acquaintance.

Merle let out a "Heh," then he looked at Carl "I hope you realise I'm not capable of that level of incompetence, no that was my predecessor, by the time they were done there were three more men dead, and any evidence or tracks had been well and truly smashed."

Carl nodded, they were both on the same page then "Yes, small group two or three men, that's how you do it," he sighed as he added "Mind if I take these with me to my quarters?"

Merle looked at him "Don't fuck up, right?" was all he said.

"I don't fuck up, and I don't screw with the local CO either," Carl replied.

Merle nodded "I know, I know, if you want anything, need anything, talk to the Sergeant, I'll have him stationed next to you, he's a good man, knows to keep his mouth shut," Merle added "You know what I mean."

Serf gossip don't matter, Janissary gossip that saps morale most certainly does... "Yeah I know," Carl said quietly.


The quarters were Spartan according to Drakan taste, sure there were looted furniture, some of it comfortable, but they lacked the magnificence that most Draka expected. That said it served its purpose, and being looted all of it could be left behind if need be.

James Greyson was fidgeting slightly, not enough that most people would notice but Carl knew his spotter, finally Carl commented "You were quiet today."

"Yes I know, it's just... you knew him, you had things in hand, I had no idea what to say," James commented, he sighed "I need to do some exercises."

Carl bypassed the question "What do you think?"

"Clusterfuck, sniper able to kill anything at under a kilometre, look at this landscape tons of hills and trees, fire one shot, relocate," James sighed again "You and I, we could play hide and seek for months out there, anyone that has survived this long isn't up to Draka levels, but he's good."

"Artillery?" Carl asked in a single word.

James shook his head "How much do they got? I can count the tubes on my one hand, and then you need to know where the sniper is and where to shoot, unless they get very lucky they're not getting him with artillery," he then added "I mean a little trench behind a hill covered by some fallen trees."

"Airplanes," Carl continued.

"You mean gas?" James half asked "Unless you use mustard don't even bother, gas flows down hill and this guy is bound to have a mask, or maybe just a wet sock wrapped around his face. I guess mustard could work though, but... awful lot of hill that need to be plastered."

"Yes," Carl said as he continued to read "You got it in one, mustard for one sniper is overkill," then he looked up from his papers "So that leaves us."

"Lets not wear bright red outfits when we hunt this sniper," James suddenly suggested.

"Huh?" Carl said.

"Oh I'm sorry I thought this was the 'mention the blindingly obvious' section of our pre-briefing," James said he smiled a bit to take some of the sting away.

Carl chuckled "You...!" he wagged his finger a bit "Are incorrigible, no seriously I wanted to see if somehow you'd figured something out that I hadn't, you never know." He closed the folder and pushed it over to James "Lets go over this again together now."


Merle had decided on something as melodramatic as a line up, of course he didn't have the actual Janissaries line up, but instead he had placed a row of eight folders on his desk with a big picture on top of each of them. Carl wasn't quite sure where he got that dramatic flair, but then again Merle always did like the motion pictures.

There were many folders, they showed soldiers from the rank of Corporal to that of Sergeant, they also showed men from the age of 19 to their mid thirties. Young and strong, old and experienced, and no... he had long since decided and quickly tapped one folder, Sergeant Jack Thompson, age 28, not very distinguished in any way but an outdoors person and a very even personality not prone to anything surprising.

"Him?" Merle said admitting to some surprise.

"He's got what I need," Carl said "These muscle bound morons may be good for regular duty, the gods alone know how, but I need someone who could run a triathlon, not win a weightlifting competition."

Merle nodded slowly, there was a twinkle in his eyes "You never change do you?" He sipped more cognac "You're right, absolutely right, but Loki's balls! You try telling that to..." he shook his head and added "Good choice, he knows the barracks room gossip too."


"Suh! Sergeant Thompson reportin' fo' duty as ordah'd suh!" the Sergeant snapped to attention giving a very fine salute. He was a strapping figure, not bull necked and massive, but rather long, athletic, muscular yes but without the massively excessive muscle of most sergeants. Still he could probably beat the stuffing out of most of them, he had a dangerous look to him, his nose was slightly crooked suggesting it was broken and set not quite right, and a couple of his fingers were big and wide suggesting injury at some time.

"Alright Sergeant," Carl commented as he studied the big Janissary ahead of him "You know who we are don't you? What we do?" He asked seemingly casual.

"Yassuh, youse da snipahs, com' ta kill da skullman" Thompson answered readily enough.

"The skullman?" Carl asked quietly, he looked at James who nodded softly, "Do tell us, what is the legend."

"Suhs, well the legend has it that the skullman is an evil sniper hidin' out there in the forests, don't anybody much like to head out there for there are bushmen hidin' there that can look like rocks or trees up till they jump over and cut your throat like. Them Georgians they mighty tough, they hide at a crossroad at nights and make pacts with da devul, and they use the magic in them holy pictures o theres to work bad things on us."

"Ain't nothing that's so scary as the skullman though, he be evil, you see his face it not a face at all, it's nothing but a big skull with a couple of eyes in it. Some folk say he a devul they conjure up from hell, others sayin that it was a soldier that loose his family when we shell his village, he rush over to the remains and findin' his dead family he offers his soul to the devul if he get the power to take vengeance, and the devul take his face as colat'ral to the deal so he don' be bucking out, and give the skullman a magic rifle and a magic eye so he can shoot a man even ten klicks away."

Looking around, seeming uncomfortable now the Sergeant continued "Some folk even say that it not be a native, but..." he hesitated "But a renegade out of the mastah's, who lose his face and lose his mind, and then he rush out ta kill any and all he see, and that why there be no other Partisans on account of him killin' them all! I don't right believe nonsense like that, but that be what they be tellin'"

"Some of them, them that say the skullman be on the side of the Red Star folk, they say that he is Man Who Lives in a House of Skulls, for he has built himself a house made from the skulls of the men he kill. He sits there caressin' his rifle, and the Georgians they come and feed him when he not out killin' they say at night you see the shine from the candles he put inside his skulls, and if you come close enough ta see his house, you be dead for no one survives that sight."

"Most of this be silly talk, but that the legend that go," the Sergeant commented, but then he added "But suhs be sure that I never run away like many other, I stick to my post and go out searchin' no matter if skullman or devil out there Suh."

[Ed note: I am editing the Draka's speech, and the Janissaries speech, because quite frankly I can't write in the ludicrous minstrel show dialect that they're supposed to be using.]

Carl's eyebrow lifted very slightly, James do showed some small signs of response, but they didn't comment at all till the story was over.

"I'll kill him, and," Carl added "If superstitions think he's hard to kill I'll cut his head off and bring it back for show."

"Yes Sir," Thompson answered.

James spread a map over the table and said "Sergeant, now we'll talk a bit about the local terrain, these maps," he pointed to the dozens of pencil marked corrections made to them "They accurate?"

"They are now Sir," Thompson said "When we come here, they'd be bullshit, but now they're good enough Sir."

They now spread out the pitiful aerial photographs that they had of the area and everyone got to examining them and asking the Sergeant questions about the various locations, questions he usually had a fairly good answer to. They had of course examined the maps and done the questioning many times before with others, that was just part of it, they needed to go over it all again, and make sure the Sergeant really did know all the claimed to.


The small three man group was moving at a fair clip, but keeping themselves concealed, taking advantage of the vegetation and the features of the ground to avoid giving clues to any enemy observers that might be out there. Their clothes were mottled camouflage clothing, not brand new instead someone had carefully applied sandpaper to them to wear down the gloss and make the colours duller. Their faces too were covered in camouflage paint, the fat greasy sort that always made your face break out with zits as if you were some teenager.

Carl was carting his special modified T-5 rifle, it was a custom made sniper rifle with a powerful Zeiss scope, now the scope had the flaps lowered front and rear to prevent the sun from reflecting of the glass. It was a dull black rifle, with not a reflective surface in sight, bolt action of course, and even the stock of it had been treated to a dull black glimmer.

The other two both carted their T-7B automatic carbines, the longer range of the full rifle would be useless in these forests, and if long range fire was required it was Carl's job to provide it. Naturally the two citizens also carried their big bushknives, not so much for combat as for having a useful tool, the bushknives were very versatile after all.

Thus the trio gently and slowly moved through the thickets, often stopping and standing perfectly still for several minutes, making sure that all was well. Every time the birds stopped chirping, or the branches of a tree didn't move quite right they would stop and wait, as they slowly made their way towards the area where the sniper was known to operate.

They moved through the thick forest and the rocky ground like wraiths, forms hardly seen, a man might sit on a stump and watch them walk past him ten feet away yet be unaware that anything had transpired. Of course deep down they knew, deep down where their hearts lay, they knew that the sniper was likely as quiet as they were, and that they were hunting the most dangerous prey known to man; an experienced sniper working in terrain he knew.

Soon enough they found an ambush spot, it was James that first dug something up from the ground, a strange aluminium tube, Thors arse he thought as he recognised it. Quietly he moved up along side Carl and they hunkered down briefly, exchanging very low whispers "What's this?" Carl asked.

"Cartridge case, aluminium, 5mm" James replied quietly.

"Bugger Freya," Carl grumbled, careful that he not raise his voice "What idiot sends people out to fight and die with 5mm ammunition," he nearly threw the cartridge case down in disgust, but instead he tucked it into a pocket.

James shrugged "Archona," a voice filled with contempt for the idiotic bean counters that still sent troops out with the worthless 5mm rifles, unable to even shoot back when they were pinned down and picked off one by one by the local partisans who would generally have proper hunting rifles.

Soon they found other traces too, including the scattered remains of a couple of Janissaries that had not gotten away soon enough, they had first been stripped of boots and kit by their fellow Janissaries or the Partisans, and then they'd been stripped of their flesh by the beasts of the wild. Now all that was left were some bones with a few shreds of rotting skin and meat still attached, and of course the increasingly tattered remains of their uniforms. These tattered remains fluttered sadly in the wind.

Carl sat quietly and watched the remains, he gently hefted his rifle and seemed to be impossibly still, he didn't fidget or move a finger. James too had that impossible stillness, although he stayed in the shade to avoid reflections in his binoculars you wouldn't know he was scanning the area for how slowly he moved. Even their Janissary guide had laid himself flat, but watched the immobile rock pillars with awe, these men unlike most of the citizens really had everything a Draka should.

It was James who spotted it, he made a motion with his hand so minute that only Carl noticed, there was an exchange of words whispered "Up, nine o'clock, flash." Making Carl train his scope on that particular spot, and there it was, faint but definite the very special flash that you only get from the sun reflecting of glass.

Carl smiled softly as his rifle and he became almost as one, he felt it resting just right against his shoulder, and the rest of the world vanished as he examined the spot where the glint came from Yes my dear Russian friend, it is a good spot, well hidden with a route to escape, but alas only soft cover he thought as he gently squeezed his trigger.

BLAAAAAAAAAM the sound of the shot seemed to hang in the air forever, even more absurd due to the utter silence there had been there only moments ago. The flashing was still there, but subdued, and it stayed there Good, got him Carl thought and made a motion with his hand as they all moved out slowly and carefully in case there was a spotter left alive.

Now they had to move very carefully, a wounded beast was often the most dangerous, and a wounded man was no different. They carefully moved up a path that granted good cover in all directions so that just in case something was wrong they would still be safe.

They were starting up an incline which was somewhat rough, rocks and trees granted good cover, James was just moving behind a rock when suddenly he fell over, for a fraction of a second Carl thought he had tripped but at that very moment the CRACK of a bullet being fired reached him.

Just as Carl hit the dirt he could see the first drops of blood leaving James' body, a dark stain spreading across his uniform, and a small red puddle forming on the ground beneath. Then he struck the ground, he felt a jolt travel through his body, and above him he could swear that he saw the branches move in a slightly awkward manner, then there was another CRACK. He turned, shifting tiny pebbles, "DO..." was all he said before the Sergeants head exploded like a ripe melon being struck with a bat, the sound of the skull cracking and the CRACK of the bullet seemed to mix perfectly.

James gasped quietly, he couldn't move properly, and he couldn't quite understand what had happened, it didn't hurt but there was this tear in his body, and he realised the sticky fluid was blood.

Two, maybe three seconds had elapsed, Carl was breathing slowly as he crawled forward slightly, he pulled out a small mirror on a telescoping rod and used it to peer around. Even in the crummy mirror he noticed it, the place the sniper had to have been Three shots, no trained sniper this is a self taught amateur... or... just someone so arrogant that we're not getting anything done before we're down.

It was so frustrating, the trap was so obvious once it had been sprung, but before that it was, to put it simply, good enough to fool three well trained men. He waited for a time that seemed to last forever as he crawled towards James "Hang in there," he wheezed quietly.

"Oh lord, oh lord," James muttered half delirious "I'll... oh..." he began to mutter incoherent words even as Carl desperately did emergency first aid. Carl pulled his big bushknife and cut open the uniform, beneath it he found a big gushing wound, he swallowed softly then he began to tend to it, all those classes in first aid finally paid of as he somehow managed to staunch the flood of blood. His fingers got covered in it though, covered in citizen blood, absentmindedly he noticed that he had bruises and cuts all over his body from dropping down and crawling, but he pushed it out of his mind.

Then he began the arduous task of moving James Greyson, his friend, spotter and comrade all the way back to the base. Yet deep down in his heart Carl Greer made one promise Come what may I will kill you for this, whomever you are as he gritted his teeth and did his work.

Reaching the sergeants body he grabbed the carbine and removed the most important bits of the interior, then he held it in his arms and placed it between two big rocks and applied pressure, he didn't stop until the barrel was so bent that it could never be used as a weapon again. Then and only then did he pick James back up and continue the slow drag home.

There were rocks and trees that had to be moved aside, breathing slowly he hefted his wounded comrade as they crawled through the dense woods, he could feel everyone of James' heartbeats thump-thump-thump... feel them growing fainter as they continued their hellish march. He stepped in a small creek and felt the water soak his trousers and get into his boots, he felt branches cut his face, and the constant buzz of insects start to flood the area where James was hurt, there was scarcely a moment where he didn't have to wipe away some pest.

Every step was a pain for James, but he stoically remained silent thoughout, even though he couldn't quite remember why they were out there. He was starting to drift away into a dream world where the shifting shadows of the forest turned into nightmarish shapes, and the sensation of each of Carls steps was like a daggerstab into his body.

Finally though Carl could see the signs of civilization, but as he was about to move towards the fort he stopped You and me, you and me, we are one... what should I have done... Then he laughed "Oh how near and yet so far," he said out loud, wondering how to cross that deadly distance between the edge of the forest and the fort.

Then he realized that there was only two ways to do this, and only one of them was acceptable. Lifting James once more he began to walk around, walk around the enormous clearing that surrounded the fort. It was a hellish hour long walk, by the time that he was done the sun was starting to descend, and he could feel that James did not have much longer left. Yet during those hours he had walked around the clearing till he got to the same road that he had used going in.

Walking up that road he said only two things "Walk proud," to James, and somehow inside his addled mind James Greyson heard "Yes Greer, I will," and years of training re-asserted themselves he stood up and walked. Somehow he found the strength, that last ounce of strength in a body all but drained of life, to move one foot before the other and walk. There was only a short distance up to the gate of the fort, but they walked that distance side by side.

There was of course a reason for this behaviour, and it was one that made sense, very simply the Citizen had to always show that he was a different order of being, that even in failure he was simply better, and so a man that was almost dead would walk proud no matter what. Especially if he had just been defeated by someone he would proclaim his natural inferior.

Ed Note: This is the middle of the story, not the end, breaking it into two, and yes it is not one of my best efforts I know.

Chapter V: If I can see you, I can kill you

Everyone is equal
When it comes to death
Its spear stubs us all…
It's better dying splendidly
Than living reprehensibly

- Rustaveli, the national poet of Georgia


It was late night on Friday and Decurion James Greyson lay dying, he was tucked into a bed at the citizens section of the local field hospital, some temporary separations had been erected between him and the rest of the section. By his side was a metal Christmas tree of drips leading into his arm, medicine and blood sending a steady stream of life into his veins, but even so his skin was turning so pale that it seemed to vanish without contrast against the bleached white bedclothes.

Sitting by the side of his bed was Centurion Carl Greer his head was slumped slightly forward, half from fatigue and half from worry, though he could not let this show. At the slightest stirring from James Carls head would snap up and he would look closely at his spotter.

James coughed softly, still sleeping, and his head stirring slightly making the down pillow twist audibly. They had to change it once already it had been drained with sweat a head shaped spot beneath the cover. A thin sheen of cold sweat seemed to cover his forehead, no matter how often they took it away, and his bandages, the white bandages against his paling skin, and his red, red blood contrasting them made for a sight aesthetic yet oddly frightening.

Surprisingly gently Carl gently stroked James' forehead, and then stood up and gently whispered into his ear "Hang in there," and then after brushing his lips across James' forehead he added in a quiet voice "My Patrochlus." He couldn't be sure, but he thought that James stirred slightly at that, so he sat down and waited a bit longer.

Moments later a dusky skinned Nurse, one of the light skinned girls from the new territories, came into the partition "Pardons Suh, I's heah to change da dressins'" she said in a humble tone even as she moved forward confidently to do her job.

Carl just sat quiet, too tired and suffering too much to say anything as she watched this Serf tend to his closest friend, she worked swiftly and efficiently cleaning wounds and changing bandages as she went; she would have been a credit to any hospital, absentmindedly Carl noticed that she was pretty.

There was another sound and the doctor came, tall and blonde, maybe in his mid fifties, but with all his hair, albeit if greying, he looked in many ways like the very image of the distinguished doctor with his long white coat over his green citizens uniform. He gave a nod to Carl "Greetings Centurion," he said in that slightly distanced tone doctors like to use, then he took his stethoscope, an excellent hand made model by Armstrong of Archona and began to examine James a bit. After a while he stood up and faced Carl "Centurion," he nodded towards the hallway, and gazed on Carl.

Carl shook his head and just looked at the doctor expectantly James can handle the news, however bad he thought, and then moments later If he can even hear us.

"He has to be moved tomorrow at the latest," the doctor said "I could try doing the surgery here, but most likely I'd do more damage than good, he needs a full facility," then with a self-conscious facial expression he added "Ordinarily I'd just send him off, but as I understand it the link between a sniper and his spotter is..." he hesitated "Tight".

Carl looked up at the doctor, his tired cold eyes eying the man, but the doctor did not shrink back "Yes..." Carl said "Tight Doctor, tight," then he looked back at James wondering how he would survive the journey back to the main hospital.

After looking at James for a bit the doctor continued "You deserved to hear it from me Centurion."

"You like being formal don't you?" Carl asked, looking back at the doctor.

"Professional distance Centurion, you go insane without it, I'm sure you understand," the doctor said as he looked back on the nurse who finished her work and then quickly left.

"She's good," Carl said absentmindedly.

The doctor nodded and smiled a bit, breaking his stern expression "Sheila is a treasure, personal property you see, I brought her along so I'd have at least one decent nurse."

Then after an exchange of courtesies the doctor left to tend to his other patients, leaving Carl alone to his thoughts.


"THOR'S PRICK!" Cohortarch Merle roared as he swung himself out of bed and wrapped his red dressing gown around him, he sighed once as he looked around his rather Spartan office; there was nothing there in terms of furniture other than a few antiques that had been looted off from the locals.

"Suh... ah...", came a voice from his bed, stirring under the covers was a distinctly feminine shape.

He looked at it "Stay," he said simply as he walked towards the door, ignoring the mumbled response from his wench Damn it, I hate people waking me up in the middle of the night. Then he thrust the door open "Greer?" he muttered with in a tired tone of voice.

"Sir," Carl said quietly, "Ah do believe ah need a telephone," he said in a quiet but very firm voice.

"Sir? No need... wait," Merle looked at his watch "Freya's tits, it's 02:00 in the morning."

"I need to call Tbilisi Sector, I know this man, a Janissary, but he's sound, I need him to be my new spotter," Carl said "Need to call now to get him to come in a timely manner."

"You don't have to spoon feed it to me, I trust you know what you're doing," Merle said as he gently rubbed his face with his fingers "Sergeant, give the Centurion a secure phone line, and ... Carl if you think this fellow is sound you have my support in requisitioning him if you need it," he added.

The dark hued sergeant nodded his head "Yassuh," he said at once and snapped off a salute, sharp but not servile "Ah's gets him phone laahn and tells z'others tah woohk fastah Suh!"

Both Carl and the Sergeant now walked off briskly towards the communications room, where some sleepy eyed Auxilliary would be shaken about a bit until he could once more operate a telephone exchange. Merle watched them quietly before he turned back into his room and closed the door behind him.


As the 'steamer drags came into the courtyard, carefully shielded from the sniper, there were a few curious faces, both Janissary and citizen, though the citizens hid their curiosity behind an impassive mask. Still the heavy camouflage net draped drags were studied intently by many hides as the six wheeled vehicles dragged up across the gravel of the courtyard.

Carl watched quietly too, leaning against one of the walls seemingly nonchalantly, in a manner rather unlike him, but in truth he was so tired, he felt like for once he needed a physical support to make up for the mental support that had been taken away. They had shipped James out earlier in the day, he had been so pale and frail, so unlike his usual lively and robust self

The one odd shape that leapt out of the back of the truck, landing quickly and quietly like some great cat, was of course a Janissary in their customary uniform, but with a few very un-Janissary like additions. First of all was the wide brimmed hat with its leather band, second was the weapon he carried, a sub-machine gun of the sort only afford to the most trusted of the Serfs, and of course his Sergeants stripes matted as if someone had taken a sandpaper to them to bring the sheen of a new uniform down to a less obvious level.

He himself was an interesting type, coffee coloured skin, dark curly black hair and a scraggly beard, and a sinewy athletic body quite different from the bull like Janissary build that the ordinary training program produced. His whole build and the way he moved reminded the Drakas there of a hunting dog, the guarded looks the quiet careful walk, and like one they thought Oh yeah, here's a good dog, I wish I had me a faahn tracker laahk this next time ah go a huntin'

Carl walked over to the man, "Hello Sergeant," he said returning the Sergeants salute, and then when they were closer he added "How goes it John?"

"Goes about middlin' Sah", John replied in the same quiet tone "We out huntin' bushmen or's a real faaht Sah?" as he studied the Centurion in front of him, they had of course met before and worked together, but the years of separation often changes a man a bit.

"It's a real fight, we're hunting something with teeth," Carl said as he motioned towards the door leading to the snipers quarters "Come now, I'll explain to you," he added not wanting to complicate matters any further.

"Yes Sah," John said stretching his legs as he followed Carl closely behind, the Sergeant wondered briefly why they'd called for him but he'd heard rumours Damn ya, if you can stop Centurion Greer and Deccy Greyson, are ye a wolf in human skin? He shuddered a bit in superstitious awe but hid it as a stretch, who knew maybe things weren't as bad in real life?


"How did the trip go? How are you feeling?" Carl asked quietly as the two of them sat down in the wooden chairs in the snipers quarters, his questions were part friendly, but mainly they were due to having to figure out Johns condition fast.

"De trip wuz fine Sah, nodin' happened, but I've been travellin' across bumpy roads fo' twelve, dirteen, hours, and dat kind'a travel leaves some man some bit stiff Sah" he replied truthfully enough, already he had to move his muscles just so to prevent them from cramping up.

Carl nodded to this "Get some food, get some rest, get a massage even," he said to himself, a gentleman took good care of his hunting dogs, and when you had a good one you gave him some meat "Think you can be ready to move late tomorrow?"

The Sergeant nodded softly "Ready t'move late on de Lo'ds Day Sah? Well ah' duzn't see why not, ah' should be rite as rain by den Sah," he said feeling his leg Oh yeah, John needs some bourbon and a rest, hell be just like old days, not to mention huntin' with one of the few Masters that can find his own asshole. Unlike most of the Janissaries John had a rather low view of the Draka, his experience had shown him that they weren't nearly as tough as they pretended to be, but he was smart enough to play the dumb Serf when it helped him.

"I'll let you get a rest now," Carl said Before you start cramping up on me and got up, he opened the wooden door, it slid open smoothly and quietly, and then he hailed the local Sergeant "Sergeant."

"Yah Sah," came the reply from the local duty Sergeant who, rather poorly, tried to hide his curiosity.

Carl patted Johns back, feeling absentmindedly that his physical fit had not deteriorated since last they spoke "This here's my Sergeant, you make sure he gets a damn fine treatment you heah?"

"Yah Sah," the Sergeant said as John walked out of the Snipers Quarters, they exchanged looks and salutes, each trying to gauge the measure of the other man.

Carl however returned to the quarters and sat down on the desk, carefully looking over the map, and over the scattered notes that he had made, already a plan for an approach was forming in his head. Obviously his plan wasn't orthodox, and would probably be soundly criticized if anyone knew, but he thought it would work Or am I too emotional... he wondered forcing himself to examine it with un-jaundiced eyes but still it seemed as if it would work.


Sergeant John Groves lay down on his stomach, his jaw rested on the back of his hands as he looked straight ahead, normally such treatment would be out of reach for a lowly serf, and certainly it wouldn't be available in a mere outpost such as this. It was funny though, how fast the little amenities of life would materialise once the front froze for a while, and the troops, both Citizen and Janissary, needed diversions to keep their minds fresh.

The woman attending him wasn't a beauty, she wasn't ugly though and quite buxom like serf women often were, with strong firm hands, he'd probably mount her afterwards too, her extraction was hard to tell her features lacked the usual African look, and yet she was quite dark. If she had been pretty she would no doubt have gone to the citizens, rather than being a perk for the Janissary sergeants.

"Whut be it dat dey talk about heah," he asked the masseuse The womenfolk usually hear first about anything, mans tongue grows loose while other parts grow firm he thought with a smile.

"Yah Serg'nt, dere's dis legend about da man who lives in da hause uh skulls... if ya' is interested, den I talks about it" she said quietly as she continued her work, he was so hard and scarred, sinewy and tough He's a real killah she thought feeling a bit worried every time she felt his muscles tense.

"Suh, I's heah yo legen'" he said.

As she spoke he would occasionally tense a bit, and occasionally relax, depending on whether he thought it foolish talk or if he thought he could make out something true. Sure enough he could understand why people would bring him in here, of all the Janissary trackers he was the best, good enough to be a spotter too, and he'd worked with Carl Greer before though only briefly in a military capacity.

After the massage he took her roughly and quickly, not brutally tough and she expected in sure enough and proved quite bouncy by our own efforts, she moaned and panted and afterwards swore that he was the "Faahnest strongest mahn, ah evah felt between mah legs." Of course John knew that this time she was telling the truth, unlike the pitiful lies she no doubt had to tell other men.

After dressing himself a bit he left the room, feeling quite a bit better, the rough wood door shut behind him revealing that standing on the side of it was the sergeant he had met earlier who was whistling a tune. John frowned a bit, his eyes narrowing for a second as he recognised the tune Between your thighs your beauty lies inwardly he sighed but the other sergeant didn't seem about to cause serious trouble.

"Hope yo' find ev'rythin' up t'yer stan'ards, Sarg'nt" he said seemingly non-offensive, "Yo' knows off th' reco'd as they say, yer gwine up aginst th' devil, not jest enny devil but old No Face, Hidecrawler, man in th' house of skulls."

"Youse such some cheerful chap, I'm sho' man de ladies plum love dat," John said in the same nonchalant attitude Damn this be the last that I need.

Perhaps in some pulp fiction novel they'd be at each other then, or else suddenly become buddy buds, but nothing really happened, they just didn't like each other much. Odds were one of them would end up with broken bones or worse if they were stuck together too long, but not this time.

The sergeant said simply "Yer hankerin' t'hear whut ah gotta say, o' yer hankerin' t'stan' hyar an'..." then he stopped, as if realising that what he might say now might start something he wouldn't like "fuck thet shit, I'll give yer hankerin' yo' need an' we'll see yo' off nice an' safe" he said in the tone of voice of a man who wanted to beat the shit out of you, but who was unfortunately denied that pleasure.

John's response was a simple facial expression, and pulling out and lighting a cigarette in a single smooth motion "Faahn," he said "Jus' faahn, ah'll be off soon enuff." He made sure not to turn his back to anyone though Christ, why the fuck do they always start a fight with the new guy? answer varied, now he had to thread careful, but he couldn't risk a fight right now and neither could this other guy.

John could however barely hear the other sergeant mutter, half under his breath "Doesn't reckon I'll be seein' yo' agin af'er thet though," which probably summed up the views of the locals on going on against their foe.


The commanders quarters had been converted into a small dining area, the normal furniture had been shuffled out of the way and a dining table had been laboriously erected. Additionally four elderly Turks sat in a corner, their eyes blindfolded, and playing a soothing melody on their oriental instruments, apparently they'd been Hareem musicians. The plates were fine china, and the cutlery was engraved silver, all of it was probably local loot the former possession of some nobleman first taken by the Soviets and then by the Draka.

There was only a handful of people there aside from the musicians and two Auxilliaries acting as servants, the Commander Merle, Carl Greer, Martina Wylde, Greta Schwartzberg and Georg der Grüne. The last ones last name had always drawn some curiosity, meaning literally George the Green. All of them were typical Draka though, except maybe Carl who looked strangely more gaunt, more haunted, like some image of a Grecian hero having stared into the face of Death itself.

As the crystal caraffel was passed around the table by the servants the Commander mentioned, in passing, "I do hope you forgive the wine, it's a local brand, one of the better ones but even so... still" he smiled disarmingly "In the field one makes due."

The flickering lights of the lamps played with the cut crystal caraffel as the red wine poured into Carls glass, he watched it with a strange fascination and for a moment it looked to him like blood. Then the moment passed and the ruby coloured wine seemed to return to its normal colour, he gently sipped it feeling the rich flavour of the wine, rather than the salty taste of blood. How strange that a land so bitter and harsh should make such a lovely wine, he thought pondering it to himself.

They spoke for a while, of light and unimportant things, the conversation revolved around gossip from home and the situation at large, though studiously avoiding the local problem, not out of fear but rather not to spoil a nice dinner with concerns that couldn't be solved there anyway.

Finally Greta Schwartzberg asked casually "Centurion Greer," after getting his attention Greta went on "I notice you brought a tracker to help you with your hunt, I'm interested most would have called in a different team, or waited until their spotter was healed."

Carls eyes narrowed briefly, "I know Sergeant John Groves from... well before he joined the Janissaries actually..." he sipped his wine to give himself time to think "He was a licensed spear carrier," he smiled a bit "Northmark term, he was a tracker and licensed to carry weapons, very good at what he did. Then he became a Janissary, the best pick they've ever made if you ask me, but he was too good to be one of the worthless pounders, so I pulled a few strings and made sure they made him a tracker, you can't have too many of those."

He looked at Greta "But you know, that's not really the issue, Centurion, there's scarcely a single real hunter in the whole of the damn Domination, they're all travelling around with dogs and beaters and all that bullshit, but they don't know the pleasure of hunting on a half empty belly for four days straight half running across the Weldt. Most of the people that call themselves hunters, heh, they just want a fancy hide before their fireplace, a chance to fire some gaudy museum piece," he motioned in the direction of the hill "Whatever you say about that bastard out there, he'll give you a run for your money, and when I kill him I'll have a trophy worth having, and a hunt worth doing, more than you could ever do on horseback or playing at being some Great Hero by ramming some poor tiger with a Lance."

Carl then smiled a big smile, as if to show that he had only been half serious, and offered up a toast "For myself I say only this that it's death within a week, mine or his, there's no alternative, so therefore to death," he said as his toast.

Merle looked on as he lifted his own, no expression on his face, but a thought went on behind those keen eyes of his Oh damn, you were closer than I thought, much closer, the wounds cut you deeper than I knew, I should have known, but I can't stop you now you fool, it's too late for that so he said simply "To death, his not yours," and the glasses clinked together.


They had moved quickly taking the same route as Carl and James had used to get in, a circuitous route taking them far away from any area where the sniper might see. The two men had walked quickly, black daubs of paint beneath their eyes, for some reason this black paint really improved your night sight and that was something they needed now. Dusk was coming, the shadows were turning long, and the trees seemed to grow into menacing shapes, but Carl felt no supernatural dread only an untiring urge to move onwards and onwards.

Slowly and surprisingly quietly the two shapes moved, any observer would have had great trouble keeping track of them as they weaved through the terrain. Finally as night had truly come they stopped and rested, they made no fire instead they hacked some branches from the trees and used them as shelter, striking cold camp and eating biltong that they tore to pieces with their teeth. Then with their backs to the trees they got some hours of fitful sleep.


Carl woke just before the first rays of the sun came above the horizon, he didn't need to check his watch to know what time it was, he had always had a knack for knowing the time and waking up when he had to. John stirred and woke the same moment as Carl made the slightest move, they watched and ate a hurried breakfast as the first rays of the sun turned the east red. Then they got up and continued their chase, moving with dread determination towards their goal.

They stopped around mid day and pulled out a map, Carl picked up a stick and pointed to the various points they had to go "We go this way, and avoid that spot here..." he indicated where they had been ambushed "It looks good, but it's a trap..." deep down he realised something This route might also be a trap, but then again there's just one of him, or so we think They always used a stick, they never touched a map with their fingers or with a pen, that left marks that could be invaluable if captured by the enemy.

They then continued their trek upwards, moving very slowly so that they could advance up from behind the ridge, but moving very carefully too so that they wouldn't be discovered. Once they heard the distant drone of a rifle shot, they ducked down but realised that it was not intended for them. Then they waited, one minute, two, three, four, ten minutes, nothing more, one shot tells you there is a sniper, two shots tell you were he is, but there was no second shot to aid them.

"Another one bit the dust," Carl whispered, and John nodded in reply, somewhere in the base a jackass had shown his and gotten it blown off, and there was jack left for them to do about it. So they continued their slow and deliberate advance, taking great care to avoid being seen, and to avoid even making sounds.

Their progress was painfully slow, and that night too they had to strike a cold camp, leaning their backs up against a tree and ensuring that their rifles were carefully placed to be available yet safe from the wind and the weather. By now lesser men would be near dead from the strain, sleeping on the ground, wet, cold, muscles strained, the senses screaming for warmth, and then nothing but lukewarm water, biltong, and canned food eaten straight from the can. Yet they prevailed, they had endured similar ordeals together before, but, Carl knew, not like he and James had endured together Damn it, live for me. At night in a strange place you had to be close, your bodies clinging to one another for warmth, your very life depending on your partner, that forged a bond stronger than any he had felt before. He sighed and began to drift into a dreamless sleep.


Carls eyes opened, he stirred and once more they began to move, as they had the night before, they were higher up now giving them something of a view. As he ate his hurried breakfast, for he needed energy for the walk ahead, he spared a moment to admire the wilderness, the rolling forested hills, oh what a place! How he wished he could have been here, experience the hunts, the passions, the ... the freedom that only such a wilderness could give you. Then they placed the tincans, and all the other wrappers, into a small hole they had dug, and then gently they replaced the turf on top making sure that there were no traces left of their visit.

Slowly now they made their ascent, followed by an equally torturous descent as they made it over the hill top and began to move. Carl noticed carefully where he was, taking into account certain prominent landmarks, a brief smile crossed his face "We're here," he whispered to John. Slowly they made it down, carefully taking cover behind trees and outcroppings of the rocks.

The spot was a good one, a fairly good one for a sniper, and something glittered slightly there, he smiled and moved his hand out for a moment touching it despite his better knowledge. IT wasn't much really, just the bottom of a bottle or perhaps a jar of jam, a tiny hole had been drilled in it and a copper wire passed through and then it was hung up to glitter in the sun. That had been the source of the light he had mistaken for a snipers scope, such a simple thing really, and so effective.

Cursing inwardly they began to move a bit again finding a good spot, Carl lay down very quietly not stirring a muscle as he moved his rifle into position, and then he waited. Slightly behind him and to the side lay John, carefully looking around as Carl waited. They waited for many hours, the moisture from the ground drew into his uniform soaking him, and branches and little pebbles dug into his body, but he ignored this as he ignored the insects, sweat was not a problem due to the cloth band wrapped around his forehead.

He was waiting, something told him that the target would be back this way, he wasn't quite sure what but there was some instinct that make him almost certain. Part it was that this was a good spot, easy to move around to high ground, easy to ambush any hunters that came this way, good view of the surrounding terrain; but part was something he couldn't quite point out, intuition perhaps.


The days went by one by one, he didn't move much, maybe only an inch or two each day, and only at night would it be safe to move back a bit and relieve himself and eat a bit. To lay perfectly still for a day was torment, after six days spent laying still, waiting, your body and mind anticipating something, but nothing, it was torment. Once his leg had cramped, the pain and set jets of pain through his mind, your bladder filled up, and your entire body felt like it was covered with crawling ants.

Then as they approached noon on Sunday he felt a light tap on his leg, and he noticed Johns signal, very discrete, but quickly he turned his scoped rifle to the area indicated. It was just a shape, a blurry shape moving carefully under cover, vaguely human perhaps. Breathe out, nothing exists but the target, it filled his world, the crosshairs moving ever so slightly ahead of it, the slight stirring of the trees told him of the wind, breathe in, now the last correction was made, breathe out, feel your heart beat, and then in-between heart beats he squeezed the trigger so gently.

The crunch of the trigger felt like he broke glass in his hand, he felt more than he heard the first shot and fast as a viper he reloaded, handling the bolt faster than the eye could see, the shape was going down but was still visible, breath out, and watch... it didn't move, but still he waited loathe to put a second pullet into the shape One shot they know you're there, two shots they know you're where ungrammatical perhaps but true, then he fired the second shot Just to make sure it struck home with perfect precision.

"Relocate," he told John and the pair began to move, under cover but quicker than they had before, Carl felt relieved that his well trained body did not betray him now in the hour of victory. First they had to get away in case there were more, and then, more dangerously, they had to go and confirm the kill, and that is where the real danger would lie.

After leaving the danger zone, relocating as any sane sniper would, they began the second part of their mission namely confirming their kill. Slowly and methodically they began the approach, but it wasn't easy they were on one hill and the kill was on another one, close but yet so far away. They brushed aside the wet branches, feeling them whip across their bodies, but they didn't make a sound, at least there were no dry twig moments.

It was a mess, going down into the valley between the hills, where the water had gathered up, where the moss was soaked and slippery and didn't quite sit as firmly to the rocks as it otherwise would, and where wherever you trod you seemed to find a puddle of water to soak you wet. That wasn't so bad though, not as bad as the pine undergrowth, when you have evergreens standing densely together the ground beneath them is dead, a brown carpet of dead needles where you can scarcely see the sky. The naked lower branches are like barbed whips ready to slash across you, and even thick clothing offer only limited protection. The one benefit is that the dense trees offer great protection from prying eyes.

Then began the ascent, going up the hill, quietly without being seen, and trying to keep your weapon ready as you half climb. It was something of a matter of pride for the Georgians that they could get a 5 kilogram, 12 pound or so, machinegun up on top of any hill or mountain. To someone who has never tried a feat like that it may be hard to understand what is difficult about it, but half way up the slope when every pound feels like a ton and you still have to look out for snipers and enemy soldiers you understand, doable but you might feel like a pair of sturdy lads have struck you with sticks.

There was a feeling in Carl's chest, something half between excitement and fear, that gut wrenching sensation you get when you feel your grip slip, or you slam your body against the side of a steep hillside because you thought you saw a partisan soldier. He hid it perfectly behind that trained exterior, and the feeling was not uncomfortable to him, indeed it was part of what drove him along, but it got to you after a while.

Finally as the day was turning to dusk they reached their destination, a journey of less than three quarters of a mile had taken several hours to complete, but that was also something that outsiders couldn't understand. In a way moving very slowly was far more exhausting than moving quickly, both emotionally and physically it was fatiguing, as your body screamed in desire to MOVE, but that instinct had been long suppressed in the pair.

They got to the top, and moved slowly along towards a slumped form on the ground, dressed in dirty khaki clothing, or what had once been khaki, the splotched clothes would have offered excellent camouflage. Next to him lay a rifle, it had slid from his grip as he fell, his stomach and chest torn open by two bullets, the one to the chest would have killed him instantly, but it was hard to tell if it was the first or the second.

After searching the area immediately around him they stopped, he probably did have a stash of sorts around here, but they would most certainly never find it. Carl looked upon his victory and slumped heavily against a rock, then he slid slowly downwards towards the ground and looked up against the heavens, in the distance rainclouds were forming as if the heavens wept the sniper he had killed. He wept, not for the dead one ahead of him, but for himself, and for his country, he called upon the gods he did not believe and asked simply "Why?"

On the ground in front of him lay the body of a teenaged boy, he was perhaps fourteen or fifteen, the very first down like beard had formed upon his lips and cheeks. He was thin and scrawny, though not malnourished, perhaps fed from looted tincans or from hunting, but that didn't matter. Beside him lay an old Moisin-Nagant, with nothing more than an iron sight to aid him. Here was not a renegade citizen, or an elite Soviet sniper, here was a simple peasant boy with his fathers rifle and a magic eye, and he had terrorized a whole Cohort.

For the first time Carl asked himself very simply How can we ever hope to win this war? his head slumped forward a bit, "John," he said "We take him with us, the head, as the proof, and the rifle..." he pulled out his knife and added quietly "We hunted a man without a face," he walked towards the body "So we shall give them the head of a man without a face."