Roland, The Tip of The Spear
Roland Ordovo di Aun-ist sat on his pack, his hardlight across his lap, helmet on the muddy ground next to him.
The rest of his section sat around him, no one talking.
The march had been long.
He pulled a kcal bar from a pouch on his armor. Spiced lamb, onion, fresh cucumbers. The flavors were close.
Above, a flight of lift shuttles screamed by in formation, angling for orbit.
“How much longer?” The question traveled up the line of lounging manquellers.
Roland checked his watch. “Any moment now, Aun willing.”
Roland checked his watch. The hour rolled over. A flash blanked the color out of the world.
Ten miles off, over Bounty Industrial City, the bombardment started.
Beams of light hashed the sky, boiling through the sunset air. Lightning, spawned by the terrible energy hurled from above, flashed out of a clear sky.
Roland uncapped his canteen and took a sip of water. A low roll of thunder.
Ofanim rumbled by on the march their standards snapping in the hot, false-summer wind. Roland watched them, a dull weight across his shoulders.
Ten years ago, his family had fled. He was a child then, with parents who had resisted Aun’s light.
Did he miss them now?
A building fell. The thunder came steady now from the city. Some return fire arced overhead, none falling close enough to threaten his section.
His family had served the demon Union, the Tyrant, as its agents on his world.
No, he did not miss them.
“Brother Roland.” One of his manquellers, Samuel, called up to him. “How long do you think we have to rest? Will they send us forward into the city?”
“There is no telling,” Roland shrugged.
“But if the city does not fall after this, we will certainly be sent to take it.”
Samuel’s shoulders sagged. He picked at the seams of his frayed fingerless gloves. The end of his hardlight lens rested in the mud, lens port uncapped, a thin ribbon of steam rising from the ground.
“Take heart,” Roland said. “We have the Ofanim with us.” He pointed at the advancing chassis, a long and staggered line crossing the grassy fields towards Boundary Industrial City. “And we will not be in the first wave.”
Large Ofanim bearing hardlight shields led the way forward, post-banners snapping in the wind. Their shields spat and flickered, eating stray incoming fire from the distant defenders. Cornucopian artillery walked across the plain towards them, sparse and scattered.
Low through the mottled grassland, the first companies of manquellers loped under their packs. They numbered in the thousands; Roland could only estimate as he did not carry Gifts inside of him. He had no angel in his mind.
Another curse towards his Unionite family.
Shells fell on the advancing manquellers and the earth vomited soil and sand, grass, ruined carapace armor, the blackened offal of the first waves.
Solomon’s muttered prayers hiccuped at each report. The explosions were small at this distance.
Roland chewed his kcal. His leg wouldn’t stop shaking. “They’ve found their range,” he said, to no one in particular.
“Do they not have shie-- ah,”
The falling shells began to explode in midair, shrapnel and flame skittering over a heat-shimmer dome.
“There it is,” Goodcheer, one of Roland’s section, offered a prayer of thanks to Aun. “See Aun’s protection?”
Hours passed, and the call went up the line
Sun had set. Boundary Industrial City glowed dull ochre. Tracers lit the sky.
“To march,” Roland sighed. He stood and pulled on his helm. The battlefield lit, his aurals echoed with the panicked cries of the first wave.
The Cornucopians held. The fight would continue.
Under cover of the second wave of Ofanim, Roland and his manquellers advanced into the city.
Metat be with them, they advanced into the city.