Vosemia, Valtawa Wilds

5th July, 14:30 hours

The Valtawa Wilds was a beautiful place. Vosemia wasn't the best world out there to colonize in the galaxy, but it had its gems of natural beauty. Sturdy trees formed large forests, hills dotted the landscape almost lazily, wildlife thrived here and the Valtawa Wilds had a calmness to it that soothed the mind. The leaves of the trees were beginning to take on brownish or reddish colors as the seasons dictated, and a soft breeze blew against them; some fell as a result.

Private Haio Blakes would have loved to sit back and paint the scenario. Painting was a hobby of his, one that he had taken up during his childhood. He wasn't the best painter out there, but he liked to think that he was above average. Painting was an art that many people didn't appreciate much during the time of a modern galaxy. However, it was still there, and Haio was proud to say that he contributed with his own works.

He always found inspiration in nature itself, such as the Valtawa Wilds. The galaxy was filled with worlds that had different natures, some dark and foreboding such as the shadow world of Umbara, while some were vibrant and bizarre like Felucia. If he hadn't joined the imperial military, he would have definitely bought a ship to travel to these worlds and capture their beauty with his tools.

Perhaps he would get a chance to paint this place. However, with the war raging on that would become very difficult, seeing as his current mission spelled doom for the Valtawa Wilds.

"Keep your eyes open. The UNSC assigned sentries to guard this place, and there's no telling where they might be hiding." Haio heard the sergeant say, leading their squad from the front.

The group of imperial army troopers marched carefully through the forest, wary of their surroundings and careful not to stumble over the terrain. Haio had to put his boot a bit to the left in order to avoid a particularly stubborn tree root that had grown out of the ground. His green armor blended in slightly with the terrain, but he hadn't put on his mask yet; his protective goggles were enough for now.

"I heard they ambushed one of our patrols two hours ago." Their RTO commented from the middle. Private Jey Ikaro, the squad's radio operator, was of a similar age to Blakes but had served for a longer period of time. The Corellian sighed empathetically, "Poor lads. Only three of them managed to get away, and lost two of their guys as a result."

"That's the risk of being a scout trooper. They're the ones who have to recon the area, which makes them a nice target for the UNSC." Sergeant Malkin responded gruffly.

Haio tightened his grip on his E-22 blaster rifle a little tighter. News like this wasn't uncommon among the barracks, and of course everyone had heard about the ambushed patrols of scout troops that had returned to the base, carrying wounded and dead men on their speederbikes. It was hard not to.

"Yeah, well, I'm going to make sure the bastards will pay for it." Gaio Doi grumbled from their left.

Doi was a brute of a man, who also had a temper that wasn't to be messed with. Haio knew him well enough to know that Doi wouldn't hurt anyone, but he was so outspoken and passionate with his opinions that it sometimes looked that way. It didn't help his image that he was tall, bulky and carried his Z-6 rotary blaster cannon like it weighed nothing. In fact, Haio had seen the man swing it around like a bat once, and he did not want to be on the receiving end of such a strike.

To complete the stereotypical image, he looked like a thug from Coruscant under his helmet and visor. He was bald, had a square jaw, two scars on his left cheek that ran down to his chin and a tattoo on the other one. It was a good thing that Doi could be as gentle as a mouse droid because otherwise Haio would have been terrified of him.

"That's a lot of boasting, Doi. I hope you can actually back it up." A softer, accented voice spoke from next to Haio. The soldier to his right wore the same armor as he did, but the curves underneath resembled him in no way, "Otherwise you'd make us look bad, and we have no intention of losing to the Stormtrooper Corps."

He suppressed a sigh as Lin spoke, already knowing how Doi would respond to such a thing. She and Doi were the heavies of their squad; both were equipped with heavy weaponry, and knew how to use those with a deadly efficiency. Lin's narrow eyes were exposed to the outside world as she did not wear her goggles, though her helmet was firmly secured to her head and a piece of cloth covered her mouth. There was even a spare blaster cartridge strapped to the right side.

While Doi carried his Z-6 with him at all times, so did Lin with her DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle. It was considerably lighter than the much heavier rotary blaster, but she easily held the heavy weapon in her hands with a fondness similar to a mother and her child. To be honest, Haio didn't know what to think of that.

"Oi, what was that?" Doi growled as he glared at her, looking past Haio.

"Both of you, shut it!" Malkin intervened sharply, "I don't care if you bicker in the barracks, but I won't tolerate it out in the field. Keep your mouths shut and your eyes up front. Got it?"

"Yes, sarge."

"Roger that."

The two of them fell silent at the same time, knowing full well not to argue with their commanding officer. Haio noticed idly that the sergeant had lied a little. After all, he did very much mind the arguing inside the barracks; they all did.

Ikaro sighed as he shook his head, "You two are impossible."

"The fact that you've realized that only now is concerning." A feminine voice from behind deadpanned.

"Cut him some slack, Saresh. Don't tell me you weren't thinking the same thing." Haio came to their RTO's defense, glancing at the squad's medic.

By far their shortest member, Saresh shrugged her narrow shoulders in an uncaring manner. She was the shortest of them all, but that didn't stop her from carrying her backpack filled with medical supplies without complaint. Saresh was… unique, if Haio had to be honest. She could be as blunt as a hammer and as uncaring about someone as a Hutt, but Saresh would always be there to patch them up whenever they got hurt.

Still, she could be a bit less sadistic during treatments. Whereas others would have feared needles, she seemed to love them; probably because she was the one who got to use them.

"Sarge is right though." Ikaro said after a while, "These UNSC marines know how to prepare a proper ambush. We must have the worst luck in the entire army to be the ones who get to go first."

Haio chuckled, "You're afraid?"

"You aren't?" Came the counter response from the RTO.

"Never said I wasn't."

He chuckled as Ikaro flipped him off; a gesture that the imperial soldiers had learned from their UNSC captives. They were just joking around of course. No one in fifth squad ever got in a fight, unless it was against storm troopers. The imperial army and the imperial Stormtrooper Corps had a bit of a rivalry, which sometimes led to brawls inside cantinas, and those had then to be broken up by the MPs.

"Very funny, Blakes. Remind me to set your next painting on fire." Ikaro pointed threateningly at him.

Lin turned to glare at the shorter soldier, "Hell no, I happen to like those, thank you very much. If you even think about setting them on fire, I'll personally drive a scout walker over you – and you know that's a promise."

"Guess someone has a fan." Doi remarked slyly, grinning as Lin shifted her glare over to him. Of course, it did little to faze the brute of a man, "Well, can't blame ya. Even I have to admit that Blakes makes some damn fine work. I might get my mum one when we get off this planet."

Sergeant Malkin chose this as his moment to intervene once more, "If you dedicate all that energy you spent blabbering your mouth, we might kill those marines a bit earlier, and then we can go home. However, you'll shut your damn mouths until then."

"Someone's a bit agitated today." Saresh muttered under her breath, though Haio managed to pick it up.

He had to admit that she had a point. Sergeant Malkin was usually alright – as far as sergeants went – and earlier today he had been semi-relaxed, but now he seemed tense, scanning the area carefully and finger close to his blaster's trigger. Did the UNSC really worry him that much? Their unit had fought marines before, and while those fights had been gruesome and hard, they had still managed to walk away; albeit with wounds and scratches.

His sergeant was probably worried about being ambushed by the enemy. Just as Ikaro had mentioned, the UNSC marines knew how to ambush larger groups – especially in areas like this. However, Haio trusted in their comrades of their battalion to help in case of such an attack. The three other platoons of their company were close by, ready to come to their aid if the enemy showed itself.

Haio's gaze pierced through the forest's foliage as he felt the hairs on his neck stand up. Now that everyone was quiet again, he began to understand why sergeant Malkin was so tense; something felt wrong. The forest was as peaceful as it had been minutes ago, when he had contemplated on how well it would pose for a painting, but now there was something that made the treeline feel unsafe. He wouldn't be surprised if he shot an animal for jumping out of a bush; his nerves were acting up.

Luckily his training kicked in, and carefully drilled-in discipline prevented him from jumping a meter in the air from even the slightest rustle of leaves. Instead, he observed his surroundings like his superior and waited for any signs of the enemy.

"Man, this is beginning to creep me out." Ikaro muttered quietly, equally unnerved.

Lin nodded in agreement, "We should have come across those sentries by now. We already passed a location where they ambushed one of our scouting parties."

Everyone was becoming wary, and Haio wondered if they were about to engage hostiles; it certainly felt like that. His gaze drifted over to sergeant Malkin, who's face was partially obscured, though he got a glimpse of the grim expression that the man wore. They weren't alone in this.

They came across a small creek further ahead in the forest as they moved onwards. It was quite small though, not very deep either. The water didn't flow very fast and was actually very clear, allowing him to see the round stones that lied underneath the stream. Some of the water flowed into a tiny pond where the local wildlife probably came to drink from in order to sate their thirst. A handful of flowers blossomed alongside the ridges of the pond, brightening up the place with a multitude of colors.

Haio thought it looked beautiful. He squashed the sigh that threatened to escape his lips; he would have loved to paint the creek, the pond and the flowers – even the animals if they were here. However, it didn't seem like that would happen.

His attention was quickly diverted to the figures that emerged from their left side. For a moment he was about to raise his blaster rifle, but it didn't take long to recognize the imperial uniforms that the soldiers wore. He also saw that the leading figure was corporal Sassta; the squad's corporal. These were the rest of their squad.

"Sassta, you're supposed to be keeping your distance." Malkin spoke up from his spot next to the creek, "We need to spread out to comb out the forest, remember?"

"Sorry, sarge. There was a large boulder in the way, and we had no choice but to head this way." The lower-ranked army trooper apologized immediately.

"Well, as long as you-"

CRACK!

Haio crouched in record time, eyes wide open as he recognized the sound as the gunfire from a UNSC-issued marksman rifle. Everyone followed his example, except for corporal Sassta; his body fell on the grass with a hole in chest, blood spilling out.

"Ambush!"

Sergeant Malkin swore loudly, "Stay low and return fire! Get me a direction of where that came from now!"

Gunfire erupted all around him, bullets flying over their heads as the UNSC sentries finally made their presence known. Haio crawled over to a nearby tree and propped his back against the sturdy bark, using the tree as cover. He held his E-22 close to his chest as he took a deep breath to calm himself. Slowly he glanced over his shoulder and past the tree trunk, trying to find the enemy.

Up ahead, in the bushes somewhat to their right; muzzle flashes.

"Enemy infantry bearing one-twenty!" He called out to the others.

However, his shouting turned him into a fresh target, and Haio missed being pierced by a bullet by mere inches as he dove back into cover, narrowly dodging the enemy's gunfire. He hadn't had time to count how many, but at least they now knew where the enemy was.

"You heard him!" Their sergeant yelled over all the noise. Malkin was steadfast and unwavering as he raised his blaster rifle, "Light them up!"

The imperial army soldiers simultaneously aimed towards the enemy's position and opened fire, exchanging ruby-colored energy bolts with the UNSC sentries. The ambush turned into a full-blown skirmish between the two sides. Haio took another breath, calmed his nerves and recalled his training, and then aimed past the tree to join in.

The stock of his rifle pushed back against his shoulder as the weapon fired off bolt after bolt, accompanied by the familiar whine of a blaster bolt that whizzed through the air. He didn't know for sure that he actually hit any of the targets. The sentries were difficult to spot, and being a target somewhat limited his vision as he was regularly shot at, forcing him to get back behind his cover.

"Kriff, where did these guys come from?!" Ikaro shouted from his own cover, a large log where he had hidden himself.

Saresh, who was crouched next to the RTO, growled loudly, "They were already there, numbnuts! They just waited for the right opportunity, and they took it when Sassta showed up."

A scream from their left announced the death of another soldier, also part of the other fireteam. Haio was just in time to see the trooper fall into the pond, causing the water to ripple and splash. The man's blood soon began to mix with the previously clean water, which was now soiled by his fleeing lifeforce.

"Lin, get us suppressive fire, now!" Sergeant Malkin ordered.

"On it!" The heavy trooper responded not a moment later.

Lin lied down on her belly in the grass, placing the bipod of her DLT-19 on the ground before unleashing hell on their foes. The very instant she pulled the trigger of her heavy blaster rifle, a torrent of red blaster bolts exited the barrel towards the UNSC marines. Lin's main goal was obviously not to kill anyone; while that was of course one of her goals, her primary objective was to gain fire superiority and suppress them.

Seeing as some of the enemy guns fell silent, meaning that Lin's suppressive fire had to be working. The others took this as their chance to step up and take proper aim instead of haphazardly firing at the bushes. Now that they knew where the enemy was, they had a much better view of them. Haio could see the camouflaged marines through the foliage, brandishing projectile weapons that were a hundred times more advanced than back in their galaxy.

One of the sentries cried out in agonizing pain as Lin's DLT-19 hit its mark, blasting a burnt hole in the man's upper torso. He fell back in pain and shock, but that only allowed more blaster bolts to slam into him, the kinetic impact causing the now lifeless body to spasm as it went down. Lin didn't give any sound of happiness or satisfaction; her face was devoid of emotion, the stock of her heavy blaster shaking her shoulder as she kept firing.

"Ikaro, contact the lieutenant and tell him we've made contact with the enemy." Sergeant Malkin turned to their RTO, who immediately activated the commpack on his back, "Tell him we need backup."

Ikaro nodded before getting on the comms, "Squad one, this is squad three. We've made contact with the enemy and require backup. How copy? Over."

"Squad three, this is squad one. Solid copy, we've had similar reports. Stand by." There was a short pause, lasting almost half a minute. Ikaro waited patiently for a response even as gunfire poured down on his cover, "Squad three, squad four is moving to assist. ETA two to three minutes. Over."

"Copy that, squad one. We'll hold until then. Out."

"Ikaro, what did they say?!" Malkin demanded to know.

The RTO quickly responded, "They're sending in squad four to help us!"

Haio felt relieved upon hearing that they were going to be reinforced. They had already lost two men, and from what he could see, Saresh was hard at work treating a wounded trooper. The man was bleeding from the upper thigh where a bullet had gone clean through, and blood was flowing freely from the injury. Luckily their medic was on the job, applying a bandage to stop the bleeding.

He aimed down his scope again, determined to fight hard to prevent any more deaths. No one was firing at him anymore, allowing the army trooper to find himself a target to shoot at. He spotted movement close to a tree, which turned out to come from a UNSC marine who was firing at the others. Haio knew what he had to do.

His blaster whined three times.

The first energy bolt went past the marine's head, doing nothing more than warming the Terran up and scorching his armor. However, the second one hit him straight in the throat, burning his vocal chords and most of his throat away; a fatal wound. The third bolt hit his shoulder, but the man's eyes had turned lifeless by then, and he dropped like a brick.

Haio got back into cover and took a deep breath. He was fortunate to have hit his target, and he felt satisfied at the small form of retaliation.

"Grenade out!" Doi yelled, throwing a thermal detonator at the UNSC marines.

There was a brief delay before the explosive went off, detonating in a bright flash and deafening explosion. Shouts came from the sentries as they were throw around by the shockwave. One of the marines had been unfortunate enough to be positioned close to the thermal detonator, and his mangled body flew through the air before landing in the middle between the two factions, missing an entire leg and ripped apart in various places.

"Take that, you kriffing bastards." Malkin growled loudly.

Ikaro echoed his statement, "Hell yeah! Nice throw, Doi."

The gunfire was beginning to quiet down; despite having lost two men and two more sustaining injuries, the imperial army troopers were pushing back against the ambushers. Their blaster rifles were relentless, especially in Doi and Lin's cases, mowing down any resistance with their heavy blasters. Haio had to momentarily halt his fire as the barrel of his rifle hissed from the heat.

As the fighting continued, they managed to not lose anyone else to the marines. Eventually the enemy shouted in surprise as more army troopers attacked their flank, taking them completely off-guard. With their cover thrown aside, and reinforcements coming in to reinforce the imperials, the UNSC sentries were quickly taken out of commission, not a single soldier remaining in the end as they were all but annihilated.

Haio slowly got up as the battle ended. It hadn't lasted a full ten minutes, yet it felt much longer than that to him. He saw the others get up as well, picking up their weapons and examining themselves for any injuries. Saresh had already patched up the wounded, applying bacta-patches and bandages to them, and Doi had taken it up on himself to lay their fallen to each other. All in all, they had been very lucky to react quickly to the enemy threat, but they had still lost men to the enemy.

Lin walked over to the corpses of the UNSC marines before spitting on one, kicking it for good measure, "Kriffing Terrans… they're going to pay for that."

"All in due time, Lin." Their sergeant promised her, his dark eyes glaring at the enemy's lifeless bodies. He glanced at corporal Sassta and the other fallen trooper, muttering an almost inaudible curse under his breath, before turning to the other squad, "Thanks for bailing us out here. These sentries were waiting for us, lying in the bushes to take us by surprise."

The other squad's leader stepped forward, his face hidden by both his visor and mask, "Other squads experienced the same thing. We've got orders to sweep through the forest, clean out any resistance we can find and continue forward. We'll be accompanying you."

"Alright, understood." Malkin nodded as he turned to his men, "Everyone, prepare to move out. Fall in behind me."

The combined might of two squads took a moment to gather, then they marched on through the forest. The mood was tense, which was understandable considering what they had just gone through a short while ago, and everyone kept scanning their surroundings for more enemies.

Haio sighed as he trekked through the forest.


Vosemia, first defensive line

5th July, 16:12 hours

BAM. BAM. BAM. BAM. BAM.

Bryan could hear the loud dull noise of Schwartzman's SAW echo inside his own head, shaking his brain as a loud crescendo of sounds assaulted his eardrums. His own assault rifle was part of this, firing a three bullet burst for better accuracy, as to reach the imperial soldiers down the hill, who were trapped at the treeline.

It had begun only a few minutes ago. Maybe ten? Twelve? Bryan hadn't kept track of the time. All he could focus on were the enemies up ahead, and he quelled any thought of stopping to take a breath. This was his first firefight; his nerves were causing his whole body to go tense, and it was through hard effort that he didn't freeze up.

Regardless, the imperials had showed up a while ago, appearing alongside the treeline with weapons at the ready, clearly here to fight. The land between both factions was lit up by blaster fire and bullets, spelling certain doom for anyone unlucky enough to be in the path of one of these. No one close to him had died just yet, but Bryan wasn't naïve enough to think that no one had gotten hurt – or worse, died – by now.

The assault rifle in his hands continuously spat out burst after burst, just as he wanted it to. His gun was just one out of hundreds of weapons, but even one more rifle could make the difference, as his instructor in bootcamp had told him. Still, it was hard to comprehend he was actually part of such a large battle. It was so surreal that he couldn't help but glance at the others of his unit.

The marines were firing nonstop from their foxholes and trenches. A combination of assault rifles, DMRs, SAWs and other weapons thundered as they spat out lead at the imperials. However, the loudest killers were the numerous machine gun turrets that had been set up along their defensive position, mowing down any enemy in their sights. There was even the occasional mortar that made its presence known by launching an explosive shell.

Bryan could certainly see the effects even from this distance. It was hard to miss the explosions that dotted the treeline, digging up dirt and splintering wood. A permanent cloud of dust and sand hung over the field. How many imperials had had their limbs blown off by those mortars? Questions like these popped up in his head now and then, even though he was trying his hardest to kill too.

"Are we even hitting anything?" He asked out loud.

Reiner shook his head yet didn't stop using his SAW, "No idea, they're too far away. Just concentrate your fire on the positions where you see those energy bolts coming from."

"Easier said than done. It's hard to see anything with that cloud of dust in the air." Bryan growled in frustration. Storm troopers tended to stand out due to their white armor, but their cousins in the Imperial Army wore armor that blended in with the forest, using a mix of greens and brown, "Shit, get down!"

He crouched low in their trench, Reiner following him moments later as a cluster of red plasma bolts flew overhead. Bryan flinched as the sandbags whined loudly; the flammable material hissed, smoke rising from where the bolts had impacted. He hoped their cover hadn't been set on fire by the enemy.

"Well, this is just great." Reiner said dryly, his SAW resting in his lap as they waited for the suppressive fire to settle down.

Bryan snorted, "Be happy that they didn't get your head. In fact, I think you owe me a thank you for saving you."

"I'd rather kiss one of the Squids." His companion deadpanned emotionlessly.

BOOM.

The familiar sound of a Scorpion tank thundered over the battlefield as its main gun fired a shell, probably killing a random imperial or at least scaring the shit out of them. Bryan couldn't help but grin at the thought. He and the rest of his generation had been born during the human-covenant war, instilling a strong sense of patriotism in them, and Bryan felt proud to be part of something as important as the UNSC; especially the marines.

Therefore he grinned widely as that Scorpion tank probably ripped an imperial bastard a new one. They deserved no less for trying to invade his planet, trying to mess with the UEG and UNSC. Call him foolish, but he was confident that they could win, that they would push through like they did during the past war. This fight was a prime example; the imperial soldiers up ahead were probably dying by the dozens, being unable to advance a single inch meter forward.

"What the hell are you smiling about?" Reiner asked, staring at him like he was some kind of an idiot.

"Well, we're winning, aren't we?" He retorted, still grinning, "That's a good thing, right?"

The heavy gunner shook his head, chuckling softly, "You know, of all the people they could have stuck me with, they had to pick the moron, didn't they?"

"Up yours!"

At that moment, the blaster fire stopped pinning them down. The two of them immediately sprang into action, Reiner placing the bipod of his SAW on the sandbags, while he aimed down his sights. Breaks were something you took when the battle was over, and this fight hadn't stopped just yet. They opened fire once again with the intent to drive the enemy away.

It was rather horrifying for the Imperials, when you thought about it. The marines were dug in deep with soc much defenses – like the loud machine guns and thundering tanks – while the army troopers in the emperor's service had nothing but a battalion's worth of infantry to throw at them. The enemy had to be terrified by the wall of trenches and barbed wire.

"Enemies next to that boulder on our left." Bryan called out, spotting three green-armored figures next to the dull grey of the rock.

"I see them." His partner responded.

He was grateful for his earplugs that toned down the roar of Reiner's SAW. The heavy gunner showered the boulder in a rain of bullets, and through the scope of his assault rifle, he could see one of the imperial army troopers spasm before going limp. The corpse slumped against the rock, not getting up anymore.

Bryan blinked as he heard someone yell, "We need a medic over here!"

Unable to stop his curiosity, he glanced to his left where another trench was, albeit at a somewhat lower elevation, which allowed him to see what was going on in it. A marine was crouched over another one, inspecting the downed soldier for any injuries. The wounded marine was crying out in pain from what he assumed to be a burn wound. A corpsman quickly ran over to them, hunching over as to evade being shot at before jumping into the trench.

He quickly looked away as the medic began her work. This was the first time he'd seen someone get hurt, and he had to admit that he felt a bit uneasy about it.

"They're retreating!"

Bryan's attention quickly returned to the battle as he saw that the amount of blaster bolts heading their way gradually lessened until the imperials seized firing. True enough, it appeared that the enemy had had enough for now. The army troopers al but ran away, even if coordinated by officers, trying their hardest to get away unscathed.

He slumped his back against the wall of the trench, "We… we did it."

The relief and awe in his voice resonated with Reiner, who nodded slowly while relaxing his grip on his SAW, "Looks like it."

They could finally relax. Bryan still felt anxious, which was probably an effect from the adrenaline that was still coursing through his veins. He took deep breaths to calm down; his heart was beating quite rapidly, and it surprised him that he hadn't noticed up until now.

"Hey! You guys okay?" Came the familiar voice of Lorenzo, who jogged at a steady pace as he made his way over to the trench, "Any injuries that need patching up?"

Reiner shook his head, "We're alright, Salvini. Despite having been shot at by what looked like a dozen rifles, we didn't get hit once. Crappy imperial aim."

"What he says." Bryan echoed, his head still leaning against the wall.

"Looks like you guys were lucky then. So far we've got six men down; three with minor wounds, one in critical condition and one dead. That's only our position though, so I can't speak for the others." Lorenzo told them as he patted his medkit.

Bryan didn't know how to feel about that. His mind replayed the shout for a medic from only a minute or two ago, and how the person that had been shot could be the dead one. This was the first time he had come into contact with a life-threatening situation, but it was as if his mind had trouble registering it. Hell, he could have been shot – he almost had been actually. Bryan just didn't know how to call this feeling that he was experiencing.

Numbness, maybe?

"Could have been worse. If they had come at us with more men and their walkers, we would have definitely suffered more casualties." Reiner remarked grimly.

"I guess so." Their medic nodded slowly.

Bryan spoke up out of curiosity, "Hey, Lorenzo, where is the sergeant?"

"Oh, he's just up ahead. Apparently there's a problem with one of the turrets. Something about it being jammed?"

"That's the last thing we need during a combat situation." Reiner grumbled, somewhat annoyed with the small issue. He shook his head as he inspected his SAW, "A weapon jamming when the enemy approaches is one of the worst things you can experience, especially when said weapon is capable of spitting out bullets faster than the imperials can throw bodies at us."

Lorenzo raised his hands in a placating manner, "Don't blame me. I'm not the idiot who got it jammed in the first place. All you can talk shit about me is how I suck at bandaging people."

"Remind me why you're the medic again?" Bryan snarked, roling his eyes at the casual confession.

"Because I'm the one who can make sure you won't bleed to death." His squad member responded, before shrugging, "Then again, it's not like cauterized wounds bleed a lot."

Right, because of the energy-based weapons. Surviving a blaster bolt was apparently quite painful, not to mention difficult to treat at times. Blaster rifles had a serious kick that some covenant-issued plasma weapons lacked, though they were no less lethal when it came to such a type of weaponry. He didn't want to find out what was more painful; a bullet or a plasma bolt.

"I know how to apply biofoam though." Bryan said in an effort to keep the conversation going.

While he wouldn't admit out loud, he was feeling a bit shaken after the encounter with the Imperials. The banter between the three of them was helping him with his anxiety.

They bantered for what looked like a whole hour, talking about whatever came to mind. Perhaps Reiner and Lorenzo needed the conversation as much as he did, though he would never ask. Besides, it didn't really matter whether he knew or not. The important part was that it distracted him from the adrenaline leaving his body, making him feel more tired than he actually was.

The people around them were in similar state of sorts. Some chose to spend their time talking with each other, though others opted to remain quiet and keep to themselves. No one disturbed them; if they needed some privacy or a moment for themselves, then no one would stand in their way.

Multiple marines ran around carrying ammo boxes to distribute said munitions to those who needed more. Of course, seeing as the battle had lasted not that long in all honesty, it was unlikely that they were already running out of bullets. It was more like making sure that everyone's magazines were back at maximum capacity.

Then an explosion as loud as thunder shattered the relative peace they had.

"Shit!" Bryan cursed, flinching as the ground shook and noise assaulted his ears, "What the hell is happening?!"

"Incoming! Get down!"

"Back in your trenches and foxholes!"

"It's a fucking artillery strike!" Schwartzman swore loudly, before reaching out to Lorenzo and dragging the medic into their trench.

It was as if the earth itself was being torn apart; the ground shook violently as dirt flew through the air, accompanied by the thunderous screams of the explosions. The marines quickly fled to their trenches and foxholes in order to evade certain death. Shell after shell fell, raining destruction down on their position.

Bryan instinctively curled into himself, pressing his back against the dirt wall of his safe haven. The trench protected him from the imperial bombardment, but even the reassurance that it provided did little for his nerves. This was different from earlier; back then they were at least able to fight back, yet now they were completely helpless as the enemy fired at them from a long distance.

Outside of his trench, craters were dug by the artillery, hurling chunks of earth in all directions. A lot of it landed in the protected spots that were being occupied by the marines. Their uniforms were stained by the dirty smudges though it was hard to spot, seeing as it easily blended in with their armor's color scheme. Still, it was quite annoying to sit in a hole and have someone try to fill it up again. No one wished to be buried alive after all.

Behind the trenches, an artillery shell landed right on top of a Scorpion tank, blowing off one of the front tracks and reducing it to scrap metal. This prompted the other tanks to back up or remain in their defensive holes that had been dug beforehand.

The noise was deafening, and the harsh gales of created by the explosions slapped the marines in the face. Bryan wondered how long this would last.

It wasn't like the Empire could keep this up indefinitely, right?