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Chapter 24

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Chapter XXIV

Haverminster

 

As Dmitri made his way down the mountain, he found it odd that the lights of the camp were out. He hadn’t been gone for that long surely, although he did didn’t know. It was entirely possible that Codsworth had decided to move on Haverminster already, he had said that he would when he first made his approach on the mountain.

As he continued his descent, he thought on what he had discovered back at the temple. Codsworth had been right, there had been a supernatural force coming from the mountain that he was now hurriedly descending, but the fact that it was one of the Raven’s was something else.

He arrived back in their old camp half an hour later to find it completely abandoned, his tent was the only one that was still up. Leading Dmitri to confirm his original suspicion that the army had moved out of this place.

 

As he prepared for the long march to Haverminster which by his calculation would take about two days on foot, Codsworth seemingly having forgotten to leave him any vehicle to use. He left the encampment for the last time. Not knowing the direction his life was about to take.

As he walked through the desert plains, the lack of any form of allied faces started to unnerve him, he wondered whether or not the mission had been successful, or everyone was dead, and he was walking right to the slaughter.

The two days past in an unnatural quiet, he met nobody, either friend or foe, he was in essence alone, until he reached the gates of Haverminster, the mirage city, given that name due to the fact that many mistook it for a mirage on first viewing due to the heat and vastness of the surrounding desert. He looked up to see the imperial banner flying above the walls of the city, which in the past would have been a sight for sore eyes. Now reduced to an eerie feeling. They had been successful in their mission, and yet nobody was out patrolling the area.

As he walked through the bombed-out ruins of the out streets of the city, he finally came across a couple of imperial troops patrolling. However, as he raised his hand in greeting, they both looked at each other, nodded, raised their guns and began to open fire on him.

Dmitri ran into a burned-out house in horror. Wondering if this was some ambush the raiders of Bartazer had planned. He took out own gun and returned fire. It took a few moments but eventually he managed to kill both of his attackers.

Walking over to see if his assumptions were correct, he knelt down and took of the helmet of one of his attackers and stepped back in horror. Looking directly up at him was definitely an imperial. He didn’t need to take off the others helmet to see that both of them had tried to shoot a fellow comrade. He looked around, there was as far as he could tell nobody else there. He thought back to the tale that Ligia had told them, about how the forces he had been with had turned on each other.

As if in answer he saw about twenty men running up to the sound of gunfire. He was about to hail them, but after the assault he had just face, he decided to just hang back in the one of the abandoned buildings.

He saw a sergeant that he thought whose name was Bucka lean down next to the fallen and listened to what the fallen man, who hadn’t been dead as Dmitri had first thought and was now regretting not putting a bullet into their heads. Bucka got up at that moment however and addressed his troops.

“Alright we know Dmitri Jones is nearby. He’s been marked for execution by order of The Mayor, remember that under this order, everyone associated with the traitorous organisation known formally as Wolfrick Co, are to be executed for treason against The Mayor and The Imperial City. Any soldier who defies the order will also be executed for treason. Understood.” Sergeant Bucka said, addressing the twenty or so soldiers that stood in front of him.

“Yes sir!” The soldiers responded. Dmitri sighed, not long ago, he had fought side by side with those men, and now here they were, turning on him because of an order that The Mayor had put into place.

“There are only so many places he can hide out here. Gather up search parties and destroy every aircraft we have so he can’t fly out of here. Then get back to sieging out Codsworth and his rabble.” Sergeant Bucka said, the men nodded and left to carry out their new orders. Dmitri looked to check that he was now well and truly alone before speaking.

“Shit.” Dmitri said to himself, wondering what on earth had happened back home, to cause that fat oaf Osmund to want half the cities heads. Luckily for him however, evading the forces of the government, was something that he was entirely used to. So, with that in mind he decided to head for the city’s port, that way he might be able to make and escape before those thugs destroyed his only means of escaping this place.

Thinking about what Bucka had said about Codsworth he decided that the best course of action was to meet up with the commander, if he was still a commander that was. Regroup and make for the port, where they could get in contact with the imperial navy. Which being run by the rivermen, may be a lot more friendly than the ground forces to them.

 

Dmitri heard Codsworth’s stand before he saw it, gunfire could be heard raging a few blocks away and, guessing correctly that it was the commander Dmitri rushed towards the sound, desperate to at least save his only ally in this hot steaming mess that he now found himself in.

The small government building that Codsworth had barricaded himself in, was already ablaze, thick plumes of smoke came out of the windows, as forces loyal to The Mayor rained gunfire from all sides. Thwarting any chance Codsworth had at making any kind of counterattack.

He took up his position in a destroyed house, a few places down, and took aim at the attacking soldiers. It was almost too easy. Combine the fact that the enemy force had not expected an attack from the rear, and that they had no idea where the shots were coming from, it made it a slaughter. As Dmitri walked through the death and destruction, his usual jubilation on beating an enemy force was not there, as he remembered that these people had been allies not too long ago.

“Where the bloody hell have you been Jones?” Codsworth said as he exited the building, he too had begun to counterattack making the besiegers job hopeless. “He sounded more exhausted than angry, as he ran out of the burning building along with about a dozen others. Troops who had remained loyal to him and deserted the army at the decree from The Mayor. One person who was not with Codsworth was Brutus.

“Where’s Brutus?” Dmitri asked, he thought that with the were-bear’s loathing of imperial rule, he would have found the beast with Codsworth.

“I sent him to cause some chaos as a distraction.” Codsworth said scratching his head as he spoke. “I guess he chose to return home instead.” The commander finished as the building behind him gave up and collapsed to the ground.

“Codsworth. What is happening. Why are our own men firing on us?” Dmitri asked, that was the main question that had to be answered before they proceeded to the port.

“You haven’t heard. Your friend Charlie started a rebellion in the city starting at Wolfrick Co. And The Mayor has decreed that anyone associated with that company is to be put to death for treason.” Codsworth said. “You’ve been gone a long time my friend, we thought you were dead.”

“How long have I been gone?” Dmitri asked, he had no idea, what with the teleportation fuckery that had happened in that temple, it wasn’t surprising that time also acted differently in that place as well.

“Six months. Give or take.” Codsworth said as they began to move.

“What?” Dmitri said, he had no idea that it had been that long, he had guessed a week. “But I didn’t eat anything whilst I was in that place. How could I have survived for that long with food.” He finished completely confused now.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Codsworth replied. As they continued, they noticed more and more damaged buildings. It seemed that their own forces were in the process of raising the port city to the ground. “How are we going to get out of this one?” Codsworth asked, he had no idea himself, and had been hoping that Dmitri would be able to give them a way out of this mess.

“I’m heading for the port. Try and get out to sea and meet up with the fleet. Do we know whether they are obeying The Mayor’s order.” Dmitri asked. As his whole plan depended on them not gunning them down the second, they climbed aboard one of their vessels.

“No idea. We’ve had no contact from the fleet.” But it’s the only plan we’ve got, so let’s get moving.” Codsworth said as he signalled for his troops to follow the pair towards their only possible escape route.

 

It was close to nightfall when he made it to the port, with Codsworth and the others who had remained loyal to him. But his high spirits lifted when he saw the port. It had been comprehensively trashed. Ships had been sunk in the harbour to prevent escape and the landing strip had been blown up beyond recognition meaning take-off was impossible, even if they could find a plane.

“Well, that’s that then.” Codsworth said as he examined the port, the idea that they could reach the rivermen out at sea was now well and truly over. They no longer had any way of getting out to sea. Until Dmitri saw it, one helicopter standing on the runway that could get them either to the rivermen’s fleet, or better yet. Home.

“There, that’s our way out of here.” Dmitri said pointing at the gunship. As Dmitri spoke however, things became even worse for them, soldiers came out of buildings all around the port and placed themselves between the survivors and the gunship. At their head was Sergeant Bucka.

“Alright men, if these traitors want to escape, they’ll have to come through us.” Sergeant Bucka said, as the troops nodded, he turned to where Dmitri and his band of loyalists were hiding “Come out Jones, we know you’re there.” Bucka said coldly. Dmitri sighed and looked at his men for what may well be the last time.

“We can take them.” Codsworth said looking over their hiding spot. Dmitri to looked before shaking his head.

“No. I don’t want to kill them.” Dmitri said. He had thought about this and came to the conclusion that there was still a chance for the soldiers who were waiting for him to poke his head out of the trenches.

“I hate to tell you this kid. But they don’t care. Those troops, our brothers in arms. They are all willing to die and take you and me and the rest of us along with them.” Codsworth said trying to plead with Dmitri to see it from his point of view.

“Maybe. But you lot weren’t, and you had the same training and loyalty to the government as well. And yet you chose to side with me. Those men out there need to be given another chance too.” Dmitri said, leaning back against the wall he was hiding behind, thinking. He was sure that if he could talk to them, then some may choose to defect from Bucka. It took a few moments before Codsworth, who was still doubtful but could see no other way out of this situation. Nodded his approval and Dmitri who got up and walked towards Bucka.

“Good choice former captain Jones.” Bucka said raising his guns at the advancing Dmitri who did not raise his own weapon in his defence. “Stand down Jones, you’re outnumbered, even with your traitorous friends back there.” Bucka finished training his aim right at the now stationary Dmitri.

“I do believe that the accused gets to have their final words listened to.” Dmitri said, he was gambling here, and he knew it. Bucka could easily deny him and order his men to open fire on him. But he had rolled the dice well so far, he just needed his luck to stretch that little bit further.

“Agreed.” Bucka said but did not lower his weapons.

“Listen.” Dmitri said, he needed to make this count, as with one wrong footstep he would be executed on the spot by the trigger-happy maniac. “I had nothing to do with what happened back home. The men behind me had nothing do with what happened back home, they have all given everything other than their lives for the homeland. If you get this wrong, if you execute them for a lie, then it shall be you who committed treason, not them.” Dmitri finished and waited for the guns to start firing. After a few moments he looked up, wondering whether it had worked. Bucka had lowered his weapons he noted, as he thought about what had been said. before he raised his weapons once more.

“Dmitri Jones. You are a traitor to Mayor Osmund. You are stripped of all rights and sentenced to death.” Bucka said hollowly. Dmitri sighed, it had almost worked, but this man’s loyalty to The Mayor was too great to allow him to disobey the orders he had received. However what Dmitri did note was that some of the men behind Bucka did not raise their weapons. They stood there as Bucka turned around to face them. “Fire on Mr Jones now!” Bucka yelled at those who seemed to have agreed with Dmitri. Again, he waited for what he thought would be the inevitable sound of gunfire. But still nothing happened. Bucka looks at his troops in disgust. Dmitri looks up, about half did have their guns trained on him, but to his surprise the others did not. More than half the forces under Bucka’s command had refused his orders.

“Stand down Bucka.” Codsworth said as he walked onto the scene from his hiding place, he too was pleased to see that not all of his men were just lackies to The Mayor.

“Fine I’ll do it myself.” Bucka said and took aim and fired. The shot however missed, and that let the flood gates open. A civil war amongst the army began with those loyal to Codsworth and Dmitri fighting those who still swore loyalty to The Mayor.

As Dmitri gunned down people who were once his brothers in arms, he couldn’t help but get enraged, not at the men who he was fighting, but at The Mayor, how with one action he had destroyed this brotherhood of troops. Soldiers whom he had respected and admired, now forced to turn on each other over one man’s greed for power.

The fighting raged on until the following morning as more and more units joined the fray, leading to a full scale pitched battle inside the port city. However, by some great fortune the chopper had remained undamaged, so when the battle was won, Dmitri and Codsworth could return home. The forces that had survived the battle, however, chose to remain behind, in order to rule the ruins of the city for themselves. Whilst this under normal circumstances would have been out of the question. Codsworth decided to allow it, and so. He and Dmitri said their farewells to the men who had remained loyal to them through everything and took off to return home. Not knowing how they would find the homelands upon their return.

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