The Academy city had been completely captured. Despite their best efforts, Thatcher team only made up an under strength platoon in an entire army, their flanks had crumbled and they were forced to withdraw or be encircled and destroyed.
Beyond the city were dense forests and vast farmland that the NAU forces had pulled back to and fortified. Engineers had begun creating concrete resistance points in fields and along roads to try and slow down the eventual UEF advance.
Mika had returned to the unit after suffering injuries, though Bernie was still out of combat and Boris was considered killed in action by Thatchers account.
Thatcher team had set up a small outpost near the edge of one of the forests leading to the city. They had engineers fortify an abandoned farmhouse with concrete and used that as their barracks and command centre.
“Lieutenant! Urgent message!” a man yelled as he came running down a slight hill coming out of the forest. “Lieutenant Thatcher!”
Thatcher waved the man over to where he was chatting with Emil in front of the farmhouse.
The man ran over to give his report.
“We have an opportunity to take back a sector of the forest that will allow us to gain a key observation point on the fields between us and the city. They’ve only begun sending scouts and engineers into the area to probe our minefields so this needs to be done quickly.” The man said.
“A counter-attack now? Why” Thatcher asked. They had just spent so much time digging in and now they would have to make themselves vulnerable as a bulge in the line.
“We need observation in the area, it’s critical to controlling our flow of reinforcements. We can’t send men to areas they’re not needed based on a whim.” the runner answered.
Thatcher thought about it for a moment and sighed.
“You’re right. I’ll get my men together.”
The runner saluted him and made off back into the forest. Thatcher got his gear together along with Emil and the two prepared to get the men together. Just as they were about to rally the men, the runner came back.
“I forgot to mention to you, you’ll have a small battery of artillery to support you and we have arranged medical facilities to be set up behind you. Your observer will be arriving shortly along with your medical teams.” He said, “Good luck, boys.”
After an hour of ensuring everything was prepared, Thatcher and his team moved into the forest towards their observation points. Slowly, they lurked through the forest until coming upon a large ridge of fallen trees and shell craters. Thatcher gave the signal to slowly move up, but they were immediately fired upon by heavy machine guns that had been placed in hastily built log pillbox that was covered with dirt.
He immediately slung his rifle and drew his pistol to react quicker to any close threats and sent a runner back to the artillery camp. He and the men took cover behind the many boulders and fallen trees as they waited for the artillery to come down.
The artillery smashed down in front of the pillboxes causing tremendous clouds of smoke to rise, allowing Thatcher and his men to try and advance.
“Crawl forward damn it! Move it boys!” Thatcher yelled as he crawled over the fallen tree he was behind and scurried to one further up the ridge.
His men used the natural cover to their advantage to try and get as close as possible to begin firing back. Thatcher watched a few of his men get hit and called out for the medics, Emil yelled back to Robin and Mika to bring their heavy machine gun up.
Robin tossed the ammunition can up a small lip in the ridge and helped Mika bring up the tripod to another man who brought it up further to their firing position. Robin went back and grabbed the ammo can as Mika brought the gun itself up into position.
“Crawl forward!” Thatcher continued to yell as he observed for the best path forwards.
A man tried to run up to where Thatcher was, but as he climbed over a fallen tree, he was shot in the heart and killed instantly, his body falling next to Thatcher.
Thatcher looked down at the man in bewilderment.
“Damn it! Lehto!” he yelled as he grabbed onto the man's uniform, letting him go unsure if he was dead. “Medic! Forward, boys!”
Thatcher ran back to the rear where a medical station and the artillery observer had set up in the forest below the ridge to report his situation to the company commander. He crawled over the awkward terrain, passed wounded men that moaned and cried out in pain.
The artillery observer could be heard radioing for another salvo as Thatcher met with the commander.
“Multiple of my men have been wounded and killed, I’ve lost my best squad leader and I can’t see a way passed those guns.” Thatcher said.
“The whole battalion is stuck, no companies have made it through yet. If you make it, today’s your day. You know I’m not one to mince words.” The company commander told him.
“I’ll do what I can if I can just get the men to advance.” Thatcher responded as he nodded and tensed up.
He had gone back to his forward position on the front, he and his men once again stayed low as they waited for the artillery to provide them with cover. The shells landed once again providing some cover in the form of dust clouds.
“Platoon, advance!” Thatcher once again yelled out as he continued to look for ways to get up to the machine guns.
Emil crawled his way up to Thatcher and noticed what he was trying to do.
“Let it go. You’ll get yourself killed for nothing.” He said as he crawled in close to Thatcher. He also took a quick look up the ridge at the machine guns and thought for a moment. “If someone could get close with a satchel charge.” he said.
“I’ll try it.” Thatcher said as he nodded in agreement to the plan.
“I’m going.” Emil immediately responded.
“It should be me, this is my job, not yours.” Thatcher protested.
“Someone has to get the men to advance and that’s your job.” Emil said.
Thatcher shook his head in agreement as Emil crawled over to an engineer to get his satchel charge. He then crawled over to where Mika, Robin and another man were waiting to use their machine gun.
“Robin you keep that bird chirping as soon as I head out!” he yelled.
“Got it!” she yelled back as Emil ran out towards the enemy pillbox.
Emil leapt down onto the ground and began crawling his way up the ridge, he could hear the sudden and constant sound of the machine gun behind him opening fire. He continued to crawl up until he was within throwing range for his satchel charge.
The man on the friendly machine gun stuck his head up to get a better look at the pillbox, but a well placed round passed straight through his head.
“Mika, get him out of the way and get on the gun!” Robin yelled as she got another ammunition can ready for use. Mika pulled the dead man out of the way and crawled over him. As soon as she was at the controls she began laying down constant fire on the pillbox.
As soon as Emil heard the machine gun start up again, he rose from behind his cover, ignited the fuse and threw the satchel charge. As soon as he enter back behind cover, the five kilogram explosive detonated completely destroying the bunker, but completely concussing Emil.
Thatcher looked up at the massive dust cloud and rose from his cover.
“Advance! Platoon advance!”
All his men got up and began running up the ridge, the other machine guns couldn’t fire on them and the UEF soldiers directly ahead of them were likely all dead after the blast. Thatcher and a few men got to the top of the ridge and jumped into the enemy trench. One of his men saw a handful of UEF troops in the forest behind the trench and fired on them, dropping them all.
Thatcher took a moment to assess the situation, the UEF were retreating from the area.
“They’re retreating!” he yelled.
As more men got up to the trench, he began to organize them.
“First squad and second squad to the right, the rest of you go left!” He yelled.
Thatcher and a few men worked their way through the trench to one of the other pillboxes holding up the rest of the advance. He could hear the machine gun firing away as he stopped just around the corner from the entrance and drew a grenade.
He pulled the pin and threw it in. A man screamed grenade and an explosion followed. Thatcher nodded to the man behind him, and the man rounded the corner and fired wildly into the pillbox to make sure no one survived.
The rest of the platoon made their way to the top of the ridge, they’d seized their objective.