After seizing and setting up observation stations in their sector of the forest, Robin had been sent back to the rear to assist in the manning of the tobruks. She’d been sent with a young man named Hawker to defend against any probing attacks from the left flank or even attacks from the rear.
The tobruk was a small concrete bunker placed into the ground giving it a low profile making it harder to spot. It was just large enough to house the two soldiers manning it with one in the underground box and the other manning the machine-gun in the concrete cupola. The machine-gun was fitted with an armoured shield and a rolling mount allowing the gun to be swung 360 degrees to cover all angles of approach.
The two stepped up to their new home and upon climbing on top to the access hatch, realized the hole was too small for them to enter wearing all their normal equipment.
“I’ll go in first, pass your things down to me and then bring the gun down.” Robin said as she quickly unfastened her canteen, gas-mask canister and multiple other bulky objects.
Hawker also began removing his kit and once Robin had gotten inside, began passing down his things to her. Once he’d removed enough of his kit to squeeze through the hatch, he got three quarters of the way down and then grabbed their machine-gun, sliding it through after him.
The two didn’t speak much as they organized their gear and ammunition. Once they’d finished preparing their storage and sleeping quarters, Robin spoke up.
“We’ll do two hour shifts of switching between observation and gunnery.” she said. “What would you like to start with?”
“I’ll start with observation.” Hawker said, grabbing his binoculars from their case.
The two stepped back up into the cupola and began their long, tedious task of keeping watch for signs of enemy attack.
The rest of the day passed without incident. The two took turns sleeping rather than both being active during the night. The next few days passed exactly the same. All quiet.
On the fifth morning at around four a.m, Hawker had been on watch while Robin was sleeping when she was suddenly awoken by the thunderous smash of a massive artillery shell impacting near their tobruk. She jolted out of her seat and sprinted up to the cupola where she found Hawker hiding on the ground, his hands covering his helmet.
The low to the ground firing slit, while hard to spot also made the operators very low to the ground making it hard for them to see up. Robin opened the Hatch in their roof and saw a massive armada of aircraft she immediately identified as UEF Griffon transport planes.
Hawker was still on the ground as more artillery shells burst in the area. Robin knew exactly how he felt, she’d been there before, but didn’t have time to let him be scared.
“Get up, kid! Something is about to happen!” she yelled to him while grabbing onto his shoulder and hoisting him to his feet.
Hawker took a moment and managed to collect himself. He apologized and got his binoculars out and began scanning the horizon repeatedly.
“I can see smoke coming from the strong house, I think it was hit.” he said, continuing to observe the damage to the surrounding area. “Massive smoke plumes coming from our observation zones.”
Robin grabbed the machine-gun from its holding rack and fastened it to the mounting and pointed it inland from their front.
Hawker had climbed halfway out the hatch to get a better look at everything that was happening, but still couldn’t see anything beyond smoke plumes.
“What can you see?” Robin asked, looking up at him.
As he looked down to respond, a shot rang out and the bullet passed clean through Hawkers throat. He flinched slightly, but made no sound. Remaining completely upright, another shot came and hit him in the chest causing him to slump down through the hatch and collapse at Robin's feet.
She couldn’t see the shooters, but began firing the machine-gun to the south where she thought paratroopers might be in their rear. In the corner of her vision, she saw movement in the air. She looked and recognized the shape as a UEF grenade. Without time to react, it exploded short and blew some debris and shrapnel into her face, but she wasn’t wounded badly.
Firing again into the trees, she got no response. Noticing movement on the left towards some farmhouses, she looked and assumed it would just be cattle, but recognized the distinct colour and shape of a green helmet covered with netting, a special trait of UEF paratroopers.
The man was crawling through some tall grass in an attempt to flank the tobruk, but Robin fired a burst at him and watched as his helmet flipped up into the air. The man began thrashing around and kicking as she’d only wounded him, but with another short burst, the movement stopped.
Knowing she was being surrounded, but not by how many men, Robin's heart began to race. Her ears were still ringing from the earlier bombardment, but her eyesight seemed very acute as she continued to scan for the next threat. Not knowing what to do, she had zero way of contacting anyone and her comrade was dead. Deciding to stay in her tobruk, she fired a few more shots into the trees, this time a few shots came back, hitting and deforming, but not penetrating her gun-shield.
Not hearing the approach from all the noise, a man appeared next to her, tumbling through the air. He sprawled on the ground next to the cupola with multiple shots through his chest. It was a man she recognized from the strong house. Looking around, she could see more and more men appearing from the direction of the strong house.
One by one, they were all hit by bullets, knocking them down. One man was hit horribly in the head, losing most of his skull, another hit in the stomach, writhed on the ground thrashing his legs, vomiting. Two men threw themselves down next to the cupola and one was immediately hit in the neck. Robin fired a long burst at the treeline allowing the second man to crawl behind her position.
He was a Lieutenant, though Robin didn’t know him.
“The strong house has fallen! They are pushing up with new types of tanks!” He yelled through the firing slit. “Bring the gun and leave the tobruk!”
Robin could barely hear him due to her ears still ringing.
“You order me to leave the tobruk?!” She yelled back to confirm.
“We are retreating to the fortified line behind this one! We will take the men here, and join with the rest there!” he yelled.
Robin fired a few more bursts to help cover the small stream of friendly soldiers, hitting three UEF paratroopers. After a few more minutes of fighting, all went silent. The lieutenant stood up, making himself a target, but no one fired. Robin was impressed with this demonstration of bravery.
“Now we move!” he yelled to the men.
Robin quickly unclipped the gun and placed a leather transport ring over the barrel to prevent her from burning her hand. Leaving all her gear in the tobruk, she hoisted the gun out and climbed out from the tobruk.
She looked down to Hawker who was still lying dead on the floor one last time and closed the hatch. The handful of men along with Robin and the Lieutenant moved quickly towards the trees. They followed a small pathway through the forest towards the second line of defense when they happened upon the three UEF soldiers Robin had hit.
One of them seemed to move in a way that seemed as though he was about to get up. The lieutenant quickly reacted and shot the man through the back of the head, he also shot the other two to make sure they were dead.
They continued towards the inland bunkers when suddenly the officer cursed loudly. Robin looked around and noticed two of the men were missing, they had deserted.
“They’d prefer to try and be taken prisoner than fight… but the UEF aren’t taking prisoners today. They burned the entire strong house down with flamethrowers with the men still inside. I saw that myself.” The lieutenant said.
Robin wasn’t sure if he’d said that to scare or motivate them, but it did both.
They continued on, the weather was quite warm and Robin was becoming thirsty after carrying the heavy gun and fighting all morning. The officer passed his canteen to her, realizing she’d been forced to abandon hers at the tobruk.
She thankfully took the canteen and took a massive gulp, recoiling and coughing as she finished. The water was mixed heavily with alcohol and it was incredibly shocking. But also very refreshing. She thanked the lieutenant and passed the canteen back to him, thinking what a funny contradiction he was to the model NAU officer.
They entered a low area where the land had been flooded by a semi rerouted river that covered about two square kilometres, the second line was just beyond it. The wooden walkway they’d typically used to cross it was bombed and burning which meant they’d have to go the long way around the flooded zone.
After many hours of avoiding strafing aircraft and slowly making their way through the marshland, they’d finally reached their second line of defense.
The defensive line they’d reached consisted of three massive concrete blockhouses all fitted with anti-tank cannons , and slit trenches in front, crowded with infantry that had retreated. A single towed anti-air cannon also sat behind the central bunker adding a little more comfort to the troops that had made it there alive.
The bunkers were well camouflaged and had a good field of fire over the flooded zone and surrounding areas. Robin felt confident that the position was more than strong enough to hold off an enemy attack for some time. She mounted her mg in one of the firing slits and waited.