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Blood Red Steel

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Blurb

Blood alone decides the fate of Mars

 

For two years, the Mars Expeditionary Force has held the line against the last remnants of the Third Reich. McCabe, Jenkins, and the Second Battalion long for home. Reinforcements have arrived, but the veterans of the MEF have one final mission. Defend Forward Base Zulu at all costs.

 

While Generalfeldmarschall Brandt plans a decisive showdown at Forward Base Zulu, Reichsführer Wagner celebrates the activation of the first generation of the Hollow Programme. Surrounded and cut off, McCabe and Jenkins once again find themselves in league with the MAJESTIC-12 operatives known as the Black Visors. Now the future hinges on the sacrifices of a few determined soldiers.

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PART 1:-1
STROLLING PAST THE CUTLINE OUTSIDE NEW BERLIN COLONY, MARS 18th MARCH 1956 08:58 MST (MARS STANDARD TIME) DAY 727 OF THE OCCUPATION 23 DAYS UNTIL THE FIRST TERRAN – MARTIAN WAR Four hundred eighty-eight men of the Second Battalion waited beyond the gates of New Berlin, on soil where their brethren had died two years earlier. They each stood at attention, staring at the vast, dented main entrance to the colony. Lieutenant William McCabe lingered in a line at the front, the surviving lieutenants and acting captains to either side. Their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel “Mad Jack” Wellesley, faced the unopened doors. He slid his sword free and held the blade aloft. “Strike banners!” McCabe, officers, and NCOs repeated the order. A line of men behind Mad Jack reacted. In well-practised motions, they hoisted the colours of their nations high, but without any wind, the flags flopped. After eight months of hunting werewolf units and ambushing Wehrmacht forces across the barren Martian terrain, McCabe had hoped for even a light breeze to see the British flag flutter in all its glory. He gazed across the French, Polish, Soviet, West German, and Irish flags representing the make-up of the battalion and imagined the scene of the banners fluttering at full strength. “Raise the standard!” Mad Jack said, and again, his order echoed. One soldier stepped forward from the line and hoisted a pole with a wolfskin dangling from it. Macabre as the spectacle appeared, their wolfskin standard had become a rallying point for the beleaguered battalion after months of death and destruction. They’d liberated it from an SS bunker out in the Badlands at the start of their mission, and it seemed fitting for their operation. Since tasked with hunting and exterminating the werewolf terrorists fuelling the insurrections across the colonies, they branded themselves wolf hunters. “Battalion, prepare to march. March!” As one, four hundred eighty-eight feet thudded on the blood-red sand. The reinforced doors to New Berlin lumbered open. McCabe took a deep breath, fighting the growing tightness in his chest. The strange, light-headed dizziness that seized him from time to time seeped into his skull. Focusing on his breathing, he maintained his gaze on the opening doors ahead. Jenkins cleared his throat across the open common channel and prepared to sing the battalion anthem. “Oh, King Ares wades in blood to his knees, a warrior is he.” A momentary pause before the battalion repeated his words in a thundering, unified voice. “Oh, King Ares wades in blood to his knees, a warrior is he.” Oh, King Ares wades in blood to his knees, a warrior is he.“He calls for his knife, he calls for his rifle, he calls for the Second Batt infantry.” “He calls for his knife, he calls for his rifle, he calls for the Second Batt infantry.” He calls for his knife, he calls for his rifle, he calls for the Second Batt infantry“New Berlin is ours, says the colonel!” “New Berlin is ours, says the colonel!” New Berlin is ours, says the colonel!“It’s raining lead, say the captains.” “It’s raining lead…” It’s raining leadThe tightness in McCabe’s chest intensified when they entered the tunnel leading to the airlocks into the colony. His hands shook in the strange involuntary way they did at random intervals. He could hear his heart pounding but knew if he checked his pulse, everything would be fine. Sounds of gunfire, explosions, and screaming rattled through his skull. “First o’er the top, say the louies.” “First o’er…” First o’erThe main entrance slammed shut behind the battalion, and the first armoured airlock door rose. Two years ago, McCabe had led an assault on the command station above, seizing control of it with the mysterious Black Visors. Three days of brutal fighting in the Battle of New Berlin preceded an unimaginable cycle of violence, costing him the lives of countless good men. Images of butchered Nazis and his own slaughtered soldiers danced across his vision. He tightened his grip on the butt of his Lee-Enfield to ease the trembling in his fingers. “Don’t get paid to slack, says sar’nt major.” “Don’t get…” Don’t getShame filled McCabe when the dizziness blurred his eyesight. His lads relied on him to be their strength, yet his own body betrayed him. He experienced fear in battle like many men, but it never engulfed him. Why now? Why when no shots erupted, with none of his soldiers dying, could he hear those awful screams? “Fix bayonets, says the colour.” “Fix bayonets…” Fix bayonetsThe airlock door thumped down behind the marching battalion, leaving one more between them and the colony. McCabe fought to reassert control before they entered. Thoughts of losing command of himself, of collapsing in front of his men without any physical wound, mortified him. They’d never look at him the same way again. As one of Her Majesty’s soldiers, he needed to pull himself together and act like it. “Boots, one size fits all, says the BQ.” “Boots, one size…” Boots, one sizeSharp pain ate into his torso, and everyone carried on marching. McCabe concentrated on the airlock door, knowing the phantom shrapnel pieces paining him weren’t real, and fought the sensations telling him otherwise. If he sustained such an injury again, he knew he wouldn’t be capable of walking, so he kept his gaze fixed and refused to look down at his undamaged EVA suit. Faces of snarling Nazis trying to stab him crossed his thoughts, each one long dead. Sweat dripped across his brow. The dying called his name. “Kill them all, say the sergeants.” “Kill them all…” Kill them allBodies slumped across the Martian landscape, friend and foe alike. McCabe battered a Nazi soldier’s helmet in with a rock and let the bastard suffocate. Enemy artillery pounded the soil, sending columns of copper dirt high into the sky. Pieces of metal burst through EVA suits. Wails rang out as McCabe crawled, no ammo left, with only a knife. A figure emerged from the shadows, g*n raised, and he stabbed. “Should have been a vet, say the corporals.” “Should have…” Should haveThe final airlock rose. Scenes of the devastated colony beckoned. When the SS surrendered, many thought the worst of it was over, just a matter of hanging on until reinforcements arrived. The insurgency took its toll. Civilians on both sides armed themselves, spreading strife and disruption across the colonies, and the werewolves launched suicidal attacks on the Mars Expeditionary Force. The Wehrmacht cut supply and communication lines, the perpetual thorn in the side of the victorious Allies. “Booze, booze, booze, say the privates.” “Booze, booze, booze…” Booze, booze, boozeAt knee height, light flooded in from under the airlock, golden and blinding. McCabe blinked from the sudden brightness, fighting the urge to rip his helmet off in the hope the fresh air could steady his nerves. “For warriors are we.” “For warriors are we.” For warriors are we“They stop and stare. Fall dead right there. Facing Second Batt infantry, aha.” “They stop and stare. Fall dead right there. Facing Second Batt infantry, aha.” They stop and stare. Fall dead right there. Facing Second Batt infantry, ahaTwo columns of soldiers lined the street ahead, dressed in red and black khaki uniforms, rifles with bayonets attached raised in salute, all standing at attention. When Mad Jack placed his foot on the concrete ground of New Berlin, flags rose high, fluttering in the artificial wind. Music rang out from somewhere. Newly arrived civilian scientists, engineers, and bureaucrats waved banners from apartments and houses. Fresh paint covered once battle-scarred buildings. No piles of rubble anywhere. On Mad Jack’s order, the battalion came to a halt in front of a stage. Flanked by senior officers and representatives of the Jewish communities, Major General Hamilton stood behind a podium and accepted Mad Jack’s salute. After impromptu cheers from the gathering civilians, the leader of all Allied Forces in New Berlin broke into a long-winded speech, emphasising the virtues of their work and the long struggle ahead. The words meant nothing to McCabe. His body finally obeying him, he focused his thoughts on the one thing that had kept him going for so long. Home. After two b****y years of non-stop fighting, they were going home. The reinforcements who had arrived five months earlier were several times the number of the original invasion force. It was the Mars Occupation Force’s time. In a couple of days, Lieutenant William McCabe and the Mars Expeditionary Force would be going home, and that’s all that mattered. BARRACKS SECTION, COMMAND AND CONTROL BUILDING, NEW BERLIN 21:59 MST DAY 731 (-19 DAYS) Corporal Peter Jenkins sat on his bunk polishing his boots. Every so often, he glanced at the Lee-Enfield perched against the locker, well within hand’s reach. Even though they resided in the barracks, surrounded by reinforced walls of concrete and steel and protected by layers of armed soldiers, the sight of his trusty rifle relieved him. Having narrowly survived the Battle of New Berlin as a private, he had learned to keep his g*n close. Out in the field, his weapon and his wits kept him alive. In many ways, it had become an extension of his person. To not have the strap dangling around his neck almost felt like he was missing a hand. But he rested in barracks, safe. After eight months of stalking the Martian wastes, he needed to adapt to setting his weapon down from time to time. Still, it reassured him to check it hadn’t grown a pair of legs and walked off. Fidgeting on his mattress to get comfortable, he felt cold steel pressed against the small of his back while he wiped the polish. The handle of the blade he had taken from the Nazi soldier he killed during the Battle of New Berlin prodded him every time he shifted his weight. He didn’t mind, though. Most soldiers preferred to wear their captured German knives and guns on their belts for all to see. Jenkins favoured keeping his concealed. Not out of shame or regret, but as a constant reminder of the things he did. The actions he committed were his and his alone. When he returned home, back to Bristol, he planned to take every memory from the accursed war, place it in a box in his mind, and throw away the key. “Drink.” The sudden utterance from the darkened bed beside his caused Jenkins to drop his brush and boot. Shaking himself back to reality, he reached out a hand, took the shot glass filled with vodka, and threw the contents down his throat. It burned as it worked its way down his gullet, but the taste was starting to grow on him. Not that he’d been much of a drinker prior to arriving on Mars. He replaced the glass on the table and glanced at Sergeant Boris Alexeev sitting bolt upright on his bunk, empty glass in hand, staring unblinkingly at the far wall. Alexeev picked up his bottle of vodka, filled Jenkins’s glass before his own, and returned to staring at the wall. Whenever Jenkins glanced at his expressionless face, he could almost hear the rattle of machine g*n fire emanating from Alexeev’s skull. Those eyes saw past the concrete, across time and space, replaying battles that would most likely never be written in history books. Inspiration took him, and Jenkins quickly snatched his notebook and pencil from his trousers pocket. Although they had little free time out in the field, he had made it a point of jotting down everything he could about his experiences on Mars. Admittedly, he’d never possessed much of a head for schooling, but with each passing day, he grew more tempted to turn those notes into a memoir. He jotted down the titles floating in his mind: How to Hunt Werewolves on the Red Planet and Red Werewolf Hunters. Both sounded catchy, but while he mulled it over, he returned his notebook to his pocket.

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