The colonel, however, was already working on that. Seeing how the Primiad were shifting in front of them, van Joss could tell the tactic with the archers and pike men was paying off. Weakened by the repeated volleys of arrows and strained by the hard push with the pikes, the encirclement against the western section of the formation was starting to fail. Judging by how the soldiers were starting to bunch up against His position, the captain was close to breaking through.
That, of course, put even more pressure on his rear guard. While he doubted the Primiad commanders had managed to figure out his stratagem, the soldiers on the ground were reacting as expected. In an effort to maintain the encirclement, the line to the north, south and east were attempting to shift along with the east as it was pushed back.
It then fell on van Joss and the three squads of veteran soldiers the captain sent him, to make sure they couldn't shift by keeping the east pinned down. The resulting pressure would hopefully result in the Primiad line rupturing at the pressure points, preferably the west point, to allow for his beleaguered company to break through and make a run for the alliance fort.
It was a fairly sound stratagem that could only be countered by reinforcing the line surrounding with additional troops. Which then brought up the question: how many soldiers was Ran willing to sacrifice to destroy a single company of humans? So far the answer was starting to push towards a thousand as the counterattack made the Primiad casualties multiply.
These thoughts skittered across van Joss's mind as he worked to add to the monkeys' casualty count, weaving in and out of the two clashing lines like an avenging wraith, putting his daggers into anything that wasn't human. Whether he faced the enemy soldier, or came at them from either the sides or behind, it didn't matter to the wiry operative. This wasn't a fight between equals, where honor and rules of engagement were adhered to.
This was an all-out fight for survival. If surviving meant stabbing an enemy soldier in the back, van Joss would stab two. One did what they had to, to survive. It was a harsh lesson all humans had learned quite early in the reshaped world that was Earth after the Great Burn. And van Joss was forced to put into action the survival lessons he had learned during his sojourn as an operative and while he waited in that hole, cloaked in damp and shadow, for a chance to change his fate.
There was also one thing that hole had taught him that no scroll on how to find roots to eat, or how to recognize clean drinking water, could. That thing was this: duty made hard decisions easy but it couldn't keep you alive like hate could.
Hate had kept him alive all those long years in that hole; hate for the man that betrayed him, the woman who benefited from his fall and the nation that created laws that allowed it to stand by and watch him rot. Except he hadn't rotted, hadn't died in the darkness and filth of his prison. He had taken that hatred and used it like a forging fire, burning away the last of his weaknesses and recreating himself as something stronger and more determined.
And now, having traveled two continents and sailed an ocean for his mission to save not just Gideon but the entire Fisted world, he had become something less than human, cold and calculating. Yet he was also more, driven beyond the physical limitations of his flesh to achieve his goals and given a wondrous gift by creatures of legend to enable him to accomplish the impossible.
No, he was no longer human. He was something else.
He was van Joss.
The pressure against the woefully thin human line exponentially climbed as, with their emperor shrieking in the background, the Primiad hurled themselves almost frantically at them. Grimacing at seeing that, van Joss quickly dispatched the handful of enemy soldiers that found themselves surrounding the grim operative before he slid through the tumult and back behind his line.
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Hand Over FistScience Fiction
Like a phoenix, they arose. From the ashes of a world burnt by massive nuclear holocaust and frozen by a millennia of nuclear winter. They are the Fisted Races and they struggle against the tattered remnant of Humanity for what little resources ar...