Here’s another taste of the Zaftan Troubles. It’s a scene from Combat: Book 3 of the Zaftan Troubles.
MacDrakin, a dwarf miner, has declared war on the Zaftans and sent to his former sergeant-major for help. The sergeant-major and six soldiers join up with MacDrakin. The soldiers go on a training mission and run into the enemy.
Sergeant-Major Franz Richter led his squad of six Nut-busters through the woods on the east side of the Skensfirth River. It was mid-afternoon and hot, even in the shade of the trees. Sweat ran down Richter’s face and his shirt, worn under armor, stuck to his damp back. His body itched from the heavy armor, especially under the piece that covered his back and neck. It was made of iron and covered with a quilted pad. While it had saved him from wounds several times, it was agonizing to wear in the summer.
He had organized the patrol to get his charges and himself back in shape. All had been out of the army for years and the civilian life had left them all with paunches and shortness of breath. A walk in the woods would re-hone their skills and work off some excess weight. One of their atrophied skills was walking through wooded areas without getting the two-foot-long helmet spike caught on branches. From the constant grousing of the men, he knew he was having success with his conditioning plan. They had moved north and east for an hour, practicing stealth movement. He had ordered the Nut-busters to move from a single file to a wedge formation and back until they got the maneuver perfect. Slowly, the old skills reemerged and Richter felt he had accomplished something.
He heard a clanking noise close by. He froze and held up a hand to stop the patrol. Another hand signal had the dwarf warriors squatting behind bracken and trees. Richter moved a branch aside and saw two robots moving northwest. He grinned. This was an ideal situation for an attack. He tapped three Nut-busters on the shoulder and pointed to the rear robot. They nodded. He placed a finger across his lips: no war cries. He tapped the other three and pointed to the lead machine. They acknowledged the assignment.
Richter held up a hand for the troops to wait. When the robots had moved past them into a more favorable attack position, he made a fist and wagged it at the first group. The three Nut-busters stood up, stepped in front of the bracken, lowered their heads until the helmet spike was parallel to the ground and charged. When these dwarfs were halfway to the target, Richter indicated the second group and they charged the lead robot.
The trailing robot turned at the last second, saw the dwarfs and beeped a signal just as three helmet spikes crashed into its body. Before the spikes lifted it off the ground, the robot slammed a metal fist onto the back of one dwarf. The fist rebounded with a metallic clank. That dwarf cackled as the formation drove the robot back ten feet before they all crashed to the ground in a heap of metal and flesh. The dwarfs opened their chin straps, pulled their heads out of the helmets, placed a foot on the robot and yanked their helmets and spikes free.
The second group attacked in the same manner and three spikes punctured the robot’s torso. The spike from the middle warrior hit a transformer and sparks shot up the length of pointed metal rod. The dwarf yelped. His entire body shook from electric shocks.
Richter followed behind to observe and take notes on how to improve the next attack. He saw the twitching body of his Nut-buster, dropped his notebook, grabbed the dwarf’s hips and pulled. The spike came free and Richter ended up on his backside with the dwarf sitting on his lap.
“Get off me,” Richter growled as the dwarf unstrapped and removed his helmet.
“Look at this, Sarge,” the dwarf replied without moving. He pointed to the tip of the spike. Molten steel dribbled down the spike. “Bloody Hell. It’s an inch or two shorter than it was. I gotta sharpen a new point on it.”
“If you don’t get off me, I’m gonna jam the spike up your butt.”
The dwarf stood up and offered a hand to Richter.
“Well done.” Richter looked at his squad. “That felt good, didn’t it?”
“Been a long time, Sarge,” a Nut-buster said, “but it comes right back to you.”
“You gonna find us some more robots?” and other asked.
“Naw. These two was just luck. But MacDrakin? He’s gonna find us a whole mess of targets.”