A soldier walked in the snowy woods. That was how it began.
She was clearly a soldier; the way she walked, carried her weapon, scanned all quarters of the area she stalked, those things said it all. She was moving ahead of her unit to scout, and what she found was pristine snow all around her. The area appeared to be clear.
Her mistake was in that expectation. Long days in the rough, freezing most of the time and eating rations that left everything to be desired had left her...not impatient, I suppose, but willing to take the evidence in front of her at face value.
I know these things because other scouts watched her. Granted, some of that is speculation. Seems reasonable enough considering the outcome.
The soldier spoke softly into a radio pickup pinned to her lapel, giving the all-clear for the massive column of troops, vehicles, and heavy weaponry to follow. The idea was to swing widely north and angle onto an obscure service road that she and her compatriots weren't supposed to know about. It was far back from the main roads and clear, used by the locals as a means to get to the distant highway quickly and safely. Going twenty miles out of the way to attack a community was fairly good planning.
The westerners planned better.
Every UAS soldier and conscript in that column was on the road when the allied western forces struck. The trap wasn't complicated--though it did take a lot of preparation and work--but it worked. All down the road, stretched along two hundred yards, the UAS forces were hit all at once. Explosives planted in the road were triggered right along with dozens of charges prepared and set against trees weakened just right so they'd fall onto the soldiers. Big trees, old and spreading wide against the sky.
From hiding places set fifty yards back into the woods, the western allies moved toward the chaos. Most of these weren't front-line fighters; they were those without much in the way of armed combat skills. They were farmers and craftsmen, but not afraid to defend themselves. In groups of three they took positions fifty feet from the road, using homemade slingshots held between two people to lob firebombs into the crowded soldiers on the road. Others launched fragile packages of thermite or pure magnesium powder. These were meant to set the fallen trees on fire, but mostly to distract. To dazzle.
It was the main allied forces, bolstered by Ketill and his dragoons, that did the deed itself. Split into two large groups and two smaller ones, five hundred men and women backed by heavy weapons descended on that column from both ends of the road. Machine-gun chatter, rocket-propelled grenades making their deafening entrance, even improvised weapons joined the fray. The two large elements at each end of the column's position, having stayed far back on carefully camouflaged paths, shot forward to attack just as the road and trees exploded. Those large groups took heavy losses, but they held. They kept the UAS from getting free of the trap.
The smaller ancillary units darted along the sides to kill any UAS soldier that happened to move that way, as well as to defend the men and women who had run forward initially to rain liquid metal death down on the enemy.
Yes, our own people--Ketill and his group--were in on this. There will be consequences. Of course, we had to lie about where Ketill was and what his group was doing, but that's for another time. Tomorrow I'll tell you about the rest of the battle, of the break the UAS found in the surrounding forces and what that meant for the enemy.
For now it should be enough to know that the critical moment has come. We are no longer safe.
None of us.