It was easy enough to tell the actual soldiers from the conscripts; the former held tight and barked commands. The latter died much faster as they broke ranks or froze in terror. Nearly half the UAS invaders died in the first ten minutes, but those that were left were the best trained, the most dangerous. It was the remainder that pulled together under incredible danger to rally and take the only shot they had at survival.
Moving their vehicles out of the maelstrom was out of the question. The explosives expert with Ketill had done her job well, laying out a pattern of destruction to make mobility only possible on foot. The idea was to frighten the UAS soldiers into rabbiting, but the hard core of disciplined warriors had other ideas: they couldn't drive out, but the guns in those vehicles still worked just fine.
Fortunately for the westerners and the Dragoons, their spotters saw the mounted guns swivel and take aim. It was one of the possibilities and well planned for. There was a small but obvious gap in the line at the southern flank, the only real weakness to be exploited. Radio transmissions were picked up by our people as the big guns converged on that point, and the allied forces scattered as a volley of overwhelming fire let loose on that spot.
The allied forces called a partial retreat. The Dragoons pulled back into the shattered woods around the weak spot, seeking the cover of the trees. Pressure from the north increased at the same time, pushing the UAS toward the gap. It's fair to say that some of the seasoned veterans on the side of the enemies saw what our people were doing, but didn't have much choice in the matter.
From all accounts, the UAS fought bravely. It may surprise you to hear me say it, but the truth is not something to shy away from. Though our people and theirs were and are enemies, there is no shame in saying what was clear for anyone to see. Every battle has at least two sides and points of view. That theirs opposed ours doesn't change the fact that in the heat of battle, the remaining soldiers fought on for what they believed. They held dear to life for every moment they could.
A quarter of those brave soldiers actually made it through the gap. A handful remained to cover their retreat in the vehicles. Again, I'm certain some of them knew it was a setup, but the only other option was to try to fight their way through ranks of soldiers.
Though there was snow all around, the morning itself was mild. In fact, the previous day was very, very warm. And all the human activity in the area made it worth the while of the local undead to rise from their creches and see what all the warm blooded humans were doing. The narrow strip of dense woods the escaping UAS soldiers ran to--were herded into, to be frank--was the last trap we had waiting for them. Four dozen undead including sixteen New Breed waited there, held in place not by chains or rope but by the deterring smell of ammonia all around them and the fresh corpses of ten deer.
I wonder if any of those brave soldiers smelled the end coming. That sharp chemical aroma might have triggered something in their heads. Then again, maybe not. No one knows if the UAS has used the same methods we have to control the undead since they came out of their holes. We do know that six or seven of the UAS forces managed to escape that trap. With any luck half of that handful made their way to the nearest UAS outpost a hundred miles distant. I expect they did. Despite their origin, those men and women were survivors in the nest senses of the word.
We let them go. Oh, yes, there were shooters in the trees and flying companies patrolling all over. The allied forces could have easily killed those last few and left the UAS to wonder what had become of one of their three major assault forces. I could have refrained from writing these posts and maybe stretched this peaceful time out for longer.
No. We want you to know the truth. Friend and enemy alike. If you are with us, you now understand the lengths we will go to in your defense. The allied forces lost three hundred lives in this battle. Three hundred out of a combined population--Union and western groups--of better than sixty thousand.
If you are our enemy, then remember this fight. When your surviving soldiers recount the horrors of it to you, understand that this is not the worst we can do; it is the very least. There are reasons several of our allies haven't been talked about lately. A low profile is best when you're on a war footing. Now isn't the time to get into the details, I have next week for that. But we are ready for anything you have to throw at us. We are prepared for war, in materiel and in heart.