0021. Cpt. Jane Bradley - Elena Ferroli.

FIRST RIFTS

Captain Jane Bradley sat back in the canvas chair, one of the few pieces of furniture she
had secured for her temporary quarters a few kilometers behind the front. The improvised table,
a stacked pile of munitions crates, sat between her and Lieutenant Harry Church and on it, 2
glasses and a bottle of fine whiskey.
The small canvas room was quiet and calm, unlike the nervous tension across the rest of
the base. Jane and her Lieutenant were part of a very small group who knew why they were
there, so close to the front, but not reenforcing the line. The rest of the soldiers in her company
had been kept in the dark, absolute secrecy was necessary. Rumors were rife throughout the
camp. She had heard men whisper of a new weapon that they were going to be presented with,
or that somehow they had dug a tunnel all the way under the lines. Someone had even
suggested that there was a peace treaty being discussed, but that idea was laughable. This war
had been going for generations, and there was no sign that it would end any time soon.
Unless this strike was successful. Jane didn’t let herself get her hopes up. The lines had
been relatively quiet for the last 6 months, each side dug in, watching their opponents in the
distance across the no-mans-land that currently bordered the two empires. But quiet never
lasted, and tomorrow it would open right up.
She was lead her company across and into enemy lands. Artillery would be starting at
midnight, beating them back and softening for the attack. She had personally checked the
howlers were in position and ready to fire. She wouldn’t be leading her soldiers into a death trap
without backup. But the key difference this time, was the army behind enemy lines. An entire
battalion was positioned behind the enemy lines. It had taken years of work, smuggling people
through back channels, under cover of darkness. It was the biggest act of subterfuge done in
this war, and pure luck that it had somehow not been discovered.
The trick to it all, were these strange new radios, that would bypass the interception of
the enemy. Jane had hers on her at all times, kept off until 0900hrs tomorrow when the events
would start. The scientists had tried to explain it to her, something about bouncing radio waves
outside of space. Jane didn’t have the education to follow along with it, and trying to remember
the details just made her frustrated.
She carefully unstoppered the glass bottle. She had been saving this one for a special
occasion. She carefully poured two glasses and replaced the stopper. It was her second best
whiskey. The best was to be for when they got back safe.
She savoured the smokey flavours and looked across at her quiet drinking buddy. They
never spoke much, they rarely found they needed to after serving together so long. She raised
her glass to her compatriot.
“Ok Harry, to tomorrow, and victory.” she said. A half smile crossed the lieutenant’s face.
“And to bringing the company back home again.” he replied.
The last sip of the glass tasted strangely sweet to the Captain.



Another explosion echoed across the battlefield as another howler round landed. Jane
checked over her metford rifle one more time. The steel barrel shined in the morning light, and
it’s wooden stock comfortable in her hands. Further across she was the armour that would be
accompanying her and her company. A series of Matildas, a small group taking cover behind
each. Captain Adam’s tank was at the lead, the custom armour plates giving it a distinct look
from the rest of his armour. Lieutenant Church was off to one side, calming a few of the junior
soldiers. Jane knew he would keep them safe.
Jane looked down at her timepiece and took a deep breath. 0858hrs. The soldiers
around her noticed her watching, and went quiet, watching the final seconds tick down. By the
last ten seconds the entire camp was silent.
Ten.
Nine.
Eight.
A cold wind whipped at Janes uniform, and a shiver went down her spine.
Six.
Five.
Jane pulled out her new radio, up til this point under top secrecy.
Three.
Her hand rested on the power switch.
One.
Click. The radio buzzed to life.
The enemy lines ahead of Jane grew hazy in front of her eyes, then went blindingly
white. She yelled out to the soldiers and dived behind the nearest tank. Less than a moment
later, a blast of force blasted the prepared forces with a deafening explosion.
Jane blinked as her vision returned. Her ears rung. She slowly dragged herself to her
feet, trying to piece together what had happened, where she was, what was going on?? Slowly
the ringing quietened, and muffled sounds of the world returned. She looked out from behind the
tank that had blocked her from the worst of the explosion. Soldiers who hadn’t taken cover were
strewn across the ground. She saw them slowly coming to their senses and dragging
themselves up from the ground, nursing bruises and scrapes from where they had been thrown
to the ground.
But it was what was beyond them that drew her eyes. Across no man’s land, a moment
before had been the fortifications of the enemy. But now, it was as if some giant had ripped a
page out of the book of reality. An ugly scar seemed to be torn in the entire world. A swirling
mass of purples and blacks rose like a wall in front of her, tearing into the earth, and somehow
even ripping into the sky. She could see the jagged boundaries of her world, and just looking at
them she knew that this was something unnatural. This was wrong. And it had changed
everything.
Directly across from her, something bubbled in the swirling scar. And then slowly she
watched as something took form, as if walking out of a mist. This wasn’t her enemy, or at least
not the enemy she had known and been prepared for. Now standing erect, in front of the
strange mist, was a huge mechanical creation. Humanoid, and made all of strange painted
metal, but huge, the hulking robot marched forward with purpose. She watched as her men
trembled at the strange mechanical beast ambled forwards towards them.
Then her new radio crackled to life. This wasn’t the invasion force or high command
though. It was as if picking up some bizarre interference, like it was sharing a frequency with
some other radio that it couldn’t quite pick up. She couldn’t understand what was being said, but
could hear confused and excited voices through the static. Then the robot stopped. From behind
the curtain obscuring the new edge of her world she saw strange lights burst forth towards the
mechanical man, and then took strange forms, until suddenly, huge guns were bursting from the
robot.
Jane’s morbid fascination suddenly shifted. A giant mechanical figure was one thing, but
a weapon entering the no man’s land, that, she knew how to deal with. She raised her revolver,
bracing it against her off hand. She inhaled and stared down the iron sights of her side arm,
lined up on the head of the machine, exhaled, and gently squeezed the trigger.
She felt the springs stretch for the briefest moment, felt her heart beat, then the sound
she had heard so many times before, the bang of her revolver firing. The bullet raced across the
battlefield and found its mark. A single round wasn’t enough to stop such a machine, but it was
enough to send a message. While machine stopped in reaction to the shot, a round from their
commanding officer brought life back into her company. Battlecries could be heard, and men
began to charge.
From behind the robot though, more things were forming behind the swirling mist. Then
a swarm of tendrils burst forth, darkness lurching across the battlefield. Rifle fire answered, then
the huge booms of tank rounds. This battle was like none Empira had ever fought before. But if
Empira knew anything, it was war, and Empira was ready to answer.