The two guards lounging idly in the left hand stone trench stretched and looked across the narrow band of black road at the other two guards, it was just another night of fruitless guard duty, this duty was given to all those who upset the leader Lion Claw, sometimes it was only for a single dark and a dei but, if you really got on his wrong side it could be, such as now, a full seven or ten deis and darks, this was their fifth dark and they were bored with the useless duty, there was nothing in this world that would dare to attack a large Reneg camp, and definitely not the camp of Lion Claw.
The time was late when the two guards felt the first strange vibration under their butts as they sat with their backs against the stone wall, it was at first only a small movement in the ground, as they sat and tried to listen for anything in the darkness, the vibration got steadily stronger until it could be easily felt through the body.
The rumbling sound was like nothing they had ever experienced, far away in the dark they could also hear a very unusual growling, it was almost as though a giant animal was coming their way, the two guards, along with their friends in the opposite trench, sat up to try and peer into the darkness surrounding them, the harder they searched the less they saw, slowly at first, the rumbling started to decrease and then the vibrations also disappeared, the surrounding dark settled back into silence and the ground stopped its movement, perhaps it was just one of the rare land movements that happened from time to time or the falling of rocks from the nearby hills, the guards relaxed back to their sitting position and began to wish for the light of a new dei to arrive so they could eat and sleep.
It was the sudden bright flashes of six flames that brought the guards to their feet once again, it looked as though the flames were a long way away, just as their eyes got used to the dark again a strange whistling sound above their heads was heard, it was followed by a thunderous eruption of sound in the camp behind them as six huge fountains of flame and stone flew into the air in the middle of the encampment, the roaring thunder from these fountains rolled around the darkness filling their ears with a sound they had never heard before but had been told about by the few survivors of battles with the boys from the wastes, the four guards began to shake with fear as six more whistles were heard above their trenches.
Time after time the high pitched whistles were heard along with an almost continuous thunder from the encampment, this was now mixed with screams of the injured and dying Renegs that had been caught asleep, the wild neighing of the Haws and the thunder of the hooves as they tried to escape from the horrors from the sky upset the four guards even more, their once safe and secure camp was now a charnel house of blood and screams in the darkness.
It was fear that made one of the guards raise his head to look at where the flashes of fire were coming from, his friend heard him grunt as he slid down to sit once again, it took a moment before the other guard could make out the small round hole in his forehead and the thin trickle of blood from this new third eye, he had heard nothing amid the loud noises of the invading fire.
Quickly the remaining guard reached for his crossbow, as he turned towards the other trench he caught the vague outline of three boys dressed in strange clothes standing over the trench, he lifted his crossbow to take aim and then heard a soft cough behind him, turning his head to the side he saw another three boys standing above him and looking down, all three had some weird small black pipe grasped in their hands pointing directly at his head, they also had some funny looking things over their eyes.
Thoughts flew through his head as he tried to reason out what had happened, how could these boys see him and his fellow guards in the dark of night? How had they been able to move so close without being seen or stepping on the loose rocks around the trenches? They had made no sound and had seemed to have no trouble moving in the darkness, there was too much confusion in his head as these last thoughts ran through his mind, it was the last thing he thought of as a bright flash came from one of the boys hands and something hit him in the head with the force of a Haws hoof, and all was blackness.
Modou reached up to his com unit and reported the situation.
"Scout one to control."
"Control, go ahead scout one."
"Guards silenced, you can stop firing now and advance to the entrance."
"Ok, scout one, on our way."
The heavy firing ceased and the surrounding wastes and hills became silent except for the continuous screams of the injured below them in the now burning camp, Modou could faintly see the running dark figures in the flickering light of the many fires started by the tanks shells, the loud shouting of men giving orders could be heard above the tumultuous crackling of the fires and the screams of the wounded and dying.
Modou waited patiently with his small scout group as they heard the heavy rumbling of the tanks moving down from the heights above the roadway, the slightly higher pitched whine of the trucks could also be heard as they followed the tanks downwards, every boy had his NV glasses on and was carefully scanning the ground before them as they waited for their reinforcements to arrive, they had holstered their side-arms and were now holding their rifles with confident hands, they knew that the real fight was still to come, the Renegs would not give up their camp without a fight, this was to be a decisive battle, both the boys and the Renegs would know this when the time came.
Modou could see through his NV glasses, the layout of the camp, where the single road went into the camp area it then split into three smaller tracks that were lined on each side with rough stone huts or old buildings that had the stone caves of the ancients, many of these were now smoking ruins but there were still a lot of them standing or at least able to be used as cover for the Renegs that were left, in his greenish vision, Modou could also see the still figures strewn along the three tracks of those that had been unlucky enough to be caught in the firing of the tanks big guns.
They had taken a big toll of the Renegs with the tanks guns but there were still many left, Modou put his sharp mind to work as he waited for the trucks to arrive with the rest of the attacking force, his friend Mita was on the other side of the camp where he could look down from the surrounding heights with his small group of sniper boys, they would work on the Reneges from their rear and cause more confusion in the ranks ahead.
Elios sat in his office with all of the screens turned on along the back wall, he was able to use the satellites to get night pictures and watch the attack, he desperately wanted to be there with his boy friend but was told to stay at the bunker and watch over the larger picture, the office behind him was also full of other bunker boys watching the attack through the miracle of the ancients technology, most of the boys left behind were those that had not had time to be trained fully for such an adventure.
Modou watched carefully as some sort of order began to make itself known in the fire lit camp, he then heard the trucks pull up and stop not far behind him, within minutes they were unloading the boys from the back and the many young figures began to take up their positions in their individual squads, every boy was armed with a rifle and side-arm as well as wearing the small NV glasses over their eyes, on their chests were the harnesses to carry the extra ammunition and under the harnesses were the heavy vests that the ancients said could stop the crossbow bolts from killing them.
Modou looked around as he held the shoulders of his two cabines that still refused to leave without him, the twins were armed like all the others but seemed to be more worried about protecting Modou than anything else, slowly Modou had the squad leaders spread their boys out in staggered lines like Elios had worked out, they were going to go into the town in something Elios called "Leap Frogging" it was a design that the ancients used when going into places of danger, a number of squads would go a little way forward while the rest kept watch, the ones in front would then lay down and keep watch as others came up to and then past them for a short distance further.
Elios had explained how it would work in the close confines of the camp as long as each squad did it exactly right, everyone that night knew there were going to be those who would not be alive in the morning and every boy hoped they would not be one of the unlucky ones and yet they still would not have been anywhere else, it was the first time in any of their known history where the boys had been able to fight back.
Modou gave the signal for the first squads to start moving forward, they had estimated that they could go forward about 10 of the new metres before taking cover and calling the next squad to them who would then go past for another 10 metres and wait, when they got to the three tracks they would split up into three sections and continue to use the same system, no squad moved forward until they could see no Renegs ahead of them and the ground forward was safe to run through.
As the first group of squads got to their first cover, Modou became aware of the swishing sound of crossbow bolts coming from the dark ahead of them, the Renegs had formed up their defences, Modou quietly spoke into his com unit so every boy could hear on the open channel which had been selected by Elios so everyone could hear at the same time, the command channel was different and could only be heard by the group leaders.
It didn't take long before the sharp crack of the rifles began, the boys with their NV glasses could make out the Renegs more easily although it still took a little to get used to seeing everything in a greenish yellow light, the forward squads went about their task as they had been taught, there was no wild firing into the dark, each boy waited until he could see a clear target and then fire, this effect, although it made a slower rate of fire, was soon showing effective as the number of crossbow bolts slackened and then stopped.
The next group of squads got ready to go forward to their next place, just as they reached the new position, the crossbows started firing again and the same system was begun, in the darkness the Renegs could only make out fleeting movements from the residue of the fires from the thunderous attack earlier, they were still confused as to how their attackers could see then so easily in the dark and the use of the black sticks was a big disadvantage to the defenders.
The boys just kept working their way forward in slowly forming groups that seemed to go forward and then stop while others came from behind and went further forward, to the Renegs it was like the waves of the ocean that just kept coming at them and each time they moved forward, the Renegs lost more men but unknown to the Renegs, worse was yet to come.
As the lines of boys arrived at the junction of the three roads they could see the heavy barricades set up by the Renegs, from side to side of each narrow street were piles of rocks and other detritus from around the area, behind the hastily built defences were large numbers of Renegs armed with crossbows, long heavy spears and slings, the boys slowed and looked carefully at the barricades, it was something like this that could cause a lot of casualties.
The defenders saw that the lines of boys had stopped and began to taunt them in the hope of getting their attackers out in the open, surrounded by the heavy barricade the Renegs felt they finally had the upper hand, even with the ancient weapons the boys had, they would still be easier targets as they crossed the open ground to attack the entrenched defenders.
Modou looked over the barrier and then clicked on his com unit.
"Scout one to Elvan?"
"Elvan to Scout one."
"We need some help up here; they've made a defence wall that could cause us some problems if we attack it over open ground."
"Ok Scout one, I'm on the way."
Modou called to some of his boys and relayed the message, quickly all the boys in the attack line went to ground and took cover; they fired only at targets that showed themselves over the top of the wall, this, while not always a killing shot, was enough to keep the Renegs focused on the hidden boys.
For the next five minutes the odd sound of a rifle could be heard along the junction of the three streets, the answering bolts and missiles from the defenders were silent but could be seen by those who stayed hidden in the rubble and odd remains of the buildings, the sound of a deep rumbling was the first notice to the Renegs that something was not right as the ground began to shake and tremble in the early morning heat.
It had taken six hours of hard fighting to get to this junction and the boys were starting to feel the effects of the long battle, for most it was only sheer determination and their hatred of the Reneg that kept them going, they now felt a sense of relief as they also felt and heard the tanks coming towards them, so far their losses had been light considering the enemy they were facing, there had been only four boys killed and fifteen injured in the attack so far, the losses to the Reneges were far greater but there were still many of them left and a long way to go before they had cleaned out this nest of theirs.
Modou looked up and back from where he was crouched behind a pile of rocks, the long barrel of the tank gun was just coming around the turn further back along the already cleared part of the road, its rumbling engine and the vibration of the metal tracks on the hard ground could now be felt by everybody at the junction.
At the first sight of the huge and threatening machine, the Renegs had their first real feeling of fear, this strange and ancient machine was like a bad dream from the worst place in their minds, it rumbled around the corner and almost appeared to be breathing smoke from its rear, as they watched in horror, a small part on top began to turn around until the long metal pipe at the front was looking right at them.
From a smaller pipe under the big one, a loud crackling sound accompanied the sight of fire spitting from the small hole, immediately the stones and rocks around the defenders began to erupt in small geysers of dust and whining hornets, the Renegs that didn't duck behind the walls were shattered by the hail of small missiles, now there was true fear in the eyes of the Renegs.
As the small pipe stopped spitting out its hail of death the Renegs almost breathed a sigh of relief, it was short lived as they next heard a booming sound from the machine, those that had been brave enough to try to look over the top of the stone wall saw only a bright flash of flame and smoke from the larger pipe before their protected world came crashing down around the heads, five more times the tank belched its death until the once strong defensive walls were no more than broken piles of rubble, the screams of the injured and terrified Renegs could be heard by the boys still hidden in the outer rubble.
At a signal from Modou, the boys rose and began to move forward again in their leapfrog system of advance, after the mayhem of the tank, their job now was no more than a mop up of any defenders who thought they could stay and fight, Modou called Elvan again and now, as each group of squads split up and went down each of the three narrow streets, a single tank followed them in case there were more defence walls.
For the boys advancing along the narrow streets it was no picnic, each and every place that a Reneg could hide had to be looked into and cleared, it was a slow and dangerous business and only the back up of the huge tank gave them some sense of safety, while the fighting was light, there were still some Renegs who wanted to stay and take as many of the boys as possible, again there were losses although they were not as bad as they thought it would be due to the thick vests the boys wore.
Close to the middle of the day, when the sun was high and heat almost overbearing, Elios called all the commanders and told them to stop and rest, their efforts during the night and all morning had now forced the remaining Renegs into a small central circle of defences, from the heights above, Mita and his sniper boys took any chance to thin the numbers as the Renegs showed themselves anywhere in the circle of buildings and ruins.
Modou had his boys pull back slightly and, after setting out guards the others took the chance to eat and rest their weary and tired bodies, the attack had been a lot more difficult than they had first thought it would be but Lion Claw was still out there, and still very dangerous, although his numbers were now decimated he still had enough men to cause trouble, Elios and all the other boys knew they would have to totally destroy this nest if they were to have any peace in the future.
With the use of a number of heavy trucks, Elios sent up fresh water and hot food for the attacking troops, Mita and his boys kept up their sniping whenever there was an opportunity to keep the Renegs on the alert and to stop any ideas of counter attacking the resting boys, as the sun rose higher and the boys felt better rested, Modou gave the order to move onward.
Again and again the boys had to take cover as the defence got stronger, they were now approaching the centre of the Reneg camp, the resistance had grown stronger as they pushed the survivors further and further back, while the boys had the distinctive advantage of their weapons, the Renegs had their local knowledge and pre prepared positions.
In the close quarter fighting the number of killed and wounded boys had grown although not as high as the losses suffered by their enemy, the use of the tanks had been limited by the closeness of the enemy, sometimes there was little more than a few metres between the fighters and it was at times like this that the weapons of the boys became an advantage as their side arms, although not as accurate, were far more effective than the slowness of reloading a crossbow, in all instances, the boys avoided hand to hand fighting, they were smaller and weaker than the fully grown adult Renegs and would stand no chance so they tried to keep their distance.
As the sun sank towards the horizon and darkness got closer, the Renegs had finally been pushed back into a small square of old buildings, it was their last stronghold and the boys were now completely surrounding them, the continuous attack from all sides had not only demoralised the Reneg but had cut his numbers down to only a few dozen of the hardiest and most dangerous ones including Lion Claw.
Modou, Elios, Mita and Elvan along with the squad leaders, began a conference over the com units, the Reneg were completely surrounded and at their mercy, it was now time to end it once and for all, as Modou and Mita described the last defensive buildings and how they were set out, Elios suggested bringing all six of the tanks in and levelling the area, the boys would only keep a tight circle around the outer limits to prevent any escapes, the others agreed and Modou gave the order for Elvan to bring up all six tanks and begin the final stage of the attack.
As the heavy tanks moved into position, some of the adrenaline in the boys began to dissipate, their bodies were tired and felt heavy, the smell of blood in the confines of the camp was also heavy in the air and the soft evening breeze pushed the smoke of fires and the dust of crumbled buildings out into the barren streets, covering everything in the after stink of battle, already flies buzzed around the many corpses of those fallen in the fight.
All the bodies around the camp were those of the Reneg, any boys who had been hurt or killed had been quickly removed by those following up in the trucks, the wounded were given help by the few boys that knew a little about first aid they had learnt from the computer modules back in Home Bunker, the one thing that the first aid boys noticed was that the crossbow bolts were cleaner than what a bullet did and therefore a little easier to remove and bandage, any Reneg hit by a bullet had little or no chance, it was the one small thing in the day long battle that the boys were thankful for.
The six tanks took up position around the four sides of the last defensive buildings, at a signal from Elvan they began a piece by piece destruction of the defenders and their small fortifications, the noise was deafening and the smoke haze from the cannon began to swirl around the scene, shell after shell buried deep into the old buildings and soon they started to collapse in on themselves as the fire continued to pour in, most of the boys guarding the outer areas covered their ears from the loud crashing reports, from the Renegs there was nothing but screams and curses that could faintly be heard over the loud explosions.
Just before dark the tanks ceased fire, the sudden stillness and silence after the barrage was almost like a god send, if they had a god, in the stillness the sound of moans and curses could be heard from the few Reneg that had survived the terrible pounding although none had entirely escaped, those that were left were all in some way injured either physically or now mentally, the continuous crashing of the guns had sent a few into a state of shock that they could only stare wide eyed at the destruction of everything they ever knew, the once powerful and deadly terrors of the wastes were now reduced to hollow skeletons of their former selves.
The boys moved in on the last Renegs left in the ruins, there was no fight left in the Renegs now apart from Lion Claw, as the boys dispatched those last Renegs, they looked up at where Lion Claw stood on a pile of stones, in his hand he held a long knife and dared the boys to come and finish him, from his forehead a thin line of blood oozed from a deep gash, his other arm hung uselessly by his side and there was blood seeping from another gash on his leg but, he stood there in defiance as he railed at the boys and their lack of manhood.
Modou moved forward and stood below the slight rise of rocks where Lion Claw stood, from somewhere under his voluminous white robe, Modou pulled a long knife, it glistened in the last rays of the dying sun as he stepped towards Lion Claw, his face set in a scowl of determination, to the surprise of the boys watching, Modou suddenly jumped the last few metres of space and, with a strong fast swing of the long knife, smashed the shorter knife from the remaining hand of lion Claw.
As the knife fell from the unfeeling fingers of Lion Claw, Modou gave the signal to attack the man, ten boys jumped at the Reneg leader and, after shouts, grunts and even the odd scream of pain, Lion Claw was on the ground under a pile of boys, although outnumbered and now out weighed, Lion Claw still tried to fight until Modou stepped up closer and struck him hard on the head with the butt of a rifle, the Reneg leader saw only darkness as both he and the sun sank into night.
The next morning found the boys camped well outside the Reneg camp, they had left the dead where they lay, the animals would feast well for a few days to come but the boys did not want the smell of death in their nostrils when they awoke, Lion Claw was trussed up and held in the back of one of the trucks under a four boy guard, he was to be taken back to Home Bunker where he would meet his final fate.
The huge battle had not been without its losses for the boys either, at the final tally they found that fifty six boys were wounded and they had lost a further thirty two killed, Modou and Mita had tried to take a rough count of the destroyed Renegs but had given up after they reached a figure of more than two hundred, both agreed that the true figure was probably twice that as many were buried under collapsed buildings and other rubble, it was their first real victory over the hated Renegs, they had also learned a few good lessons about large fights with these terrors of the waste lands.
The arrival back at Home Bunker of the attackers became a loud joyful party, the wounded were treated as heroes and fussed over by those who had to stay behind, the truck carrying the dead boys was greeted with solemnity as those that had lived through their first full battle with the hated Renegs paid homage to their sacrifice.
The leaders gathered around the truck holding the hated Lion Claw, his wounds had not been treated as it seemed pointless to the boys, if they had been in his hands they would have received far worse treatment, the five leaders looked at their captive with distain, he was bound hand and foot and the smell of death around him only worked to reinforce the boys determination to make an example of the Reneg Leader.
After he was pulled from the track, Lion Claw continued to glare at his captors, even though he was over awed by all the new and strange things from the time of the ancients, while he did not understand any of the things the boys had, he now knew what they could do, there became a far away look in his eyes as he realised that, if the boys took their type of fighting further afield, then the days of the Reneg could be numbered, he also saw that for him, it was over, the looks on the faces of the five boys watching him, told him of little pity from them, now it was only a matter of time.
It was Modou who came up with the appropriate sentence for the Reneg leader, as he explained his plan to the others, even they turned a little green but, as Modou explained, it was the way of his people that those who would enslave others should be treated and no enemy should ever be left to return another day, and so it was decided, Lion Claw would be made an example of for other Renegs who might have ideas of attacking the boys of Home Bunker.
That night all the boys assembled so the good words could be said about their dead friends, outside the Home Bunker they made a special place for the dead to be buried, it had been decided that they should always have this special place so any boys that came after them would know their story and be able to admire that they were the first boys to fall in the first attack on a Reneg camp, for those that were wounded, Elios had searched through the many store rooms of the Home Bunker for something special so that other boys would know that they lost blood for the bigger family.
It was one of the new boys that found what Elios thought would be a good symbol for those who had been hurt by the Renegs, in a box on top of a high shelf, the boy had been casually going through small brown boxes that had not been looked at before, it was in the first box he found the strange metal bars, they were like two of the number 1 joined together with a funny pin at the back, it didn't take the boy long to work out that the pin was so it could be fitted onto his shirt, he put one on to make his shirt look better and then went in search of his friend to show him, it was while he was looking that he came across Elios studiously looking for something in another store room.
Elios looked up at the boy as he smiled and greeted one of the leaders, Elios immediately saw the shiny glitter of metal on the boys shirt, it was just the thing he was looking for, it was highly noticeable and small enough to not get in the way of the boys equipment, when this Leader called for him and asked where he had found the small bars, the boy first though he was in trouble and had broken some rule about the store rooms, it was only after Elios had explained to him why he wanted to know about the bars, that the boy looked thoughtfully at this Leader, he had never though of honouring the wounded boys, perhaps that was why these boys were asked to be Leaders.
Quickly agreeing to show Elios where he had found the bars, the boy then took his off; he already found he did not deserve something that should be given to the real fighters of the Home Bunker. Elios and the boy scrambled up to the top of the high shelf, there they found many more boxes full of all manner of metal bars along with other designs, after a thorough search they had enough of the double bars and Elios took note of where they all were, in the back of his mind a plan began to form, it was only right that those who had done something special in a fight should be recognised.
It was after the special ceremony for the dead boys that Elios talked to the other leaders and explained his idea for the wounded, it was soon agreed by the others that they should have a special party and present the wounded with their small shiny bars as a mark of their sacrifice for the rest, the party was soon organised and, that night, all the wounded were carefully brought to the large common room, all of them were seated at a group of tables together, Elam and his boys had gone to special trouble to make a big feast with all sorts of new foods for the occasion.
Before the feast began, Elios stood and began his short speech, after he was finished thanking the wounded for what they had done, the five Leaders went together and carefully pinned a set of bars on the shirt of each boy, after a long round of clapping and shouts of congratulations, the food was brought out and the feast began, the boys of Home Bunker had started a new tradition, Lion Claw, meanwhile, had to listen to the happy sounds from his dark locked room near the big doors of the hidden home of the boys who had brought his empire down, there was nothing for him to do but rue the day he had decided to be a Reneg, he also knew he would get no pity from this mass of boys, his time had come.
As the sun got higher the next morning, the valley of Home Bunker was flooded by all of the members of the bunker, it was time for the last act of destruction of the Reneg, during the night, Elvan had worked hard on his new found ability to join metal with power from the generators, it had been anew experience fraught with problems until he had gone back to the computers and found what he needed to know but, now he knew how the ancients had made so many metal items and how they kept them joined together, he found it was called "Welding" now he stood back and looked at his creation.
Elvan had welded together two long pipes in the form of a large X, early in the morning he had had six boys carry the X outside and, with grunts, groans and a lot of sweat, buried two of the legs in the sand of the valley floor, it now stood in the centre of the valley where there was no shade, at the top of the arms were two round rings and just above the ground were two more small flat platforms, one on each leg.
As the sun hit the ground at midmorning, Lion Claw was pulled from the room near the doors, every boy in the Bunker was outside waiting as the Renege leader was pulled roughly from the doorway and out into the hot morning sunlight, there was no fight left in the terror of the Wastes now, he was dirty and crusted blood covered most of his body, he was also weak from hunger and his wounds, it was not difficult for four of the bigger boys to half drag and half carry the man to where the X was waiting for him.
It was Mita whom had found the metal circles of steel with a short chain attached; it was not until he had looked at them for over an hour that the use of them came to his mind, now they were in use on the hands of Lion Claw, when they reached the large metal X buried in the sand, the escort for the Reneg helped to put him up on the back of the truck that was parked in front and close to the metal pipes.
Once they had the Reneg standing on the truck, he was turned so his back was against the metal pipes, Modou, being the biggest of all the boys, took hold of one arm as Mita used the small metal key to open one side of the bands around d the Renegs wrists, Modou pulled one arm high enough for the metal band to be quickly closed in the small ring, within seconds, the other arm, although injured and brought a loud cry of pain from the Reneg, was soon also clamped high up with another set of the metal bands, the pain and hurt on the face of the Reneg leader from the injured arm brought no reaction from the multitude of boys gathered to watch the end of the hated Reneg.
Slowly the truck was moved forward until the Reneg was hanging by his clamped hands, it was Modou again who jumped from the truck and, with competent fingers, lifted and fastened the Renegs legs to the small thin platforms near the bottom of the X, the man was now hanging and fully secured to the metal pipes, he was also now open to the full force of the sun, his moans of pain could be heard by all of the boys present but, not one of them showed any emotion for the fallen enemy, it was a small price to pay for what had been done to thousands of boys over the years since the Horror had ended.
The placing of the X was in such a position that anyone entering the valley would have to see it, it was now not only a penalty of death but also a warning to any other Renegs of what would happen if they tried to attack the Home Bunker or any other Bunker that the boys now had, as the last band was fastened around the leg of Lion Claw, a unified sigh passed through most of the assembled boys, their first big battle was over and was won, after a few cat calls and derisive remarks at the Reneg leader, the boys began to disperse and go about their other duties, Lion Claw would be left to the sun, while it was going to be a long, slow death, not a single boy felt it was unfair or that the man did not deserve his fate.