By William j. seymour

Dark Choices

Azhana Falls Book One

The world of Azhana burns with the fires of war. The Republic marches east with dreams of spreading their beliefs and the righteous power of their god, while the free countries of Azhana struggle to keep their lands and people from living under the scrutiny of a church they will not follow.

Sgt. Brett Giles of the Republic and his team find themselves across enemy lines more often than they are home. Mission after mission leaves them treading through a river of blood, one they may soon find filled with their own. Blamed for crimes they did not commit, saving themselves will become the hardest mission they have ever faced as their lives are no longer the only ones that hang in the balance.

Sgt. Charlie Movila, Sgt. Will Coffey, and the rest of the Azhanian soldiers of Fort Frozen Heart persevere with courage alone through harsh mountain conditions, a lack of adequate supplies, and being outnumbered more than ten to one. When their world falls apart in a wall of flames, they will need to find power in themselves to survive a war where the lines of battle are no longer clear, the enemy is the last person you would expect, and the ones who see the sunrise again are those who make the..
DARK CHOICES

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Look around you. Your options are running out. It does not have to end for you as it will for them. Accept my offer, open the door and end their misery. My power can be yours, and so much more!

Chapter Two

0857 Hours, Juillet 1, 2258

East of Fort Frozen Heart, Northwest Asana

 

The fighting had gotten worse over the last couple of months, and Charlie knew that it would continue like this for the foreseeable future. The Republic had been making intrusions down from the north with sporadic raids, but until now, nothing this sustained. This attack had come out of nowhere. Will and Charlie had been patrolling to the north of their base camp when the first shots had hit the trees they were standing beside.

After a snowstorm had blown through, as it did last night, patrols spent a day or two settling back into their routines. It was the only time they could spend enjoying the beautiful sight of a new day as they made their daily rounds. The harshness of the weather up this far north usually meant neither side was ready to fight again, so soon after nature itself decided to get in on the act. She had such high hopes when she awoke this morning.

“Target to your 2 o’clock!” Will shouted over the gunfire.

Will was hunkered down against a tree not much thicker than himself. His white and faded blue winter-suited armor helped him blend with his surroundings as he positioned himself closer to the snow-covered base of the tree. If you weren’t looking directly at him and knew he was there, the only thing that did not fade in with the snow was his dark as night skin. Some said it would be a problem for a man of his color to fight this far north. He said they were just jealous because at least he had a tan all year round.

Reacting to his call, Charlie quickly aimed her assault rifle and squeezed off a short burst of three rounds at a target she barely saw.

“Damn these guys are fast,” she yelled to her partner as she tried to see anyone else out in the small clearing between the trees.

“You expect them to march in single file right at us?” He fired a burst of his own at what, she couldn’t tell.

“It would help you know!”

She didn’t like their current situation. They didn’t know how many there were. The echoes of gunfire were bouncing through the trees in every direction, and there was no indication if the radio signal they had sent out would get them help in time. Several bullets tore the tree she was kneeling behind, sending pieces of bark into her face and hair.

“We gotta move! On three, get your pretty ass moving!”

Will was off the ground and kneeling but ready to run. Pulling the pin on a grenade, he turned and tossed it out into the middle of the brush and trees between them and the line of forest where they assumed the enemy was. Instead of detonating and tearing everything near it apart, the grenade fizzed and tossed out a bright flash. Anyone thinking of looking in that general direction was now temporarily blinded. If the flash wasn’t enough, a white smoke quickly sprayed in all directions from where the canister landed, filling the gaps between the trees with a cover impossible to see through.

Just as they had expected, a typical barrage of gunfire erupted as whomever now stood on the other side of the smoke wall, attempted to fire at them trying to escape. 

“Follow me!” Charlie ordered.

She didn’t bother looking as she took off in front of her friend. The smoke would last only a minute or two, but that had to be enough time for them to make some ground. Their snowshoes helped stop them from sinking into the shin-high snow, but it did not help their speed. The two soldiers raced as fast as they could through the low-lying brush and thick pine branches still heavy with snow. Their base was three miles away, but neither of them hoped to have to run that far.

As both soldiers ran, bullets crashed into the trees next to them, the ground near their feet or buzzed over their shoulders. Neither of the two was sure who heard it first. The unmistakable sound of a proximity grenade crashing into a tree not far from where they were running caused them to look into each other’s face for a second.

Without hesitating, Will crashed right into Charlie, and both rolled as an explosion went off several yards to their left. The blast sent pieces of tree, rock, and earth high into the air, only to rain on where they laid. A large leafless tree crashed down, missing both of them by a few feet. Charlie looked up into Will’s eyes as he picked himself off her and surveyed around them. The deep brown color of his eyes made it easy to see the look of concern and determination was hard pressed to his face.

Not wanting to waste any time, the partners picked each other up and began moving again. The time spent rolling in the snow had not helped whoever was chasing them as the shots fired still missed their mark, and they could still not see their enemy. Both knew that eventually, this chase would not end well if they did not get help soon. The snow hindered their movement, speed and was tiring them quickly.

“We have to get to cover!” Charlie, breathing heavily between words, yelled as the two kept stumbling through the snow.

“Fine by me. Tell me when you find any!” Will didn’t bother looking at her as he knew as well as she did; there wasn’t much between them and the base. He kept pushing, knowing their best hope was to keep the distance between them and whoever chased them, as far as possible.

Charlie tried to keep up as she saw her friend pushing her harder. They had both trained daily for years, making sure they were ready when an event like this happened. But in the end, it did not help. He was too strong, had too much endurance, and, damn, he was tall. Each step of his would carry him farther and farther ahead. The cold winter air was tearing at her lungs with every breath she was forced to take.

Where was that damn support?

“Ah!” She let out a bellowing scream as pain tore into her back.

Bright lights flashed in her eyes as the pain and force of the impact threw her forward. Crashing face first into the snow and brush on the ground, she tried picking herself up but the pain in her back weakened the left side of her body. Will was right by her side, firing round after round at an enemy she couldn’t see with her face buried in the snow. Lances of pain radiated all the way down her legs as she lifted her face just enough to keep breathing. Will was screaming at the top of his lungs as the casings from his rifle fell to the ground around her. The sound of each bullet exploding forward drowned anything else she could hear.

Stopping her heart in fear, the continued sound of his weapon firing was soon accompanied by the cracks of more rifles. There had to be at least two dozen other men, but her friend was not going down. Using what strength she could to bear the pain, she pulled her face from the snow and into the shadows of the forest.

Behind Will and her prone form stood two dozen of her fellow soldiers. All of them spread out, flanked on both sides by two armored trucks with their rifles going. Whoever was chasing them, was now confronted with a lot more than two scouts. The pain was quickly overcoming her as she sank back to the cold, wet snow.