Sorry – this is a short chapter. The problem is that this was where the story needed to break.
The boom tubes worked better. They worked so much better. All of the improvements worked. Suddenly the weapons could hit something a hundred yards away, and drop it. They were punching holes in metal, and the accuracy was amazing… comparatively. The wands, the old weapons, the magic weapons, they hit whatever they were pointed at. The boom tubes weren’t able to do that, at least not very far away. What they could do however was hit something the same way every time. You had to account for all sorts of things, but if you did the weapon was reliable.
Tom was learning the subtleties of it, and he turned out to have a talent for it. Charlie did not.
So, they had weapons, they were being mostly left alone as the city was torn apart looking for mages who didn’t exist, and they had an opportunity. Tom sent a message to Adrian, “If we can strike soon, us and your people, we can do some real damage. Co-ordination is key. Right now they can’t imagine how someone could have done what we did without magic. Hell, I have my own moments where I don’t believe it. The new weapons, they aren’t as good as a wand, but they don’t need magic to work. We can arm more people than they image we can, and we can strike without magic being involved at all. When can we move forward?”
The response was short. “Two weeks from today.”
So that was it, they had two weeks.
The plan, like the last one, was simple. They were going to take headquarters, destroy Jordan Gavenchy and his loyal men, and declare Tenagoro independent.
Two weeks to plan the details, get the timing right, get enough people proficient with these new weapons. A hard task, but they were all trained soldiers. All of them had experience with learning new physical tasks. It was something they could do. Over the two weeks they practiced, constantly shocked that there was no response. Finally, the day came. They had two thousand six hundred with them, about three hundred of them armed with boom tubes. The rest still had their wands, or were using their swords. The other side had, as near as they could tell, double that. It wasn’t ideal, but they had the advantage of surprise, and more importantly, only a small fraction of the loyal forces would be in headquarters, maybe a couple of hundred men total. That was who they would be fighting right away. Once headquarters was taken they would be behind strong walls and prepared for assault. At least that was the plan.
On the day in question the assault was planned for five in the morning. Tom didn’t sleep the night before. It was far from his first battle, but this time he was attacking the nation he had always fought for, and he was attacking when it wan’t even certain that the revolution was still needed. His nerves were completely on edge. Finally, the hour came. Tom led the attack, firing on the guards outside HQ, dropping them in an instant. His forces surged from the ruins, weapons firing in a staccato rhythm. They hit the doors in a moment, and were inside almost as fast.
The building was empty. There was nobody inside, nobody at all. Tom screamed “It’s a trap, and turned, running as fast as he could outside. Some of his men followed, then there was a cracking sound and the building imploded. At that same moment thousands of troops came out of the surrounding ruins, moving out of concealment into the pre-dawn light, all brandishing wands. Tom dove for cover, and started to crawl away, as wave after wave of fire impacted on his men. They started to fire back, Tom did too, as much as he could. It was a slaughter, they had lost surprise, they had lost position, they had lost being the only innovators. This was a different kind of fight, a brutal, violent clash without rules. Tom realized that he couldn’t get away, so he stood up and charged a cluster of loyalist troops, running in a zig-zag, providing a moving target they couldn’t get a bead on. He made it all the way to the cluster, and then drew his sword, slashing at them as he ran. In seconds he had them on the run, a small hole in the enemy line, a gap to freedom. He waved his men forward, getting as many of them as he could to follow him. Better to save some than to lost all.
Nobody had thought they could lose, but they had lost. It was clear. What’s more, they had been betrayed. There was a fallback position, but Tom decided that didn’t work, there was no way they were going to be safe there. Instead he ran into the hills around the city, abandoning his home, his only way of contacting the woman he loved, even his duty.
He stopped after a few hours, a handful of men with him. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” he said, then he started to sob.