If I get no feed back on this I will not continue working. This peice is a teaser to test the water if you will. Enjoy and review.

Sergeant-Major Cortez flicked away his cigarette and gazed at the pot marked landscape which lay before him. So many men, so much blood, so many shells. The battle had taken a heavy toll on the once beautiful landscape. But the last time it had looked nice was many, many years ago, before Cortez had joined the army, the constant taking and retaking of the fortress on the far mountain had wrecked the whole county. Cortez turned back to the reconnaissance jeep. Why did the Empress want this dump? Strategically it was no longer of value and financially it would lower the total income of the Imperium. So why persist in attacking it? Cortez sighed as he climbed up onto his gun platform. Because for the Empress it was all a matter of pride; you couldn't go letting enemies maintain fortresses so far inside Imperium territory. The Empress would never let herself or her government lose face in front of the other nations. Cortez flicked switches and pressed buttons on the control panel, setting up the guidance systems. A little bulb lit up and something bleeped.

"Damn it," Cortez muttered. It had been a while since Cortez had been in recon but 3 of the 4 crew had died in the battle so he had stepped in to fill the gap. But oh, how many more buttons there were these days, and the way those new boys flicked them you think the switches were the enemy. The jeep trundled back towards the main column. After The Great War Cortez had wondered what to do with his life. He may be a decorated officer but he had been chucked out on the military dung heap like all the other conscripted soldiers, regardless of ability. The drivers missed a gear and the jeep juddered to a halt. They probably felt the same way he did, nervous with all this new technology making it harder to drive. Cortez had nothing left when he joined the army of the up and coming new empire; The Imperium.

The jeep rumbled into camp. Here the survivors of the imperial 15th army had set down for the night before they next assaulted the fortress. Cortez could see the artillery setting up on a ridge, they were lucky; they would not have to be the ones running into the breach, running over the red stones, wading through blood that flowed up above your ankles. The gunners cleaned and polished their guns to such a level of precision, never a drop of oil out of place, never a dull piece of brass work. Cortez sighed again, he may not like the artillery crew but without them the infantry would be shot like fish in a barrel.

The drivers parked the jeep and Cortez jumped off the gunner's platform, dust rising in clouds about his feet. While the drivers went to report Cortez watched the mechanic at work. He was the only surviving crew and he obviously loved his jeep. As Cortez strolled away the mechanic had already started fiddling with the engine and cleaning the gritty dust off its mudguards.

Cortez walked past the hospital tent, crowded now, full of bleeding men and women. Few soldiers survived the hospital tent. Usually you were sent to a city hospital or orbiting ship for treatment but not here, not this godforsaken wasteland. Sadly Cortez recognised a few friends, old faces that might never be seen again, their oozing blood or broken bones causing their fingers to slip and shake, their faces contorted with pain.

Cortez walked past the tent and on to his quarters. Cortez could never bring himself to live in a tent so his quarters were cobbled together out of his old ship. "It may not fold up," he had said when the army complained, "but it can do warp speeds and tag along at the end of the baggage train." So the army had left him to it and, ten years after he had so famously used it in the Great War, his ship was still with him on every campaign. In this way Cortez liked to think of himself as still being a marine. But Imperium marines were genetically altered monsters in metal suits, a far cry from Cortez.

Cortez swung the heavy metal door open and let the cat out. 'Stupid cat' he thought, remembering the little kitten he had saved from the savage jaws of a Klatchnian hell hound. But he had kept it. Its dependence on him reminded Cortez on his dependence on war. No war; no work. Plus if he kept a cat the General never visited, he was allergic to cats. Cortez closed the door and threw himself down on a leather chair. The mail had come while he was on reconnaissance. One was from that girl in France he kept forgetting to tell it was over, one looked like his wages and the last one was very interesting to Cortez indeed.

He picked it up; it was a stiff envelope, and quite heavy. Three pieces of writing were on it. In type was written his name, rank and last known location, a stamped message at the top told him it was from the office of the Empress but it was the last piece that intrigued him most. In the bottom left corner which was slightly dog-eared was written in a flowing, Edwardian style one word. Hart.