Leaving the bodies to be destroyed by the blast had been too disrespectful for Olaf. Maybe it wasn’t the battle wise decision. Maybe it would improve the enemies chance of tracking them, if there was enough of a trace to track after the blast.
Either way, it was still the right, the respectful, decision. Besides, while the digging was going on…
Everything paused as the sound from the earth shattering explosion hit them. Even at this range, sheltered by a hill, the sound of a catastrophically failing etheric reactor was impressive. The shaking of the earth as the shock wave passed was less so. Most of the energy would be directed up, even with the containment of the alloy hull.
“Andre, Richard, test those railguns. Aim for the blast site. Breaking it up will make investigating harder.” Olaf ordered. He’d known about half of his bodyguard most of his life. He was more comfortable going by first name with them.
An Amazon and two of his bodyguards were the dead. Nestor he knew, but he’d needed dogtags to identify the others. Marina and Timothy. He bowed his head, anger and grief mixing. If he’d not been so confident in the security of the shuttle, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Of course then it could have happened to others. No-one had really expected someone on planet to have a weapon that could take out a shuttle. At least not outside of Japan. Any other officer he could have sent would have only had a squad with them. Their chances of survival even if they had taken no casualties would have been lower still.
It had been the right choice to come. Or at least the best choice available.
There was a single whipcrack from the hilltop as one of the railguns fired.
The tears of grief and regret flowed down his face as he dug the grave. Slowly other started to help him. Within half an hour they had it as deep as it would go, about four feet.
Even with all their technology, even relative to life before the fall, certain injuries were truly fatal. A crushed skull. A charred hole through the chest. A bolt of energy through the eye. At least it would have been quick, Olaf consoled himself.
He carefully placed each body into the battlefield grave. Anatoly, one of the Weres, handed him a hip flask of vodka. Nodding, Olaf carefully poured some over each corpse’s lips. They would reach Valhalla with drink on their breath.
Then he threw the first spadeful of dirt into each grave before letting others complete the task.
He saluted as the three rocks were placed to mark the graves, the earth was stomped back into place and the turf put back over to hide them from casual sight.
Olaf would forever remember this moment as the moment he learnt a core soldiers truth. That loss and grief are at the center of war. He was coming to realise fast that glory was no balance to them.
He took a swig of the vodka before he handed it back to Anatoly, who took a swig himself before he put it away in his gear.
Olaf made an oath that moment. He couldn’t stop people dying to protect him because of who his father was. Either out of fear or respect. But he would become a man worthy of any who died for him.
One of the railguns was working. The other would still have to be lugged with them. Olaf would not let it fall into the enemy’s hands. For now, carrying it was better than slagging it with one of his few thermite grenades.
He had a feeling he might be happy for every weapon he had.
It was why the only weapon he’d left with the soldiers to arrive at Valhalla with had been their Tomahawks.
He knew they’d understand when the doorkeeper asked why they were so poorly armed.
Their comrades would put their other arms to good use.