If there was one thing I had always been mystified with, it was the Germens' affinity for fire.
The majority of Nordic states were inclined to use ice magic, spells to freeze and blind, to perforate and accelerate the inevitable frostbite their enemy –in this case the Soviets- would face. The Soviets themselves were inclined to Metallurgy, abusing compounded elements and even raw stone in the case of those advanced soldiers, this made Russian combat mages easy to identify, as they always had a coil of metal with them to use in combat.
But the Nazi soldiers that now walked alongside us would conjure up fire like it was second nature, and it likely was, demonstrating stories with colourful explosions and effects, lighting cigarettes or simply keeping warm in the freeze they had given their comfort to endure.
They were the 163rd, attached to our own Army of Karelia, with conviction and a steely demeanour we Finns had come to respect, or so I hoped; the Germans treated us as equals, they saw our plight where the Allies failed and chose to answer it. Now we had mounted a successful strike into Soviet territory to recapture what was ours before the Winter War and then some, and progress had been made.
We'd capture the entire Ladoga Karelia north of Lake Ladoga, while the rest of the army took the Karelian Isthmus, and were moving from the regional capital of Petrozavodsk and towards the River Svir, which ran vaguely parallel to the Karelian-Russo line, simply stepping on any pockets of resistance we encountered.
Many of the 163rd spoke Norwegian due to the fact they had been stationed there since the Nazi conquest of Norway, as did many of Group O, the Army of Karelia Jaegers, who often came from the north of Finland where the two countries met, and as the two were attached to each other in marching order and what not, this made conversation plausible and quite interesting, especially with the snow and fire flying left and right.
Morale, is what it was, good for the Army as a whole but especially for the Jaegers, who were charged with the forward push ahead of the Corps Sixth and Seventh. Light on their feet and with the power of the arcane on their side, Group O had successfully cleared two days of free ground for the regular Finnish infantry.
At first, and I admit I believed this as well, Group O had expected the 163rd to weigh them down, but they had proven themselves a resilient fighting force very capable of supporting the Jaegers in combat and keeping up with them in the sprints through knee high snow with minimal complaint, something they applauded. As it turned out Germans were quite tough.
Överste Eino Koivisto allowed us a rest, and so the two Jaeger brigades and 163rd spread out, the forested area just now beginning to thin out from behind us where it had been thick, ahead of us we could even see the clearing, perhaps six hundred metres away, where the snow logged trees rapidly disappeared and were replaced by a thinner layering of snow on weak hills.
They provided a defilade most certainly, though not enough to hide a Russian platoon much less a battalion for the sake of whimsy, and so I'm sure I along with every other Jaeger there put it in the back of their minds, and instead I settled against a tree, facing the way we had come from and listened to the conversation go on around me.
"Frankly Finland is a welcome change from Norway of all places, I think I might start getting toasty any moment now," a German soldier stated mirthfully, a warm laughter erupting from the group of men he happened to be stationed with, and looked over to see a relatively even spread of Finns and Germans, which made me happy.
"I can only imagine what German summers are like, they must be boiling in comparison to, well, this," a Finnish soldier motioned all around himself, and another round of chuckles was had.
There was a short silence, and then a Finn changed the subject, "I've read recently that you Germans are building… 'Mechanisierten exo skelette'? Big robot suits made like a tank, but shaped like a man."
"Aye, there undergoing testing right now, we usually call them Mechs," a Nazi affirmed, and the Finns in the group tried out the word a few times before they were happy to say it in conversation, and so the soldier continued, "They'll each be piloted by a pair of men, they'll stand about twenty feet tall, have more manoeuvrability and reactionary uses then simply tanks, and can be outfitted for more opinionated, specific roles."
"As you can see, Hildebrand here is quite the engineering aficionado," another German stated dryly, and met a raucous laughter, though the man in question didn't seem too impressed.
"Hey, those things are pretty damn protective, if I want anything between me and the battle it's a Mechanisierten exo skelette. Going to be applying next year," Hildebrand retorted, and was met with a derisive snort from the same soldier that had slighted him before.
"I've seen a Russian Mech before, during the Winter War; it was armed to the teeth with missiles and bullets," a Finn interjected, looking off into the distance, "It took out three tanks and forty men before we finally took it down, but out of that assault we did get some good information."
The Germans actually seemed quite interested, generally the Jaegers had been learning things from these soldiers, rather than the other way around, but if this young man had a battle tactic that worked against Russian mechs, keeping in mind they were masters of metallurgy, then I'm sure anyone would've listened.
"A weak spot," the man conferred, "It's very difficult to shoot, but if you get him in the armpit there is an external gas line that gets crushed and sparked nine times out of ten. It completely disrupts the internals of the Mech, sets the entire cabin on fire, I saw a Russian melt in his chair when a man shot him there, Simo I think the sniper's name was."
"Well, that is actually quite helpful friend, thanks," a German corporal answered politely, and stood, "but I must despise you somewhat as well, for now I am paranoid."
More laughter, but this was silenced rather quickly.
"What was that?" a soldier walking by me asked, and I stood, quickly shouldering my Mosin-Nagant in case of the worst.
"Well done comrade," Hildebrand congratulated, and I turned to see him patting the Finnish soldier that had given out the information on the shoulder, lighting a cigarette on his way up and taking up arms with his own Karabiner 98k, "You jinxed it."
The entire unit had moved to and fro between the trees, hasty orders being shouted quickly as those that were static waited, knowing that the sound was becoming more numerous and louder, closer and from the defilades they had not worried about before, realizing only now that the snow had mounted up on one specific hill directly in front of them due to a break in the wind caused by a large hill behind it, making the hill seem shallower.
We were stupid, and that meant that the Russians had us locked down tight, we stood and fought, or we overall just died, and while neither were incredibly appealing I wasn't about to turn down the option to walk away from this a healthy, free man.
Over the ridge directly to the overflown defilade's right, a rounded body popped into view, large shoulder mounted guns almost directly on top of it also present. This happened twice more on either side as this middle one presented itself, and I have to say I was in mild awe.
The Russian Mech was loaded with large missile batteries on either shoulder, and on the place between either battery was a single, large machine gun. It had a round body and no real head least one counted the gun, and each arm extended to it's knees, though were preoccupied holding an upscaled version of the common Degtyaryov machine gun. The legs were somewhat stubby, and one could see the smug Russian inside pulling levers and triggers and pushing it forward with all the conviction one found when piloting a larger than life mecha.
After it came the other two, looking equally as fearsome, and were joined by a large battalion of Russian Mag, mages who wore imposing black uniforms and used any weapon from PPS submachine guns to ISH-43 shotguns, some balancing their NR-40 knives atop their fingers through the use of metallurgy or taking it one step further with long iron bars that wrapped around their forms like snakes around their masters.
The Tekhno Volkhvov, better known as the techno magi.
There was a huge eruption of gunfire from either side that saw the first wave of ground magi fall to the ground in an out of place splodge of black, while the mechs shrugged off most of the gunfire to push forward and begin firing, the huge rounds of their machine guns tearing limbs off of Jaeger and German infantry alike as they began storming forward.
Not to be taken lightly, the mages of either group hurled fire and ice at the mechs and the next wave of magi, and yet I watched as they took their cords and essentially flattened them into rounded shields, running forward while shielded from fire, and so many of the Jaegers began firing at their legs.
The mechs were tearing through troops now, head mounted chain gun spitting out a disgusting amount of bullets so much that a huge swath of soldiers just disappeared in a cloud of snow and smoke. But I wasn't worried about them, instead looking over to see the Finnish soldier of before getting beheaded by a flying metallic disk.
I turned just in time to throw my gun up, catching an iron blade that one soldier had grafted and letting it fall to the ground, instead pulling out my puukko and jumping back to get some more room between me and this soldier, who gave me a malicious grin and yelled something in Russian that I could not understand.
Rather I tried to stab into his right shoulder, but he stepped sideways with the intent of cutting my arm off, but I just punched the side of his head and sent him to the ground, jumping atop him as quickly as I could to try and gouge out his throat.
But as a Russian he had superior size and strength, and easily kicked me off, and we both got to our feet quickly after that, at which point I stopped playing his game and drew my Lahti pistol, he seemed to whine something akin to "No fair" and then attempted to bound away before I caught him in the throat and cheek, watching his face implode rather gruesomely.
After this little spat I crouched down by what was becoming my favourite tree and found a sigh escaping my lips as I saw that one of the mechs had been downed by a combined effort of German fire starters before they themselves had been all but beaten and shot to death, and I looked around the newly made battlefield to see that it had devolved into an all-out fist fight, even the mechs choosing to use their large stompy feet and huge hands to swat down soldiers here and there, and it made me grimace somewhat shallowly to see an ally get picked up and squeezed until his head and legs imploded into a shower of gore.
Now I wasn't quite in the thick of the battle, so I was really just free to observe and occasionally throw icicles at people, and that's exactly what I did, watching as the jaegers gained some ground and then the magi, but it was clear that the Germans with their fire magic were turning out to be critical in melting the metals these Soviets prized so much.
The mechs were completely wrecking our front though, and it was alarming to see so many of the 163rd go down, their irreplaceability very real in these dire circumstances before I decided the robots needed to be put down.
I looked around, and saw by a dead Magi a PTRS-41, something I recognised to be an anti-tank weapon, just what I was looking for. Scrambling over and snatching it up, I also went ahead and slung over one shoulder a bandoleer full of the extra magazines, before running away from the battle and hitting the floor on a tree covered hill some twenty metres where we had come from.
I turned around on my belly and threw down the stand for the PTRS, gazing down it's sights before finding that insufficient for my means. I gazed over the gun and saw one mech simply brushing men out of the way, occasionally firing his machine gun but more than happy to use it as a club against the oncoming Jaegers. I readjusted my rifle so that it faced that general area, and moved deliberately to try and catch him in my limited sights; he knocked a tree over in a rage as one particular Finn threw an ice shard against his glass, blinding his view of the lower left as the spider web crack permitted, and I watched as said tree crushed both Finns, Germans and Russians alike, and couldn't help but wince as it crushed Hildebrand's bones from his body, splattering brain matter and blood across the snow with so many others.
Putting the deaths of my comrades in the back of my mind and drawing a somewhat calm breath, I levelled my sights with where the armpit of the machine would be had his shoulder not been in the way, and tracked the area as he stomped about the tree laden field, watching his arm swing about left, right, back and forth but never quite high enough to reveal that fabled weak point my late ally had spoken of.
Then it presented itself perfectly, to block it's 'face' against a huge fireball conjured by a German officer it had to lift either arm, and did so with as much definition as possible, providing me a clean shot of his underarm, and I wasn't about to hesitate. Firing, the kick of the rifle surprised me and I actually felt my form get pushed back a few inches considering my small frame, and then looked over to see the mech's arm leaking the industrial equivalent of blood.
The fuel was emptying out, but more so then that it was catching on fire, and I watched as the tubes around it's form seemed to fill with flame, and I watched with satisfaction as the pilot and his gunner shared a frightened conversation and then the realisation dawn on their faces as fire began licking out from vents in the main cabin, my superior vision giving me quite the show.
In a few seconds, the entire cabin was alight with flame, and even over roaring gunfire and the clash of knives and iron I could hear them scream ferociously. In a moment the mech began to shake, and I realised it was about to explode; "Clear the area!" I yelled, the general consensus to escape the smouldering pile of metal that had now fallen to it's knees.
I watched as both the Soviet enemy and the Karelian Army ally scrambled back from where they had come from, knowing full well the explosion was going to be large and impressive, and when it did blow rather suddenly I was not disappointed.
The initial fireball uprooted trees and blew away anyone not smart enough to get away, and threw most of everyone to the ground regardless of distance. The uprooted trees crushed even more soldiers, and the following shockwave pushed the flames outwards to grab some closer individuals in a fiery grip they were unlikely to recover from, and also pushed down those trees that had not been immediately moved by the fireball.
There was an eerie silence as people recovered from the blast, and most of the Jaegers and 163rd saw it as a success, but they forgot one key component of the battle, and this probably caused the death of a lot of them later on; the third mech.
Now that the Soviets and Group O and company had been separated from each other, it was able to release it's missiles and chain gun upon the troops without risk of hurting his allies, and did so gleefully, tearing down soldiers by the dozens before they even had time to react.
This one wasn't quite so paranoid as it's friend, and so he for the most part ignored the fire and ice that was hurled his way, only dodging now and then to avoid the larger ones thrown by those of higher rank, and this just gave away who they were and so he focused on killing those officers as well.
It only took him three minutes to completely decimate the frontline of soldiers, the Russians slowly and purposefully keeping behind their remaining mech, realising now that it was a better tactic then running blindly into the fray against their enemy.
I was scared when it turned on me though, seeing me upon the hill with the tank rifle must have been a dead giveaway of who downed his friend and so he began charging me, only managing to fire around six large bullets before he ran out of ammunition. Instead of reloading, the mech just threw aside the huge weapon –incidentally crushing a pair of Germans under it- and began running full tilt towards me.
Not about to take this lying down, I had scrambled to my feet to begin firing on the machine, hitting first it's shoulder plate and then it's screen, but a critical jam saw my gun stop working, and I squealed in fear as the mech reached the base of the hill.
I turned around to run, and then I was simultaneously relieved and shocked.
The Sixth and Seventh had been sneaking up on the battle in complete silence.
When they saw the mech come over the ridge of the hill I figured hitting the deck would be appropriate, and watched as the entire other half of the Army of Karelia began tearing into the machine, and turned on my back to watch the mech getting absolutely pummelled by lead and panzerfaust rockets.
The otherwise bullet proof glass of it's cockpit shattered under the force, and I watched with some sick satisfaction as the driver and gunner were torn to bits, their innards staining the inside of the mech before it all but fell backwards and off the hill. By the sounds of alarm it also crushed a few Russians.
After this, and too my delight, the Sixth and Seventh charged by me and down the hill, a wall of lead and death running headlong into the far less numerous magi of the Soviet Union, and then I knew we'd won the battle, and this was affirmed when General Heinrichs of all people offered his hand to me.
"Good job son, but we'll take it from here," he stated smartly, a confident smirk coming across his face.
"Gladly, sir," I answered, letting him pull me to my feet and back behind friendly lines of troops, glad for once that the grunts had outdone me.
But that was Finland for you, full of surprises and full of dead people.
Now I know this is terrible, I wrote the first two thousand words in the middle of the night, so there are probably a thousand grammatical errors and historical inaccuracies, but frankly I don't care. This was just a concept I had a couple weeks ago, and as my internet is slowed at the moment I had nothing better to do, so bleh.
I might do a couple more of these alternate histories if I can find anything in World War II worth playing with, but until then I'm fine with this just sitting on my page as a fun little action piece, because we all need these every now and then.