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Fan Fiction

Another by Mr Bill Jr V

Another (Part 1)
Date: 18 November 2003, 4:26 AM

      Furnax; the furnace. Who had heard of such a place until now? No one, it is easily assumed. Two stars, light years apart, drifting against different galaxies, and of no importance to the world of Earth and her empire. This was a constellation noted on starcharts with little indifference- once placed amongst the whole and made insignificant. But, like all those placed upon the charts and written into holo-routines, her presence amongst the galaxy had been set in stone, and recorded forever. Still, the furnace had not been spoken of for years, not a word uttered- until Eridanus.
      The rebellion had sprung up without warning, the few fighting a dying war against the many. Such a battle could not be won, and all knew it. Millions chose to cast off the empire they owed their very existence to, and fight a war against Earth, and everything for which she stood. A war against humanity, and a war that must be fought to total destruction.
      So, the system wrongly named for a constellation, neighboring a Greek river, became a place of importance. For, of the three planets worth human colonization in the Furnax system, one of them holds garrison to the United Nations Security Division's newly raised Four-Hundredth army. An entire planet, allocated to the realm of a single unit, some two million strong.
      The generals back at sector command were quick to pick out Furnax Gamma as the planet from which to launch their counter invasion, a sweeping blow of a million soldier sent to crush the rebel incursion three light-years away in the Eridanus system. Such a plan sounded bizarre on paper, and perplexing. Therein lay the brilliance: simplicity in actions not in design. From Furnax Gamma would the army strike, leaving their home world, and land their soldiers abroad at Eridanus.
      However, like all brilliant plans, everything always goes wrong, be it for better of for worse. The same can be said for the planned invasion of Eridanus Alpha, which simply never occurred. The rebels had moved quicker then the army's generals, as the army's local command was horrified to learn.
      On March 29th, 2495, a mutiny of unfathomable scale occurs, spurred on by rebel aggressors planted inside the Four-Hundredth's command structure. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers turned against each other; an army tore itself apart, and divided Furnax Gamma well into the next year.
      Of course, once the rebellion on Eridanus Alpha had been quelled, the struggle on Furnax died out, allowing loyal forces to put an end to the traitorous soldiers. But during those ten months of constant struggle, at the rebellion's height, some of the most ferocious battles in recent history were fought, man against fellow man. Over the course of the war thousands would die, and countless others would became prisoners to their own army, Never again, after Furnax, would mankind clash with mankind in such violent battle. A new threat had arisen, one too horrible to be faced divided.

      On a faithful day, August 2nd, the two armies met for the first time in battle, blasting at each other with the gruesome implements of modern warfare. Thousands upon thousands died in that single battle, lasting hardly hours. So it would continue for a month, until the front lines had been stabilized, though in an awkward manner. After that, it became a matter of waiting for an attack, one which was surely to come...

      September 12th, 2495:
      Time to get up. Certain souls could rest on, late into the day, but for others it was time indeed. Ranks of military green cots rustled as soldiers woke, and threw back their blankets.
      Tanya woke like all the rest, prying herself unwillingly from the relative comfort her cot, and reaching for her grey fatigues. People had been coming and going over the past week, and Tanya was having trouble keeping track of how many soldiers were actually in the barracks. She pulled her sweatshirt over her head and grabbed the heavy military boots required of all soldiers on duty. She tried to count the new faces, but quickly abandoned that task as it proved impossible- she hardly recognized anyone. All the same, they weren't her business.
      Satisfied that her outfit would suffice for the rest of the day, Tanya lowered herself out the cot, careful to satisfy her commanding officer's demand for absolute silence before waking hours. And it was long before then, hardly any soldiers stirred at all. Though, in truth, more soldiers were awake now, dressed in similar fashion, the army's standard issue stark black uniforms only slightly altered from their original weavings, only a scant few lights shone. Attaching her timepiece to her wrist, Tanya smiled to her bunkmate, also just raising.
      She leaned against her own cot, shadowing the restless figure below. "Better get up before the CO shows."
      Blankets rustled and an arm extended from the shadows below.
      "Fuck you, Tanya," came the curt reply, and appropriate finger gesture.
      "Suite yourself," replied Tanya, and turned away from the cot, starting towards the mess hall.
      She counted roughly a dozen soldiers seated in the hall, another entering every five minutes or so. Tanya sat alongside another two other soldiers, both dressed in fashion similar to herself. They were busy forking their way through their morning rations and downing pre-boiled caffeine. Tanya had no such appetites that morning. She blamed fate or her dreams, but whatever the cause she simply wasn't hungry.
      "Conrad," one of the sweat-shirted soldiers looked up, pausing from his meal. "Have you heard the reports yet?"
      The man shook his head with vigor, returning to his plate without offering Tanya a reply. She nodded to herself, and then looked away from the two. Another soldier entered the hall, weary from lack of sleep, and headed for the food bank.
      It wasn't that discipline was lax, Tanya knew, it was that there was simply no need for it. She wasn't here, clothed in black and speaking to these tortured souls against her will. It had been her choice, along with the choice all the others had made. They all knew why they were here, and so felt no need to explain themselves. Briefly, against her better judgment, Tanya wondered what it was like for the other side, for the enemy. Did they know why they were fighting? She lingered on that thought for a moment, then rose from the table and left the hall. It was time to go to the surface.
      After a brief stop at the armory to retrieve the more complex gear of her trade; full metal jacket, guns and the like, Tanya worked her way to the nearest surface lift. Guards, bulletproof vests and armor plates showing clearly, didn't hassle her as they had months before when she had first arrived. Rather, they looked on in understanding, accepting her actions for what they too might be called upon to do someday. As Tanya entered the lift, they nodded. She didn't bother to return the favor. More soldiers entered, quickly crowding the lift's cramped interior.
      Hydraulics humming, and gears winding, the lift rose steadily. Layers of metal fell beneath her as the air grew colder. The tang of salt water drifted as she breathed deeper, pressure changing by slight degrees. Atmosphere grew thicker, and she could see sunlight raising above. Tanya shielded her eyes as the light streamed across the elevator shaft, and the lift rose above the dirt and metal. It took roughly a minute to reach the top of the cement emplacement; lift coming to a final rest.
      As each man exited and Tanya stepped free, others loaded onto the elevator ready for their day of sleep. It was a simple changing of the guards, done every five hours or so. For the duration of that time, Tanya and the eight men accompanying her would be the only presence in the pillbox's upper level. Everyone else, all other personnel, were hidden safely below ground to avoid all but the highest yield nuclear strikes. The underground fortifications were dense, stretching for kilometers along pale ocean front. Every two-hundred and fifty meters another pillbox sprung up, a solid behemoth against elemental cold.
      Tanya had done this task for what seemed a lifetime, standing atop the frozen exterior of a cement world, and watching as nothing ever happened. And, indeed, it was just like any other day. Waves crashed and rolled back into the chilled sea, icebergs and great frozen lakes forming far offshore. The sky was dark, with the sun breaking through Furnax's endless clouds ever so often- as it always was. Tanya wore gloves, and rubbed her hands constantly. She could see her own breath, as sheets of ice hung from the bunker's reinforced ceiling. Sunlight which had shown down on her only moments before vanished beneath a great rolling cloud of rain.
      Walking past sparse supplies and stockpiled rifles, Tanya arrived at the bunker's front facing- the purpose for its construction. Two men leaned against the cement railings, casual, as the waters churned behind them, and crashed upon the brief shoreline. A row of machineguns, massive constant firing fifty-caliber cannons in reality, lined the railings, pointing ever vigilant across the beach. Tanya knew that above her head was another similar room, this one without a ceiling, on which rested a series of anti-aircraft guns. If one were to travel back from there a distance, a collection of surface-to-air missile launchers were present. It was truly a formidable arsenal, built years before the war had even broken out, as a seawall- and expanded when the army had split into two.
      It had been a civilian walkway, and now was an instrument of defense. Tanya knew not what territory the rows of pillboxes were defending, but never bothered to ask. It hardly mattered in the long run. No one had ever attacked these walls, and she knew the United Nations commanders were all too willing to make an attempt in force.
      They had chosen today. Of this Tanya knew nothing, but she was about to be tested all the same.
      "Private," asked Tanya of the nearest soldier, the one leaning over the machinegun railing. "What have you heard?"
      The man turned from his fellow soldier to face Tanya. "Nothing, sir."
      "And why is that?" pressed Tanya.
      "Well, they got the last of our satellites yesterday," responded the soldier.
      Tanya silently cursed. Throughout the war, high command had relied on their orbital satellites to monitor enemy supply points- to see if they were moving around troops or machinery. Without them, it was next to impossible to acquire any information at all.
      "Do you know what the last report was?" It wasn't likely this man the slightest clue, but anything was possible.
      "No, sir."
      Tanya nodded, she hadn't expected any other response. Last she had heard, the Four-Hundredth's command staff was being juggled, officers pensioned off and new staff brought in. This news had been a clear message of defeat: why change tactics and commanders if everything is going your way? No one would. So it was well accepted that those dressed in stark black, like Tanya, were winning the war. But that had been weeks ago, and new commanders also meant new tactics, of which Tanya had seen precious little of late.

      The preliminary strike was already on its way; a collections of long range cruise missiles, breaking the ocean's waves with their own thrust as they raced out across the seas, dodging high icecaps with unique guided agility. They had been launched from the heavy sea cruiser Fallen, from massive vertical bays used in war for the first time since the ship's construction. Behind the missiles came ranks of dropships, carrying infantry forces, hundreds of soldiers, suited not for the cold weather but for war. Beyond that came even larger vessels: massive sea fairing tankers conscripted from civilian shipping yards, and converted to carry tanks and other equipment. Escorting these kilometer-long barges, were numerous ships of war, weapons and missiles trained inland, including the United Nations Furnax Fleet Ship Fallen, already reloading her bays with more of the modified long-range Spearhead type missiles.
      Suddenly, racing overhead the seaborne fleet, a flight of great delta-winged bombers streaked past, their massive engines powering them over the icebergs and vast ocean. As they closed in on the dropships ahead, all moving inland as the Spearhead missiles tightened their targeting arcs, closing with the seawall, the bombers opened their missile bays. Clamps fired loose, and scores of air-to-ground missiles fired free, darting inland with incredible speed. The bombers veered off their course, and turned for home, leaving the missiles to their task.

      Tanya shook herself, shuddering against the cold. But that wasn't it, something else was wrong. She reached to her hip holster and produced her pistol, checking it over. It looked fine; magazine loaded and safety on. She slid it back into place, and walked over to where she had left her standard issue assault rifle. It was still there, leaning against a shelf of helmets. She picked it up, feeling the frozen metal grip in her gloved hands. Flipping the power bar on, the gun's monitor activated- blinking into life. It, too, looked fine. Then what the hell is wrong? Tanya asked herself.
      "Commander!" shouted one of the soldiers standing at the machinegun railing.
      Tanya came running, rifle in hand. "What is it?"
      The man was pointing out over the ocean, gloved hand outstretched.
      "What...?" Tanya trailed off. Her eyes widened.

      The Spearhead missiles came in fast, target acquired visually. The missiles themselves were invisible; too small and moving to fast to be seen- but not so the wake they left across the ocean. They split up suddenly and rose higher into the air; locked onto each of their target pillboxes. Behind them, rapidly gaining velocity, came the bomber-launched missiles, long streaks of visible exhaust whipping through the air.
      Then came the lumbering dropships, appearing over the horizon, ionic drives burning the air around their engines.
      All this Tanya saw, witnessed in a moment. She turned around, ran four paces and slammed down the main alarm switch. Her helmet radio crackled instantly, men shouting for orders as the missiles grew ever closer.
      "What?" Tanya shouted back into her headpiece.
      The voice on the other end was accompanied by more shouting and the moving of heavy machinery. "Commander, I've been ordered to fire our missiles at the dropships..."
      Tanya cut him off. "Well do it, God dammit!"
      "...And I need your approval..." continued the missile gunner.
      "And you've got it!" Tanya screamed, "so fire the missiles!"
      "Yes, sir," came the final reply.
      The bunker shook as ramjet rocket engines fired, and the anti-aircraft missiles flew free from their launchers above. Tanya ran back to the gun rail, and grabbed the two soldiers still standing there.
      "You guys have a death wish?" Tanya shouted over the noise of supersonic engines and klaxon warnings.
      "No, sir!" they shouted back, and followed her to bunker's rear.
      Someone was babbling numbers at Tanya through her headpiece. It took her a moment to realize that the numbers were counting down... and only had five more till zero. She kept running, grabbing the jacket of another soldier who wasn't running, and practically dragged him along. She knew the exit route by heart, and kept running until she was off cement ground and onto ice. Even then, she kept running, listened as the missiles closed in, their distinctive engine whine becoming louder every second.

      Through independent guidance computers, two of the Spearheads decided to smash themselves into Tanya's pillbox. The first came in fast, suddenly dropping low, engine cutting off as the proximity indicator onboard the two meter long missile hit its detonation point.
      The missile hit the bunker's front wall, only slightly below the gun rail, and vanished into the concrete. Before it could detonate, the second missile dropped from the sky, and struck the bunker's top level, digging into the cement. The two exploded at the same time, with the same incomprehensible force.

      The bunker's roof lifted off its foundations and rose about a meter into the air before the reinforced cement melted. Had anyone been standing next to the gun rail, they would have felt the floor beneath them ripple, then dissolve as the first missile obliterated the front of the bunker. One could hardly hear the screams of those who had remained in the bunker as it vaporized. All along the seawall pillars of flame shot into the air as the Spearheads struck home. Chunks of flaming cement and steel rained from the sky, smoke raising all around. Tanya was thrown to the icy hillside like a rag doll, explosive shockwave flattening those who had escaped. Debris was falling all across the hillside.

Another (Part 2)
Date: 18 November 2003, 4:31 AM

      Now it was someone else's turn to take the initiative. She felt herself being pulled to her feet, and forced to stand. Then she was running across the snow covered hill, rifle hanging in her hands. She was amazed she had managed to hold onto the weapon at all. There were more soldier running alongside her then had escaped the bunker's destruction, she was sure of it. She counted a dozen at least, maybe from another bunker, she didn't know. Someone screamed, and they threw themselves flat on the ground.

      Screeching twisted exhaust plumes behind them, air-to-ground missiles acquired what remained of the savaged bunkers and flew in, moving well over the speed of sound. A good five of the weapons hit what was left of Tanya's bunker and destroyed it utterly. More smoke rose, and debris fell like water, covering the landscape around the seawall with manmade ash. Cement chunks hit the ocean, churning up water and floating ice.

      A warning alarm sounded with quick urgency, and Tom Spalding turned his head towards the cockpit to find the source of the matter.
      He could hear the copilot shouting. "Say again! Repeat, say again!"
      "Hit that alarm warning will you?" spoke the pilot, tone still clam. The copilot did as he was told, the alarm shrill dieing off.
      "Ok, mark that, multiple SAM sites inland," the copilot paused, "big deal, we already knew that..." As the copilot finished speaking, as though on cue, another alarm sounded. This one sent everyone into a panic.
      "What in the hell is that?" demanded the pilot.
      The copilot, as best as Tom could tell, was going white. "Multiple SAM launch inland, closing fast- they've got one locked on us. We need countermeasures now!"
      "Roger that- you still with me, Jack?"
      The copilot didn't respond, he was to busy cursing at the radar display. The pilot swore quietly, then reached over to his copilot's seat and flipped a switch.
      "Check, we just activated our ECM, beginning evasive maneuvers," the pilot spoke into his own radio receiver.
      The dropship heaved up onto it's side, then titled downwards, curving away from the rest of the ships, those still heading inland with what seemed to be unstoppable force. Spalding, just before loosing sight of the dropships, glimpsed several others arching away, breaking formation wildly.
      "Smith, give me some chaff at random drops," he paused as a response was cured back, "yes, now, damn it!" The captain was struggling against the ship's controls, alarm warning growing in intensity. Somewhere below him, Spalding couldn't tell where for certain, gears turned and hydraulics fired. Out the rear door's window, clouds of white... something, Spalding had no idea what, streamed away from the dropship.
      The ship began to shake, hull stress exceeding limits as the big craft maneuvered towards the rolling ocean. Suddenly, the alarm warning died and the pilot swung the craft back up, close enough to the sea to almost reach out and grasp the spray, or break the top off an iceberg.
      The copilot regained his senses, and spoke into his radio. "Sounds good, command. Think we dodged that one..." His eye's went wide.
      "Oh shit!" screamed the pilot, and ducked beneath the windshield. Spalding blinked, considering options he had no time to take.
      The dropship vibrated, hull rattling as something moving incredibly fast raced by. Heads turned to watch out the rear window. The smoke trail of a surface-to-air missile was receding into the distance.
      Someone let out a low whistle. That, thought Spalding, was way to close. The missile had almost vanished, when it suddenly arched upwards, almost straight up, and drove right through the bottom of another dropship. Spalding missed sight of the explosion, and equal carnage, but it chilled him to the bones all the same.
      The dropship started coming skywards again, slowly regaining lost altitude to rejoin the formation. Soon, within the coming minutes, he'd be ashore.
      He knew the operational timeline down to the second. What he'd do, where he'd be and where his men would follow. He was ready, and so were the three thousand troops about to push home an attack with one aim: total victory. And he'd sure as hell see it through to that. Out a side window, glass charred with carbon residue from re-entry, Spalding could see ships stretching into the distance, dozens of them.
      Past the desolate sea below, coming over the beach the dropship slowed, engines rotating smoothly to bring the ship in for drop off. Spalding's briefing had stated that they would be jumping- but now it looked like it would be little more then a touch and go. He could hear rounds impacting off the ship's hull, brief echoes and a moment of fear brought with each shot. He hadn't expected the barrage to have erased all resistance; it never did. Someone was always mad enough to struggle through it all, only for the honor of being killed by human minds, rather then the computer intelligence guiding those cruise missiles from the ships farther offshore. It wasn't something Tom considered much, that sort of philosophy.

      Tanya pulled herself up this time, while cement pebbles rained from the sky. The rest of the soldiers did the same, and were running instantly. Tanya matched their pace, lungs burning as cold air circulated through her body. She risked a sideways glance, out over the ocean, and saw explosions, and fire. Dropships, she thought to herself. Well at least we shot down some of them. Another explosion and the ruins of a Pelican class dropship fell from the sky, plunging into frozen water.
      At last, she could see where they were running- a side bunker, much smaller then the now flaming seawall defenses, but positioned well all the same. When they ran up to the bunker's entrance, Tanya saw that the pillbox door had been blown off. She didn't know what to make of that, until she saw the crater in the bunker's cement roof. Evidently the bunker had still taken a hit- but not enough to destroy it completely.
      Together, they ran inside, straight to the pillbox's gun railing. The bunker's crew where lying unconscious around Tanya, most likely in shock from the missile's impact. There wasn't anytime to tend to them, unfortunately. Rather, Tanya pulled her rifle up, and rested it on the gun railing, covering the beach. Others did the same, two men grabbing the machineguns mounted on the railing, pulling back the gun's action and cocking the first round.
      She watched as the dropships came in off the ocean, flared over the beach, and set down gently. One of the big craft opened its service door right in front of their bunker, and started spilling out soldiers... men from the Four Hundredth. Not one of Tanya's soldiers hesitated for a second.
      Machineguns hammered, massive breaches instantly chambering. Pistols erupted into life, solid rounds hurdled onto the beach, and rifles followed suite. Tanya started shooting and didn't stop.

      Spalding waited, watching as the dropships came in over the beach and spun to a halt. The big craft flared their engines around, and commenced a textbook touch-and-go landing pattern. And then Spalding was screaming. The ship's rear door was lowering, preparing to drop Spalding and his men onto that beach. But that was never going to work, as it became instantly clear.
      "Wave off! Wave off!" he shouted into his helmet's microphone.
      The door kept lowering. Spalding watched in horror, as one of the dropships was raked from end to end with machinegun fire, slaughtering those inside before they'd even jumped. Another one of the big craft had just began to descend when the gunfire rattled into life, dead and dieing soldiers spilling off the ship's ramp and onto the beach. The ship heaved around and started heading higher, over what remained of the seawall emplacements.
      Spalding swore, shouted into his microphone but to no avail. In desperation, as his dropship spun around to unload his soldiers, he ran to the cockpit and shouted at the top of his lungs.
      "God dammit!" he bellowed, the pilot turning his head in Spalding's direction.
      "Turn this thing around, and close that door!" The pilot grabbed something attached to his ears, and threw it off.
      "What?" he demanded, "the communications system is all shot to hell..."
      Spalding cut him off. "Close the door, now!"
      The pilot heard that, but it was too late by than. Massive caliber rounds punched through this ship's interior, a single round shooting straight through Spalding's executive officer. Spalding did the only thing he had time to do. He screamed. Bullets blew the pilot's head off.

      Tanya watched as the rifle's bullet count hit zero. She ejected the spent magazine and slammed home another. A series of well placed shots left her with another empty breach, and several dead enemy soldiers. The machineguns kept hammering, and people kept dieing. The soldiers down on the beach had begun to use the larger pieces of cement which were spread across the sand for cover. There wasn't nearly enough. Bodies lined the beach, more freezing in the cold.
      The dropships which had not yet dropped their troops simply didn't. They came in higher, raced past the beach, and flared behind the bunkers, dropping their soldiers into an instant pincer move. One of the big craft was about halfway to spinning for a drop on the beach, when one of the machine-gunners opened fire on the ship. The Pelican swung awkwardly from side to side, then started loosing altitude.
      Then it raised up, rear door still hanging wide, and spun around, heading up the beach and behind the bunkers. Tanya emptied another magazine, sending more enemy down to the beach face first, and headed outside of the bunker.
      She reloaded- realized she had only two magazines left- and sprinted up the hill behind the bunker. Two other soldiers had followed her, their rifles held poised. They could hear the dropship landing just over the crest of the ice capped hill laying in front of Tanya. She motioned for the soldiers to spread out, and she ran to a chunk of debris stuck awkwardly in the ground, crouching behind it. They didn't have to wait long. A squad of ten troops came running over the hill top. Tanya fired, and the other two opened up in unison. Several of the soldiers went down instantly, the others dropped to the ground and responded with their own rifles.
      The bullets nicked craters in Tanya's cement cover. She waited for a pause in the shooting to fire back, but none came. She was pinned down.

      Spalding opened his eyes and was stunned to still be alive. The inside of the dropship was a charnel house. Blood and bodies blown apart, and missing limbs. He was horrified to, but managed to pull himself to his feet. The ship's copilot had taken control, bringing the Pelican away from the deadly beach.
      On shaking feet, Spalding looked out the rear door, watching icebergs trail behind him, followed by beach, bunkers and all. He couldn't tell how many of his men were still alive, but it really didn't matter. He had to get off this godforsaken dropship. Get off it and fight for all he had left.
      The copilot was shouting at Spalding, and it took the soldier a moment to realize it. "Commander!" the copilot shouted, "I'm putting the ship down. You're on your own, but I'll be back with the second wave."
      Spalding nodded, cocking the rifle his hands still gripped as if in death. He turned to the men behind him, some dozen still alive he guessed, and ordered them to assemble. Coming in behind one of the ice covered hills just behind those bunkers, Spalding waited. The ship dropped low, and he jumped, his men following.

      Tanya turned, crouched and then jumped to her feet. She had hardly the time to glimpse the enemy she faced before they started shooting. She fell back behind the cement, bullets ricocheting off in response. To her left, behind more cement debris, were the two soldiers who had followed her. They sat in the same position as she did, forced to hide when every muscle in their bodies screamed, 'fight'.
      "Sir, what do we do now?" shouted one of the soldiers over the constant sound of rifle fire. Tanya was about to respond when she heard the sound of another dropship coming in overhead. She looked up, just over the bunkers, and saw the Pelican hover in, engines swiveling. Another thirty to worry about, she thought to herself as the ship vanished from her field of view.
      Then another sound- different from all those around her, be it the sound of rifles, of ion engines or of human screaming. But she had heard this before, and knew what came next.
      "Get down!" she shouted, or tried to really. Before she could finish that simple sentence, another wave of ship launched missiles cruised home, slamming into what remained of the seawall.

      All of Tanya's world collapsed. She was falling, or dieing, or something. Or it was raining stones, and she was deaf. Either way, when next her eyes opened, the sky had turned black, and pebbles of cement fell all around her. She wanted nothing more then an easy way out, a quick ending to the continued horror.
      Then it struck her, logical and clear. Blinking, she turned backwards, facing the cement block that had become her shelter. Her rifle lay at her feet, thrown free when the missiles had hit. Her helmet was askew, hanging around her neck. She couldn't hear much of anything, and that was just fine. Across from her, those two lay dead, blown apart by what Tanya could not tell. A grenade perhaps? And now it was over.
      Hands raised above her head, she stood up.

      Spalding looked above, feeling jet wash billow the snow around him, as a second dropship flew in, moving to deploy another team just behind Spalding's location.
      "Grenade going!" someone shouted, and true enough, a fragmentation grenade landed down the hill, exploding seconds later. Spalding heard screams, which meant he had that much less to worry about. He raised himself just above the hill, sighting in his assault rifle, and firing a few shots down towards the cement ruble below. Around him, his men kept firing. Then, like all those human in mind, he heard death coming.
      Spalding dropped his head down to the ice, throwing himself flat. He could hear the missiles, high pitched engine whine arching towards the seawall. And they were right on target, leaving debris and ruin in their wake.
      As soldiers from the second dropship came running up to his position, he was raising to his feet, ready to rush the seawall.
      "Come on! We're good to go!" he shouted encouragement to his men and half slid half ran, down the icy hill. The sky was still raining cement debris, which only made matters worse. He fired from the hip, directing his rifle's aim in the general direction of the bunkers, hoping to keep down those who had killed five of his men. Then someone stood up, hands raised.
      It was a women, he could tell that much, her hair flattened by dust, face covered in blood- but a women all the same.
      "Hold your fire," Spalding told his men, "we've got a prisoner here."
      He approached the women, holding his rifle in a relaxed grip. "Are you a soldier?"
      Her eyes continued off into space, watching nothing in particular as the rest of Spalding's men arrived.
      "Get her tags," he spoke to one the soldiers, then, turning to the second squad commander, "clear the bunker, I'll be right behind you."
      The soldier nodded, and his troops ran down to the bunker, guns blazing. Spalding walked in front of Tanya, removing her helmet from around her neck. He stood for a moment, searching her eyes.
      She didn't meet his own, and after a moment, Spalding stopped trying. He nodded, and walked down to the bunker.