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Another (Part 2)
Posted By: Mr Bill Jr V<mr_bill_jr_5@hotmail.com>
Date: 18 November 2003, 4:31 AM

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      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.