A collection of my old works from the previous forum The Insanity of Dawn This planet was going to drive him crazy or kill him or maybe both; he really hoped it wasn't both. If it wasn't the miserable weather or the damned corporate guys, being the frustrating combination of ambitious insistent and utterly clueless, it was the brass trying to bend over backwards to meet their stupid and or terrible ideas, and they weren't trying to kill you. The locals well they where a different story; if its not some Caledonian running at with a sword big as he is (which is big!) that can cut the best armor like a ration pack, its a Merovingian ambush that happens fast and leaves everyone asking very bad questions like "where are they shooting from?" and "why isn't that APC stopping?" or you're fighting Kazaks who use enough firepower to make a Yuan Hao blush or the Americans who use enough fire that you wonder how the whole planet isn't just a scorched ember. Then toss in mines everywhere, quite literally everywhere; Then there are the real natives, Cristo Santo, he'd be having nightmares for the rest of his life about those things, and they where enough to make sure he'd only ever own cats for the rest of his life. but honestly the part that he never got used to was the damned noise every damned gun they used made it, this high pitched annoying ping and clack that you could some times here even when they where shooting them. Apparently that how all guns worked before combi rifles where made. How they all didn't go crazy before then, he'd never know. Urban fighting was the worst. The casing would litter the ground and make that same damned high pitched pings and clanks, around even when they were brushed aside. It was such a ... messy way to fight. they'd also shout what where rather vulgar insults at you if they got close enough, which he just considered rude; doubly so if they didn't speak a language he could understand, which was all of them. their English was terrible. An absurdly loud report brought him back to his sense, and there standing over him wearing an archaic gasmask, firing an archaic a machinegun and speaking archaic Russian was a Spetsnaz. Then he remembered he was bleeding, stabbed while he was pulling guard duty. Now he remembered what he really hated about this planet; all the Ariadnans where sneaky bastards who never fought fair. oddly enough even while this thought flitted through his mind he had to smile a little as everything went dark, 'at least it wasn't to one of those damned noisy guns of their's.' Hardcase Brief view of a woman’s face, black hair brown eyes before turning and being strapped to some form of head or shoulder mount. The image quickly moves over to an average height but muscular man with a quiver and rifle strapped to his back with a bow in hand other weapons and survival gear adorn his person. His hair and eyes is obscured by an old fashioned front brimmed hat and dark plastic sunglasses. They both appear to be standing in a heavily wooded area with the sun beginning its descent towards sunset. “So what’s the local term for people like you again?” “Hard-cases ma’am, and why are you recording this? Thought you were some type of biologist?” “I am, this is for an anthropologist colleague of mine, she’s attempting to get a grant to study on Dawn and she thinks USAriadna might be where she’d like to study; and I have time while my equipment collects samples.” “hrrm” A look between disapproval and amusement flicker across his face “You don’t approve?” “This isn’t exactly territory where you ivory tower folks should be running around just as likely to end up missing as return home.” “Now listen here, just because we’re PanOceanian doesn’t mean we can’t handle ourselves, we’ve both spent time in South America, Acontecimento, and Paradisio before the conflict.” “eerrhrm, sure those places all seem plenty dangerous but they ain’t Dawn, check your machines, seems like they’re windin down.” The man pulls an arrow from its quiver and begins to walk away; stopping and half turning back to the woman. “And stay here I’m gonna check something” The woman walks over to a variety of small machines collecting various data muttering about ‘primitive machismo’. Though she begins collecting up the machines indicating they are done. The man comes crashing back through the woods several arrows missing from the quiver and with his rifle now in hand. “Run to the truck now” “Why wha-” “Run NOW!” She breaks into a run, howls begin to erupt behind her, and she appears to pick up speed. The sound of gunfire can be heard and she turns pack briefly to see the man firing controlled but random bursts into the treeline. Turing to run himself he sees that she’s stopped. “I said run woman” Even as she continues to run the man catches her put her on his shoulder and places a shotgun in her hands. “See anything move, shoot it” The man reaches for a radio at his shoulder “Maddy start the truck and wake up Alex we’ve got Antipodes” The treeline begins to thin ahead the man slows down enough to but the woman on her own feet again. “Keep going” More rifle fire as a truck appears in the distance inside a man sits at the steering wheel, while a woman stands out of the roof hatch with a machinegun. The woman clambers into the back of the vehicle, with the man jumping into the bed moments behind, without a seconds delay the vehicle is thrown into motion, gunfire continues briefly, followed only by the sounds of the engine and the camerawoman hyperventilating at the point of hysterics. A tap on the window behind the camera reveals the man staring at her with mirth filled green eyes. “So you still think you can handle yourself out here?” Recording ends. Metal up “You’ve never been to a live concert before?” The man asked her; incredulity practically dripping off of his tongue. “Of course not with all the services and channels Maya offers I can experience a concert for barely any cost at all” “But it’s not just about seeing and hearing it’s about the smell the sense of excitement and community… ” Aaloka Misra started to fad out of the conversation with the man across the table from her. He was Ariadnan or as he and his fellows preferred to be called ‘American’ part of one of their Ranger Regiments with which her unit would apparently be working with once they both rotated out of R&R so some genius in command had decided they need to spend more time together to ‘improve unit cohesion’ or some such bureaucratic buffoonery. To the surprise of everyone it worked fairly well, the Americans where actually quite friendly; so long as no one challenged them to any physical contests, these Rangers tended to have enough muscle for at least one other person and only admitted defeat when the medics had them on a stretcher (which was rare as it was usually their opponent that needed the attention). “…so what do you say?” Hector Williams asked her as she snapped back to the conversation. “I’m sorry I was lost in thought.” She replied truthfully enough, hoping he’d politely move on to another topic, perhaps something to do with the little spare time they had before leave ended and how they could make the best use of it. She had joined the military to meet new people and he was terribly attractive, a swarthy complexion with dark hair, grey eyes, and all that muscle… “I said ‘the diplomatic core has a few morale bands that travel around the expeditions would you like to join some of my buddies and I tomorrow night for the show ’ you can bring some friends as well it’d probably be a good bonding experience ” “Aren’t those sorts of things rather dull jingoistic affairs?” A wide if somewhat crooked grin split the man’s face “darlin’ we’re from Dawn nobodies got time for that sort of crap, this is good red blooded cross national entertainment” Maybe it was the way he said entertainment, maybe she was sincerely interested, Aaloka couldn’t really tell but she felt herself returning the grin “so where do you want to meet?” They met outside a rather large, rather secure looking warehouse, while not knowing what to really expect she doubted most concerts where lined with Bureau Aegis riot troops, Merovingian Loup-Garou, and the main doors flanked by what looked like four dog-faces somehow looking surlier and more scarred than their usual brethren. She was beginning to regret only bringing three companions with her, all fellow Guarda de Assalto but even these dauntless souls balked a little at the security for a mere ‘morale concert’ But before anyone could turn around Hector sauntered up leading a half dozen companions of various Ranger units. “Aaloka, glad you could make it, and these must be your friends nice to meet you all we’ll make introductions once we’re inside, right now stick with us and we’ll make sure none of you kiddies get lost in the crowd ” he gave a jesting wink at all of them. Once inside Aaloka gave the scanned the crowed and was surprised by what she saw. There were the expected contingents of Ariadna, Caledonians, Merovingian’s, Americans, and Kazak’s all mingling; but their where also more Pan-Oceanian soldiers, clusters of Haqqislamites, a rather large Nomad contingent, mostly from Corregidor, though some Tunguskans, and a few members of Bakunin who never could resist a party, even a few Lhosts of the Subsections where visible and consciously being kept away from the Nomads by a not entirely off duty group of Spetnaz and Bureau Aegis troops, their even appeared to be a few clusters of Tohaa troops sprinkled throughout the crowd. Then Aalokas eyes alighted on the stage just a she heard one of Hectors companions mutter “someone let the Dozers into the scrapyard?” and she had to concur. The stage had been ‘decorated’ with crude metal sculptures which upon inspection turned out to be crude, if effective, caricatures of TAGs locked into hand to hand combat. Then the lights dimmed and music started to play, first electronic then gradually building into heavy drums, guitar, and bass; then the singing started and with a burst of flame so hot she could feel it in the middle of the crowd the band appeared accompanied by the screams and cheers of the crowd. The entire warehouse instantly became an energized mass with many people starting to pulse and bob in time with various beats of the music. Looking over at Hector she could see he wasn’t immune either bobbing his head in a curious simultaneous up and down side to side motion, and a few of his female companions where whipping their unbound long hair rhythmically to the music as well; it seemed miracle that their necks hadn’t snapped already. (song) Then the first song stopped. And before the crowd could start to cheer the bassist started whistling, a much slower tune but with the same kind of heavy energy as the first and Aaloka was able to get a good look at the performers. The bassist was Caledonian, long blond hair and a thick beard and wearing a ridiculous kilt, the drummer was an American woman short and broad shouldered with dark brown hair severely pulled back into a tail, the singer/keyboardist was Kazak man, with a neatly trimmed red beard being the only thing that really distinguished him from his comrades in arms, and the guitarist was a Merovingian woman black hair falling freely down her back and a fire in her smile as she played.(song) As the second song ended cheers and roars rang out through the building and the singer smiled for a second before speaking addressing the crowd. “Guys and ladies it’s good to see you all tonight, I hope everyone’s enjoying themselves” even more cheers accompanied this statement, “now I don’t want to ruin your evenings already but we thought we’d get our little expeditionary anthem out of the way and then back on with the rest of show” in Aaloka’s opinion the roar of approval from the Ariadnans that greeted this statement was the most enthusiastic response to a national anthem that she’d ever heard; until the band started playing again. The slow piano/guitar quickly gave way to a more methodical and heavy style of play, then the lyrics started and noticeable change went over everyone the song seemed to stiffen all of them. They no longer moved with the music but stood at near parade attention stamping to the beat with the drums and nearly universally they sang along with the chorus “when the war has been won, and our march home begins what awaits has not yet been revealed. What was won, what was lost, will our deeds be remembered? Are they written in stone or in sand?” a grim determination settled over the singers face twisting into a malicious grin with the utterance of one line “…protecting civilians while fired upon, rules of engagement our restrictions are gone”. She nearly jolted out of her skin when she felt a heavy hand lock on her shoulder turning she could see Hector sing out with tears in his eyes “leaving home, set to sea, was this really meant to be, see the shores of our home fade away, facing blood facing pain have our brothers died in vain? Many lives have been lost on the way!” (song) She could see in that moment she saw into the very soul of these people why they were here and the determination the showed in all things and then in a blink the song was over his hand released her shoulder and she turned back to the stage as a throaty chuckle emanated from the guitarist “I believe it’s time we give poor Vasily a break; how about we make it my turn now?” She quickly set aside her own guitar as another man stepped on stage with his own, another Merovingian by the looks of him. As she stepped up Aaloka noticed just how tall she was, easily closing in on two meters before she put on her heeled boots, her long hair blowing behind her, lending an ethereal appearance to this statuesque figure. Then she started to sing,(song) and it was in no way what Aaloka expected. Her voice managed to soar over the heavy cords, like an angel over the sounds of battle. The singers’ eyes sparkled with life and joy contrasting the previous singer, Vasily apparently, and his aggressive growling. The crowd became energized anew as well not only was the head-banging back but she could see some individuals , being lifted and carried across the crowd bodily in varying directions and apparently reveling in the experience. “Well you all seemed to enjoy that, now if Vasily’s up to it what do you say we all take a short trip together?” She gave a meaningful glance to the drummer who immediately started started a very deep, resonant refrain, “For you my dear Elise, I’m always ready for a little travel” Vasily responded giving a grin more often associated with madmen then performers. The two of them together formed such a wondrous cacophony, heaven and hell meeting in such beautiful violence it was something so wondrous Aaloka hoped it would never end. The passage of time was soon lost on Aaloka, the performance was so fast, provided so many stories and so much energy. More duets where preformed sending chills down her spine and fire through the assembled throng, eventually she, and her compatriots, began to pick up the mannerisms of their Ariadnan hosts losing themselves in the moment, one of her friends got carried along the top of the crowd smiling like a child, she sat on Hectors shoulders, screaming out her lungs over the top of the crowd. “Guys and ladies, I hope you’ve had even half as much fun as we have” Elise began, “but I’m afraid for tonight this beautiful ride must come to an end…” a universal chorus of groans greeted that proclamation “However I hope everyone is prepared for the last ride of the day” and with an with that the band threw themselves into the last performance with perhaps even more energy than they had displayed previously. There was so much fire shooting out from the stage that several of the Tohaa groups actually began to back away from the stage. And it all ended with an blinding blast of flame obscuring the entire stage. And with that it was over, she looked up at Hector “so what do we do now?” he paused to think for a moment “well first we should probably track your friend down, but after that… the nights still young I’m sure we can figure something out.” Meet the Band Elise: “How many soldiers are left in those woods?” “sergent-chef Elise Lefevre troisome regiment des chasseurs…” *wham* Spots danced in front of her eyes as her head was slammed into the table she was seated near. She was getting very tired of this, it was as if they didn’t expect someone to resist an interrogation, barely an hour in and they’d already started trying to beat information out of her and she could tell that if the little connardbehind her wasn’t wearing that fancy powered armor of theirs he’d probably be hitting softer then she had when she was in secondary school. “They want to start playing rough” Elise thought “fine, I’ve always liked games”. Straightening herself up and craning backwards, doing her best to stare straight into his eyes “If your wife ever wants to meet a real man I’ll happily meet her once this little conference is over.” She made certain to put on her most seductive accent, and give a sly, if bloody, smile just to twist the knife in a little further, he reacted perfectly as she ducked his next swing Elise swiftly brought her head back up smashing into his nose while his fist collided harmlessly with the table. “Please do call off your cabot, he’s annoying me.” Elise stared at the woman across from her, of indeterminate ethnicity, but sporting several unit markings of the Pan-Oceania Shock Army of Acontcemento one of those what where they called, ah yes Bagh-Mari. “And why pray tell, would I do that when you’ve been so uncooperative?” Smiling again, but this time with something more feral leaking into her features, “because I think his already delicately bruised ego won’t like what I’m about to tell you.” She heard the delightful sound of someone speaking with a freshly broken nose behind her “I’ll show you bruised…” whirling around Elise stood up, a full head taller than the man who had hit. While she hadn’t been able to pick the damned cuffs they had put her in the chain they’d attached them to had practically been child’s play to remove. “And because,” she said with deliberate slowness “as much as I’d like to kick both of your asses, it currently serves no purpose.” The officer thought about it for a moment “corporal, please reattach the Sergeants restraints and leave the room.” “But lieutenant…” “That was not a request, call in some backup if you want, but leave. This. Room. ” Glaring at Elise while she smiled benignly as he did as he was ordered her jailer left the room. “Now before I give you my answer a question of my own, how many of my soldiers did you recover from that last sortie? Dead or alive.” The lieutenant consulted a small screen in front of her “all told, nearly two dozen, about two thirds of them dead, the rest too injured to continue fighting when they were captured” Processing this information Elise allowed herself a small, sad smile. “Then I congratulate you lieutenant, the woods are yours, you have killed or captured my entire platoon, bravo.” “You mean to tell me that a platoon was able to hold up this battalion for nearly a day and a half?” disbelief was coming off of the woman so thickly that Elise could almost smell it. “And that with most of your unit dead or captured you’d be smiling about it” “Tell me lieutenant, I’m assuming you did a search of my comrades’ bodies, and probably checked everyone while they were unconscious in surgery so that they didn’t die under your care. Did you try and run a translation on the tattoos that many of us have? ” here Elise pointedly offered her bicep for inspection “no don’t bother looking at you notes, I’ll tell you, it means ‘resist and bite’ and if we managed to hold your advance for so long then yes; I can smile a little knowing that we lived and died following our creed.” “’resist and bite’, how very civilized, why resist at this entire planet is our by ri…” “If you finish that sentence little girl” a very dangerous look was creeping into Elise’s eyes “you will see what happens when you piss off someone who can win a bar fight against a very drunk, very horny, dog-face. Any ‘rights’ you or anyone else on Earth had to Dawn died the day the Aurora never showed up. You’re just another offworlder” and this invective was said with more venom then any insult she had thrown in years “who is trying to take our home, the Antipode’s couldn’t do it when we first arrived or in the generations since, and you soft sots most certainly will not take our home from us without a fight, and even if you do win” a very dark chuckle rose from her throat, “it will be a very long time before you finish burying the bodies after you plant your victory flag, presuming of course you have anyone left fit enough to plant it.” Elise stood again, leaving the chain trailing to the floor, “now if you have any more questions for me I’ll be in my cell” and as she passed the stunned looking lieutenant, Elise bent down and looked her interrogator in the eyes “oh Cheri don’t look so disturbed, this planet is your right after all, isn’t it?” Elise gave her a quick peck on a cheek before heading out the door, turning one last time she threw a final piece of advice for the little girl “and while you might hold those woods now I’d keep in mind that there are a lot more hunters, more Chasseurs out there and if this is what forty did, well just imagine what more can do; I'd tell your superiors to enjoy those woods while they lasts.” Vasiliy: Vasily always enjoyed a good ambush, whether he was a child playing in the snow, a fresh out of training rookie at a stansi, or a veteran tankhunter the thrill of the first unexpected barrage always filled him with joy. This occasion was doubly joyful as these where some offworld imbeciles who thought they could stroll around looking for Tesium deposits like they owned the damned planet. “Scouts, what are we dealing with?” the Captains voice came through the headsets with a chorus of scouts gave varying pieces of information in answer. “We count nearly fifty foot mobile infantry and two APC’s plus civilian trucks and equipment”, “no official military markings, fatigues and equipment appear to be standard Yu Jing issue, probably corporate goons.” “Good, we’ll catch less diplomatic flak when these idiots go missing. Everyone wait for Vasily to signal, then get to work and make it quick can’t risk them getting a message out.” Vasily couldn't help but smile at that, he always like firing the first shot, being one of the few people in the unit who enjoyed lugging around a missile launcher probably helped, most others preferred the more accurate fire of rifles HMG’s or the autocannons . but so far as opening salvo’s go, so far no one had found anything better than a pair of missiles streaking at the densest clump of unprepared invaders. “Alright guys and ladies, let’s give these offworlders a nice, warm, welcome” before he’d even finished the sentence he’d launched both rounds within seconds of each other and took off sprinting to his next location where some spare rockets awaited. The Yu-Jing goons where professionals the second they saw the first fireball streaking towards them they attempted to reach cover, unfortunately for them Vasily was also a professional and had aimed at the two closest pieces of cover, knocking several off their feet when each rocket impacted and depriving them of easy cover. And that was all the opening his companions needed, bursting from concealed positions spitting fiery death the scouts and tankhunters dropped nearly a third of the security contingent before they started to receive return fire, and by that point all but the most brave or foolish had vacated their original firing positions running to a second, more fortified position to finish the fight. The second APC was lowering its ramp revealing a line of bulky figures with glowing eyes “Heavy infantry in the APC concentrate fire, don’t let them get out!” Vasily allowed himself another tight smile at this, he’d just started to aim his rockets again and moved smoothly to the lowering ramp another pair of rockets went streaking downrange. He was getting slow, the first one had actually managed to get their feet touching the soil before the rockets made everything around the armored figure a world of fire. “Tarasov, are you trying to get yourself another commendation?” Vasily turned in time to see one of the scouts, Ilya Nikitin, slid into the foxhole next to him and crawl up the dirt rampart he’d dug earlier that day “Because if you are maybe next time you should get all of them with those big rockets of yours”. Ilya then planted two armor penetrating rounds into one of the few heavy infantry soldiers that had actually managed to stumble out of the burning wreck of their transport. Whatever affect they had been hoping for with those suites wasn’t happening as they were down to nearly a dozen combat effective soldiers and a handful of very dazed and damaged suits of heavy armor. Shaking his head Vasily fired off another rocket at a pair of heavies one of which was beginning to aim a machinegun in his direction, quickly ducking down and dragging the talkative scout with him, Vasily braced for the return volley, but it never came, over the sound of his latest explosion Vasily heard the command to stand down and move in. There where ten of the standard security goons still left standing from the ambush along only three of the heavy infantry, who all looked to be in very rough shape, the two Vasily had shot at before the cease fire order where both a crumpled mess near the first destroyed APC, which was filled mainly with supplies and equipment that Vasily couldn’t immediately recognize but would be brought back for the Dozers and intelligence to look over at their leisure. Those of the ambush that had made themselves visible where either headed to the small knot of offworlders or policing up the fallen bodies , giving those still breathing medical aid, or arranging the dead neatly in the shell of the second destroyed APC. “Good evening ladies and gentleman” the captain began in a booming overly friendly voice “welcome to our fine country I trust your travels have been pleasant da?” A middle aged man stepped to the front of the group “you certainly have a strange manner of welcoming guest, what’s next taking us hostage and asking for ransom?” “Ransom?” the captain gave an incredulous start “my good man you misunderstand, we are soldiers of the Matr government, we don’t do ransom, we are simply here to escort you out of our lands, and it is very fortunate for you that command has been generous recently, where it up to me I would just have Vasily up there ” here he gestured to Vasily who had climbed up on top of an APC to gain an intimidating vantage on the survivors “just blow you all away. Instead you will come with us to the nearest settlement where arrangements will be made with whatever entity you represent for your safe return. Vasily if you would give the signal please.” Reaching down to his thigh Vasily drew a flare gun and checking that the appropriate color was loaded pointed it in the air fired, reloaded and fired again. A single flare answered in the distance Vasily put an ear to his comms “ten minutes till the choppers arrive” and then leveling his launcher at the group and giving his most deranged smile “please sit down, make yourselves comfortable, and keep your hands where I can see them our ride will be along shortly.” Yes indeed Vasily thought to himself, I do love a good ambush. Alex: Weapons fire was exploding the canyon through which a contingent of Rangers was struggling to retreat. It had to be understood that Rangers hated to run for two reasons; the first being that they were told since training that they were the dividing line between their enemies, whoever they might be, and the people back home; and that a retreat was a good way to endanger those they had sworn to protect. The second reason was more practical, the sheer amount of gear and armor that this mindset engendered was really heavy and made running, in any direction, very difficult. The Rangers Navajo outpost had been set up about seven months prior to monitor offworld mining interests and to attempt to, dissuade, those who did not have a permit signed by representatives of the government from staying around for very long. Things had been pretty quiet for a while until some hotshot corporation decided the rules didn’t apply to them and ignored the delicate, by Ranger standards, warnings that the patrol sent in their direction gave them. They had apparently taken poorly what they felt where increased Maverick patrols and Desperado bands that had taken to making themselves known in ‘their’ territory. Word had started to trickle down that they were going to in no uncertain terms show these pretentious offworlders the door. They must’ve heard that too, and they must’ve had some major clout back home too as the next thing everyone knows is the Foxtrots are frantically telling everyone that Pan-Oceanian soldiers where coming down on them and they’d brought a couple of TAGS to the party. They’d held onto the outpost for as long as possible, sending a number of distress signals, last word they’d gotten was that a Merovingian response team was headed their way along with more Rangers and they should destroy any valuable equipment and intel and head towards the relief force. Which led to Corporal Alexandra “Alex” Muis and her squad of Minutemen being where they always ended up, right where everything was FUBAR , with too many targets and not nearly as much ammunition as she would have preferred. Fortunately they’d managed to destroy or damage two of the TAGs that had accompanied the incursion before they’d abandoned the outpost the three had attempted to take to the top of the canyon to rain fire on the retreating Rangers from on high, fortunately between the Foxtrots, Mavericks, and Desperadoes they and their escorts seemed too busy dying to carry that plan out. Unfortunately that still left two chasing everyone through the canyon along with an uncomfortable number of heavy Pan-Oceanian heavy Infantry and not nearly enough armor penetrating rounds for the squads’ machine gun to deal with all of them. “Hey Alex,” shouted one of her Rangers, Duran it sounded like, “explain to me again why we didn’t have Blackjack support?” “Because Pendejo this was supposed to be a low intensity deployment, we were should have been more than enough to deal with the heaviest things a civilian corporation could get a hold of.” “Yeah? well someone tell Intel they fucked up, again!” “I will take the suggestion under advisement, until then shut up unless you’ve got anything useful.” Swinging out from the rock she’d been sheltering behind Alex triggered both of her handheld flamethrowers straight into an oncoming band of ORC troops, the ones still standing after the cones of fire stopped pouring on them where too busy getting hit by Duran and Stone’s covering fire to try and shoot back at the audacious corporal. “Sarge, how’re we holding up?” “The rear element’s reached the RZ, and the FRRM is deploying now, should only be a... TAG INCOMING!” Apparently sensing that the sergeant was about to deliver good new, the TAG pilot started a blitz towards the retreating Ranger line. The Minutemen were running low on ammo, a lot of them had minor wounds and they were all tired from the running battle they’d been engaged in all day. The ORC troops joined in, hoping to get in close and break the line open, while lighter elements stayed in cover adding more fire to the beleaguered Americans. “That things gonna tear us apart, on three we bring it down. Three, two, one” “this is such a stupid idea” she heard Stone mutter before “NOW!” what affect the rifle fire had Muis had no idea, but the AP rounds tore chunks into the already abused armor of the offworld monstrosity, it faltered, then one last burst from Bell’s toy tore its head off and it crumpled to the ground. Muis had a brief second of elation before she caught a full burst into her torso, knocked off her feet she reflexively pulled out a flamethrower and fired it at the offending offworlder. Before she could trigger it her assailant went down to a new chorus of gunfire that inserted itself into the din. Looking backwards Muis saw a force of Zouaves and Moblots practically racing down the canyon towards them, with airborne rangers appearing on the canyon edge pinning the soldiers into whatever cover they could find. The sudden appearance of reinforcements and the loss of their last toy seemed to take it out of the Pan-Oceanian brats though, mostly quickly dropped their weapons, those that didn’t were dropped hard. “Muis, Are you still with me” Sarge asked over comms, looking down at her chest Muis could tell her armor hadn’t been penetrated “yes sir, Think I broke some ribs though.” “That’s a shame, looks like you’ll be sitting out our walk back to base, stay put till a medic sees to you.” “Sir, yes sir” she turned to her squad “alright stop lounging and get to the sergeant , you’ve all got a hike to go on.” Caelan: “How’s the evacuation coming along lieutenant?” “Slow, they don’t want to leave their homes, and most of them are loath to trust the Guard over any of their own…” “Yeah well after their performance in the surrounding marshes they don’t have too many clan warriors left standing.” the captain paused and rubbed the bridge of his nose, considering how best to handle the Caledonian stubbornness they all knew too well. “Alright pass the word along, anyone who wants to stay can but they need to retreat from the edges of town, bring them into the Clan hall and any other secure building we can get our hands on. Once you’ve done that lieutenant Grieves I want you to take your men and dig in and wait for those damned Druze to pop their heads over the hills, after that, well I think you know the plan well enough by now.” Lieutenant Caelan Grieves of the Sixth Scots Guard, First battalion couldn’t help but smiled underneath his shemagh. “sir” was the only acknowledgement of the task before him that he gave as he walked out of the hurried command center they Guard where operating out of. “Macleod, Reid, round everyone up time to earn our pay.” They platoon waded through the streets towards the outskirts of town, it appeared that the captains orders had been enough to appease the more stubborn residents into seeking some modicum of safety, at least until that word started to compare just how many bullets where being fired in a given area. Caelan had thought he’d grown used to the looks that his people gave him once he’d abandoned clan loyalties and adopted the uniform of the Guard, scorn was the most common especially amongst the elderly and the clan hierarchy, aggression from the young and brash who wanted to make a name for themselves within their own clans and pity more than a few times from those who saw them as outcasts abandoned by traditional bonds of family and security. He saw a more than a few of those faces as they made their way, but he saw another look that he’d honestly never expected to see, hope, hope that the Guard could succeed where the old ways had failed, and that shook him in a way Caelan couldn’t explain. Making their way down to the edge of the settlement Caelan saw the improvements that had been made to the towns’ normal defenses against Antipode raids, namely that a battery of Muls had been dug in watching the approaches over the mountains. Another platoon of the Guard was dug in as well and while he couldn’t see them Caelan know more than a few SAS and Caterans and even some of the Second battalion where dug into the surrounding area as well, waiting to make these mercenaries pay for abusing their people and plundering their countries resources. After conferring briefly with the other platoons Lieutenant and the commander of the Mul battery Caelan’s platoons dug and waited. “Do ya think their expecting a fight sir?” one of his soldiers an old veteran by the name of Murray asked “or do ya think their expecting to waltz in after the thrashing they gave the local boys?” pausing to consider Caelan replied “I don’t rightly know, but by all accounts these Druze are bullies and even if they didn’t expect a fight they’d bring all their fancy toys just to cow the locals.” Putting a finger to his ear he heard an advanced scout report incoming, helicopters or some form of VTOL craft and they looked to be packing a number of the old models TAGs that Druze seemed to favor. “But it seems like we’ll be getting an answer shortly. Look lively my bonnie boys and girls companies on the way, and it seems like they might want to dance.” Nearly a dozen aircraft appeared over the crest of the mountains probably seeing the soldiers dug in on their approach, not that it mattered as the moment they entered weapons range of the Muls rockets started streaking through the sky. It wasn’t what they were designed for but the rudimentary guidance on the rockets made certain that that the VTOL’s couldn’t loiter very long to drop off their cargo and that their advanced ECM where virtually lost on the old warheads. Caelan saw one go up in flames as a particularly lucky volley from an Uragan caught a transport right on the nose. Several others looked roughed up by the close proximity bursts and of the eight or so underslung TAGs one had a crater where the chest used to be and a few others where already missing limbs. That was where the good news ended as the aircraft overshot the outskirts of town continued inward, stopping quickly and lowering ropes where mercenaries began to repel down quickly. “Captain there’s been a complication, they bypassed us and are dropping in throughout the town, my platoon is moving to engage, Dunn’s will stay behind and watch the Muls. Be warned two squads of TAGs are in play.” Without bothering to wait for the captain’s response the platoons quickly made their way through the now deserted streets. Gunfights broke out almost immediately and Caelan heard overlapping reports of contact, and while the Druze weren’t getting everything their own way their TAGs where making things difficult, fortunately the hell storm they’d had to endure getting in had paid dividends in terms of reducing their combat effectiveness. And cheers broke out on several channels following the destruction of a few. “COVER!” Murray barely had time to scream before two TAGs and what looked like the better part of a Druze platoon rounded the corner. Caelan saw several members of the platoon dive through shop windows or hastily open doors into sturdy stone buildings, while others found what little cover could be found in the streets. Murray the stubborn bastard that he was hastily fired off his D.E.P. and began blazing away with his SMGs, he managed to knock several Druze off their feet from the blast and scored several hits on the nearest TAG, then the return fire sent him reeling onto the ground where he didn’t move. Several more rockets screeched in both directions knocking out buildings and men with abandon. Fortunately for the Scots teseuim was cheap in Caledonia and it armor piercing capabilities made even this firefight horribly unfair for the Druze, both TAGs were quickly got brought down and the remainder of the platoon attempted to withdraw. “C’mon men after them don’t let up!” Caelan called, running after the mercenaries. As they rushed after them he saw one rush into a nearby building to hide or to ambush his men as they passed he didn’t know or care but Caelan charged in after him. Leaving anyone who followed him to check the downstairs Caelan let his rifle drop and pulled out his knife and pistol, he cleared one room upstairs and had just backed out into the hallway when he instinctually backed up narrowly avoiding the short Machete the Druze had swung at him. Firing a quick burst into the man’s chest, Caelan dropped the gun and grabbed his opponents arm and jammed the knife into the meat of his arm. Caelan heard his muffled scream through the helmet as the Druze reflexively dropped his weapon. Using this moment Caelan grabbed the front of the Druze’s helmet and smashed it backwards repeatedly into the stone wall, whatever protection it was designed for but blunt trauma from a burly Caledonian was not one of them, and Caelan heard some very satisfying cracking noises on his last two hits. Grabbing his dazed opponent by the neck and belt Caelan bodily lifted the smaller man off his feet and running to the end of the hallway tossed him out the top window to the street below where he narrowly avoided landing on one of Caelan’s men and twitched feebly from the beating and two story fall. “Lieutenant Grieves!” the captain’s voice called over the radio. “Sir” “we’ve got trucks inbound, looks like they’re carrying twice as many men and more TAGs and we can’t discount more units coming in by air. We’ve convinced everyone to evacuate get your men on the transports and get out of here. ” fighting down his pride Caelan acknowledged and made his way down to back to his milling platoon, flipping over opponent and peered into his cracked mask. “This isn’t over; we’ll be back for this town and everything you’ve taken.” Taking out his pistol again Caelan fired a round millimeters from the man’s head and hurriedly pulled his platoon back towards evacuation. “You can’t always protect your home “he thought as they headed out, looking at transports filled with civilians and injured soldiers “but some things are more important than buildings”.