Chapter 1: The Simplest Plans...

The cramped cabin was dimly lit by an unnerving red light, and if you asked one of the twelve men inside, they would all describe it as if the world were tumbling down a hill, nothing was stable inside that cabin, and the men were made all the more nervous by the endless array of sounds, each groan of metal could very well mean that they would fall out of the sky.

Over the ships intercom spoke the pilot, his voice almost overtaken by static, "Five minutes till drop, Lieutenant Camel." At the back of the cabin, by the door to the cockpit, a soldier gets up; the sound of air rushing from a pipe can be heard for a moment before he stands at attention, the sound of air being replaced by a barely perceptible electric hum. On his shoulder gleams a golden metal insignia of a Lieutenant, a single dot within a metal ring. His exoskeleton makes him stand an intimidating seven and a half feet tall. Most of the suits plating is rounded and smooth, with additional sheets of heavy metal on the shoulders, and a long thick piece of flexible titanium across the front. The helmet he wears is like a tribal mask, thin strips of metal over flexible Kevlar covering and a grate alone protects his mouth. But the most striking feature of this armor is the half-dollar sized eyepiece, which glows a bright blue.

The other soldiers sit up straight, and stare intently at the Lieutenant, any other action being done stops immediately, one would think he were king with the respect the soldiers gave. The Lieutenant speaks loudly and forcefully, no word is slurred, "Tarkan, at attention!" Most of the squad rose up and turned to the lieutenant, the electric hum turning into an annoying buzz. There was only one soldier who didn't rise as, while loading a clip, dropped one of the bullets onto the metal grate, and now fumbled for it. Not a task for a soldier in a hundred pound suit.

A few of the men laughed as Cpl. Jake, the squads designated marksmen, whispered, "FNG." "Stow it Corporal." Ordered the lieutenant, giving a glare of dominance to a soldier with the symbol of the Ofylian Army etched into his armor. "Private! Stand at attention or I will not hesitate to personally kick you off this ship at a mile high in the air!" shouted the lieutenant, shaking his head at Pvt. Haverson, the only soldier with armor and emotions unscarred. Haverson stood up, with help from a fellow soldier.

One of the soldiers near the back, with armor nearly as scarred as the Lieutenants, raises his hand and speaks with a voice that sounded like it was being choked by smoke. "Sir, squad is still awaiting orders." "Thank you Sergeant Shegar," said the Lieutenant, "Alright, you know the mission. Knock out their defenses and clear the way for Alpha to get those cells. Then we follow Alpha to the evac point and head back to the capitol. Are we clear?" The soldiers all responded a crisp and quick "Sir, Yessir!" in unison.

The static shrouded voice of the pilot came over the intercom, "Dropping in one." The soldiers in the squad made final ready checks: Safeties were off, armor condition was in the green, and they all knew their orders. The ship clunked onto the broken cement of the street with a loud clang, and it sounded like the ramp of the ship was about to break as it lowered, as soon as it hit the cement, the mission began.

Two blue figures rushed out of the ship and took cover behind a pile of rubble. One of them pulled out a black pair of binoculars, and scanned the area. Clear. They motioned for the rest of the squad to hustle out of the ship. A second ship landed nearby, the soldiers there followed the same procedure. The Lieutenant called over Shegar, the soldier who brought back order to the briefing on the ship, and gave him a nod as the two soldiers huddled over a small device that projected a holographic image of the area, "Let's wait till Alpha gets here and then we'll head two clicks north. That should take us to an abandoned factory, should have a view of the area, and Jake should be able to get a good bead on the compound."

"I'll go inform the men," replied Shegar. The Sergeant walked away with the plans for the soldiers and the Lieutenant looked at the device with a bit of disdain.

"Better not be screwing me," he thought, "Doesn't matter how rare you are, you better be right this time." The machine only buzzed in response as the Lieutenant turned it off and attached it to the side of his armor. The device had once been for tourists to the city, unfortunately the city had deteriorated after a century of disrepair, violence, and natural disasters. He had lost a lot of friends because of this device.

A few minutes of rest were welcome to the soldiers. Pvt. Haverson, the soldier who dropped a bullet in the ship, sat quietly, behind the cold, blue-lit eyes of the armor was a nervous face, and his hands were constantly checking his gear. Cpl. Jake, the marksman of the group was standing with his rifle, scanning the horizon with eyes as blue as the armor, and with as little blinking as the armors constantly blue eyes. Most of the other soldiers sat in their positions, keeping ready incase the New Republic of Ofylia attacked.

"Lt. Camel? Lt. Camel?" yelled a soldier, who was clad in the same blue armor but stumbled along like a newborn infant, approaching the squad. Behind him were several more soldiers clad in blue. Although most of them weren't carrying the long-range M1 rifles, they carried with them the newly developed S3 Submachine Gun and century old shotguns from forgotten armories. They were equipped for close quarter's combat, no use in securing the perimeter.

"Keep it down! Lt's over there!" said the posted sentry, pointing to the Lieutenant who began striding over; the heavy weight of his armor causes broken glass to crack under his feet.

"Specialist Gordon of Alpha? Used to the suit yet?" questioned the Lieutenant, his voice was mocking, but Gordon didn't seem to notice at all.

Gordon nodded, "Yeah, I think we're ready to go in if you are. And these things are way too bulky; couldn't they be lighter and a bit more open?" He wasn't even able to stand up straight in the armor, constantly adjusting his footing. The other members of Alpha squad were more confident, and would keep this man alive.

"Goddamn civilians ... I hate relic-running," thought the Lieutenant. 'Relic Running' was a term invented by infantryman and was essentially used to give a name to the large number of missions where a squad of able soldiers were taken from the frontlines of the war, and forced to guard civilians while they played around in the rubble, looking for technology from the old war. About half the time they found nothing, and half of the time they did, it was worthless crap that would need months of work to make it useable.

The Lieutenant pulled out the map of the old city and showed it to Gordon and Shegar, who had returned to receive orders. He pointed out the factory as a useful position for Alpha to hide in until Tarkan squad, the Lieutenant's squad, was able to secure them a way in. The two squads began moving forward through the ruined city, luckily without incident. When they arrived at the factory, the soldiers took up their positions and the base was scouted out.

Cpl. Jake spoke into the communication system of his armor, "Two guards at the front, the intact bunker has two gun emplacements in it. There's seven, no, nine. Nine guards are on the perimeter. In the center of the base is another gun emplacement, but it's open to the air. Pretty light sir; it's your call on how we do this." The communications channel was cut off with a click as the force of nineteen soldiers inside of the factory waited on the lieutenants' orders.

"Good, keep me posted Jake," replied the Lieutenant, "Alright, here's what we'll do..." The Lieutenant outlined a simple plan. Jake would take out the central gun emplacement and provide covering fire, the rest of Tarkan squad would move in on the bunkers, hit them with a pair of blinders, and then move in to mop up the rest of the enemy soldiers. Once the area was secured, Alpha squad, led by Gordon, would move in and accomplish the mission. It was a simple plan, but the secessionists weren't skilled at military tactics. And they had the element of surprise. It took only a minute for the soldiers to get into position as Jake readied his rifle, aimed at the head of the soldier on the emplacement, and squeezed the trigger.

PEKEW! A clean shot, the headless body of the soldier stumbled to the ground, coating the weapon in a crimson sheet. Every soldier in the compound began running to cover; the bunkers own emplacements began firing wildly into buildings, creating a wall of dust that made the attack that much easier.

"Berkeley, Haverson, Left storefront, go!" ordered the Lieutenant, his mind going over the tactical layout of the area, "Jake, are we clear to move up to the truck?" he asked, eyeing a large truck, which would give optimal cover.

PEKEW! Another shot rang out and another life was ended, "You are now, sir." Jake spoke in a calm cool voice, like he was relaxing at the park on a warm summer's day. Most of the squad left him alone, out of fear for the most part.

"Move up! Alpha, stay here!" roared the Lieutenant, he and the remaining eight members of Tarkan moved up, three of them broke away towards a car and began getting a set of blinder grenades ready. The remaining six soldiers, including the Lieutenant, ran forward to the truck, the sounds of air escaping made it seem like a geyser had went off, suddenly one pair of compressors stopped firing air, the statuesque blue soldier fell to the ground as the emplacement finally found targets.

The downed soldier writhed in pain on the ground, screaming for the squad medic who was held back by the Lieutenant. "Corpsman, hold! Berkeley, have you reached the position?" asked the lieutenant, the sound of Berkeleys' voice came in clear over the radio.

"Yes sir! Ready to engage, sir!"

"Cover us while we grab Yalters," commanded the Lieutenant, he spoke quicker now, a sense of urgency. Yalta was a veteran, a good soldier, and he was from the capitol. Not something the newer recruits could boast. The lieutenant let the corpsmen go as he ran towards Yalta, accompanied by two soldiers the Lt. attached to him.

BRAKOW! A third shot rang out, but it wasn't from Jake, this was a much more dangerous weapon, a century old SRAT4, an anti-tank rifle that did a damn good job. The corpsmen fell to the ground with a hole the size of a baseball through the middle of his chest. "JAKE! SNIPER!"

"I've got a bead on hi—" BRAKOW! A shot hit the tower where Jake was, "Son of a Bitch!" yelled Jake over the communication channel, "I'm fine, but he won't be." Jake was gone from the cool, collected mentality. He spoke with rage, and passion. He always felt good fighting another sniper.

PEKEW! A blast of dust from the third-story window of a nearby office building heralded the end of the sniper.

"Yeah, he's down sir," reported Jake, back to the relaxed voice, with a hint of disdain trailing his voice, "You're clear to retrieve the bodies."

The Lieutenant slowly shook his head, ordered the two soldiers by Yalta and the medic to drag over the two bodies, and then he got the rest of the squad ready. "Berkeley, you and Haverson direct their fire, Tarkan 1, 2, and 3, throw out those blinders and cover us. Understood?" Seven metallic clicks on the communications channel reported the squad as ready.

From a nearby building two streams of weapons fire, like fireflies, flew over the street, hitting the bunkers like pellets on armor: useless, but it drew their fire. As soon as their position was hit by the heavy rounds of the emplacements, Tarkan 1, 2, and 3, opened up with under slung blinder grenades, hitting the bunker dead on. The bunkers weapons fell silent and gave the perfect opening for the Lieutenant and his troop to move in. They rushed the gun position, moving from piece of rubble to piece of debris, peppering the bunker with fire until the soldiers were able to get around it and into the compound. Jake had done his job well; nine guard bodies were strewn across the courtyard in a grisly display of Jakes accuracy.

Three NORA soldiers ran out of the bunker, their hands were up and they continuously begged for their lives. Two of the armored soldiers put them up against a wall and the Lieutenant looked upon the scene as the two soldiers stepped back and aimed their weapons, "Should we tie them up, sir?"

The Lieutenant looked over the faces on them: Muddy, dirty, and weak-bodied, their eyes were fixed upon the Lieutenants cold, emotionless blue-lit circles, a mix of fear and despair adorned their dirty faces. The deep blue of their cloth uniforms was the same blue as his, but they helped the secessionists. They were helping the collaborators who refused the capitols generous offers. Traitors to the true Ofylian Republic. "The drop-ship won't hold the extra weight. Understood?"

The two soldiers gave a quick nod, and just before they pulled the triggers, one of the soldiers fell to the ground on his knees and began begging for his life. Promising to help the real government, to do whatever is asked of him. But the soldiers had orders, and the Lieutenant began walking away, barely taking a few strides before the quick bursts of gunfire ended the poor bastards.

"Berkeley, Haverson, escort Alpha squad and secure the second floor of the factory, we'll need a fall-back point."

The two soldiers both confirmed the order, and a few minutes later Gordon and his squad arrived at the front of the entrance, and as soon as he reached the Lieutenant he began launching a flurry of questions, "Is the ... Are we clear? What about the inside? What if we get cut off?"

The Lieutenant replied quickly and motioned for Shegar to come over, "The perimeters secure. The interior will be secured by Alpha squad, and if you're cut off then Alpha will get you and those relics to the surface."

"Relics? We're here to retrieve power cores. Not historical relics, we're on the same briefing? Right soldier?", questioned Gordon, he acted like he was in command, now that the fighting had stopped.

"It is, but those are relics to me. Just get them out and let's get back to the capitol, alright?" Gordon responded with a nod and went over to Alpha. Goddamn he hated civilians, especially the stupid ones. Shegar stepped forward and gave a quick salute, which the Lieutenant returned.

"Sir, the perimeters secure, but Jakes seeing some Kazers way out east. Should we setup an alternative pickup zone?" reported Shegar. Kazers, that's not what he needed right now. Kazers were the scourge of the skies, a single one was annoying at best, but thousands of the little bugs would fly at ships, and literally 'pop'. The little explosions did little on steel plating, but the real damage was all the little insect parts getting into every delicate system in the ship. More than a few missions were botched by the damn things.

"Negative, we should be fine."

"But sir, if our birds go down we've got no way out of here. With resp—"

The Lieutenant tapped the insignia on his shoulder, "That's a negative Sergeant, or do I have to remind you about the chain of command? It's the chain I beat you with until you know who's in command. Now get back to the front and keep me posted." The Sergeant nodded, saluted, and strode back to the front, where a few of the soldiers were talking to the dying Yalta; with the corpsman gone he was going to die. The Lieutenant was about to follow him, but shook his head and strode over to Gordon. 'The mission and the Republic always come first.' Was the slogan of the military, something he would uphold, with his life if it proved necessary.

"We're ready here Lieutenant. Where's the door?" asked Gordon, to which the Lieutenant answered by pointing to the heavy metal door at the forefront of the compound. It was rusted, battered, and looked like it was about to fall over, but the bases built during the war were tough. Luckily they had a key.

Two soldiers from Alpha walked over, under their rank insignia was a ball of flame, explosive experts. They carefully attached a large black box to the bottom right corner of the door, where the locking mechanism was located. After taking out a pair of red, metal rods from the sides, they motioned for the two squads to run behind cover.

BAKROOSH! The door flung open as smoke filled the compounds courtyard. Where the bomb had gone off was now a melted bit of slag, and the left side of the door was slung open. Alpha squad moved into the darkness, their flashlights illuminating only a small part of the base. The Lieutenant stood at the entrance and watched as they were swallowed up by the dimly lit hallways of the base, after a few minutes he lost radio contact with them, likely due to the construction of the base. He sat down on the crimson stained sandbagged emplacement in the center of the courtyard, pulled out the holographic map of the city, and began looking around for large fields, just incase the Kazers headed this way. This kept his attention for the next hour, by then he was ready to send in a team to find Gordon and Alpha squad, when one of the explosive experts of Beta squad sprinted out of the Labyrinth to report.

"Lieutenant! We've got a problem down there!" The soldier was panting; he had obviously run quite a way from wherever the rest of Alpha was.

"Report Soldier!" Yelled the Lieutenant, who walked over, appearing nearly twice as tall as he was to the soldier, who looked both confused and worried.

The soldier took a deep breath, before uttering the words that could cause even the most proud Ofylian senator to quiver in fear of the New Ofylian Republic, "Nukes sir, this is a Nuke silo."

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