The Crash Site.
'How long until you've cut them free?' Zell asked an engineer. A team of three others was carefully cutting through the cockpit in order to remove the two crewmen, and by this time, the co-pilot had awakened.
'An hour minimum sir, then removing them will need care. The medics inform me that both men are likely to have back injuries in addition to broken bones. To get them out-'
An explosion interrupted the engineer. A quick glance down the street indicated that a rocket had struck a building held by the defenders.
'...Sons of bitches are firing the damn rockets like artillery,' Kelly opined as a few more streaked overhead.
'Alright, Sergeant, you heard the engineer. We have to hold this position for at least an hour.'
Zell walked down the street, gunfire and distant explosions surrounding him. In the building hit by the rocket, he saw three Galbadian soldiers firing out of the hole the rocket had made. The various armoured vehicles of the column lay idle, the turrets traversing left and right.
'This is Captain Dincht, Major Caspar, come in,' Zell radioed.
'Captain, this is Oberst Golmann. Speak quickly and clearly, captain, the situation across the city is growing out of control.'
'Oberst, the engineers expect to have the pilots free within the next hour and a half minimum.'
'That's good. I hope you SeeD folks can keep the defences there at sufficient manpower, because we have severe problems citywide. As soon as you're done at the crash site and the pilots are pulling out, I want the entire defence there to make for the embassy. You're closest and the rest of our reinforcements are coming in to the airport and docks.'
'I'll make sure to inform my men of that, sir.'
'Good luck. Over and out.'
Besides obsolete tanks, the Militias had access to other weapons. The technicals were fine in many respects as a fast-moving and could perform many roles, but when the country had split, the tanks in the arsenals had fallen into the hands of various factions. Hulls could be destroyed, engines could be put out of commission, but sometimes, from a couple or even many tanks, a working vehicle could be patched together. A common trick was to turn the ruined tanks into self-propelled guns, a trick advised to the socialists by Esthar and later copied by almost everyone, including the government.
Generally consisting of a tank hull with scraps of armour crudely welded over holes, and the main gun brought down and fixed into the hull. The old turret was sometimes replaced with a machinegun cradle or even a rocket launcher, but the end result was dubbed an Ad-Hoc by the Galbadians, and it was feared. Slow, lumbering, and often prone to breakdowns,
Currently, six of these scrap wagons were rolling from the Nationalist sector down a main road of the city, escorted by a few technicals and some infantry on foot. The road itself was one that could lead either straight to the Galbadian embassy, or, with a few turns, lead along to the airport or docks.
'Control, this is Eagle Three,' the third of the GASH-92 helicopters radioed in. 'We have ad-hocs and armour moving towards the embassy from the Nationalist sector.'
'Roger that, Eagle Three, can you confirm they are headed for the embassy?'
'They are at sector six seventy on Hassabain Road, approx six ad-hocs, ten technicals, infantry, plus thirty.'
'Roger, Eagle Three, that route could take them anywhere. Keep eyes, you have green light if they get within five blocks of the embassy.'
Below the helicopter and three blocks away, an old AA gun was activated. Four heavy machine guns rigged onto a roof cradle swung around slowly to line up with the helicopter.
'Shoot the murderer down!' a Militiaman screamed, as the gunner shouted adjustments to the sights.
A few seconds later, the four guns spat into life, hurling large calibre bolts of metal towards the helicopter.
'Eagle Three, taking ground fire,' the pilot coolly and professionally radioed in.
'Roger that, green light to engage targets firing upon you.'
As the bullets flew past the helicopter, missing by mere inches, the helicopter spoke back. The thirty millimetre chain gun in the nose fired off three short bursts at the AA gun, the shells slamming into the gun and the building. To finish the job, the pilot fired off three rockets towards the gun. The wounded crew, still dazed and stunned from the detonations of the thirty millimetre rounds, didn't even realise what killed them when the rockets disintegrated the roof below them.
'Eagle Three, target eliminated.'
The helicopter chased after the column of enemy tanks, and then realised something. Adjacent streets were kicking up a great deal of dust also. Hovering over them, he saw more ad-hocs, more technicals, and more tanks.
'Control...' the pilot began.
'They're in areas teeming with civilians. We can't hit them until they get close,' Golmann stated.
'But we need more than just the four gunships to stop them all, and we won't have those available. The locals are crying out for anything hitting the rebels at Parliament,' Caspar objected
'Damn it. All right, task the gunships to hit the attackers at parliament, but keep Eagle Three following those columns. How long until we have reinforcements at the airport?'
'Fifteen minutes, sir, airborne will be landing soon.'
'Wait a second, what's the status on the airport?' Caspar asked.
'Good question. Someone raise the airport.'
Five minutes of trying to raise the airport defence gave nothing. A GASH-92 was tasked to hit the attackers at parliament, and investigate. Flying over, with the airborne moments away, he confirmed that the communications tower was down and some of the hangars were ablaze
'Do you see any friendlies on the ground?'
'Roger, sir, a few immobilized vehicles and I can see the rebels trying to fight into the control tower and some northern hangars. Terminal appears to be in enemy hands along with southern hangars.'
'How many aircraft are on fire?'
'I count at least five light planes, two passenger jets. Warn the airborne they're coming in hot.'
'Roger, Eagle One, hit them with anything you have left.'
'Roger, but it's only thirty mil. It's not going to do much.'
The planes carrying the reinforcements from Bakara flew in, ten thousand feet up. Platoons of Galbadian Paratroopers prepared to jump as the back cargo doors opened, and in some, vehicles sat on palettes, ready to drop along with the soldiers.
Galbadia's paratroopers had the means to drop a vehicle up to a light battle tank, and nine of these were to drop along with eighteen IFV's. Their crew were on board and ready for the drop.
Anyone watching the planes would have saw lines of men fall from the back, upon simple domed canopies. Galbadia's paratroopers had jetpacks, but these were used more for low altitude drops. The height those worked at could not be risked by the fleet of aircraft carrying a hundred paratroopers to the airport.
Drifting slowly, with the militia on the ground staring up in surprise at them, the paratroopers could only let their parachutes drop them down. They drifted down slowly, landing at the far end of the runway, as the tanks landed alongside them.
Roaring into life, the nine tanks sped across the runway, firing their guns. The militia tanks and self propelled guns swung round from bombarding the Galbadian-held portions of the airport to the advancing light tanks, but the sheer range of the shots rendered the antiquated tank guns useless. The LBT 80's the Galbadians drove, however, had state-of-the-art fire control systems. Behind them, the IFV's had begun rolling forward, the paratroopers quickly forming into their squads and mounting up. They too began firing, their autocannon ripping into the enemy lines as the tanks picked off the vehicles. The militia, who had moments before been certain of victory, began to flee. Vehicles were abandoned, the tanks tried to retreat, and the infantry retreated into the buildings they held.
This was a mistake, as the Marine helicopters flew in. The marines aboard roped down onto the roofs of the terminal and communications building. With stun grenades at the ready, the marines descended, GMR-11K's blazing in a show of speed and aggression. Their helicopters began firing at infantry in the open, and destroying any technicals not already on fire as the marines cleared the airport. The Paras meanwhile roared to the gates, pursing the fleeing tanks. The Galbadian armour ripped through the remaining rebel tanks as the infantry, in their IFV's, followed behind.
It was noon.
The two pilots had been given an entire APC to the two of them as their ambulance, and the dead crewmen likewise. The two APC's were escorted out of the area by four IFV's. Meanwhile, the Galbadian and SeeD troops began to fall back to the remaining vehicles.
'What are we expecting, Zell?' Selphie shouted over the roar of the engines. Zell's ad-hoc squad of fourteen was trying to cram into a Galbadian APC designed for twelve. Fortunately, it was designed for twelve broad-shouldered Galbadians plus kit.
'Roadblocks, bombs, Rockets from the windows,' he replied.
'A regular day at the office, huh?' Irvine said, hopping in just as the door began to close.
'Ready back there?' the driver yelled.
'Let it roll, Sergeant. '
The column rolled off, and when it cleared the corner, the wreck of the helicopter was consumed in white hot fire, melting anything of value left behind beyond use.
'The crash site team is moving to the embassy now, the airport is back in our hands. Paras and Marines are requesting further orders,' Caspar said.
'Tell them that half the marines are to hold the airport and reinforce the defenders. Paras are to wait for the marines to land and move out from the docks. What's the story with the guns moving towards the embassy?'
'Eagle Three, come in,' Caspar tried.
'Control, Eagle Three here.'
'Where are the columns of guns right now?'
'They're approaching the point of no return, sir. If they turn left here, they're going somewhere else. They keep going, they're going to hit the embassy.'
'How many civilians around the column you're following?'
'Dozens, sir. Wait... Sir, the column has not turned, repeat, the column has not turned.'
'Roger. Eagle Three, green light.'
'Roger that, sir!'
The helicopter swooped in, and Golmann looked concerned.
'He's going to be able to take out, what, four guns? We need air support to hit them, and fast.'
'Sir, the next airstrike is twenty minutes out. The last one just emptied its bombs onto the guys hitting parliament.'
Golmann stared at the screens of satellite relays for a few moments, before issuing the next order.
'Warn the column they're probably coming up behind a major attack, assuming of course, we don't lose the embassy before they get there.'
Twenty minutes later, the guns began pounding the embassy, but three jets swooped in. Precision-guided missiles and bombs ripped apart a number of the artillery guns, but many of them survived. The walls of the embassy shook as shells began slamming off the outer wall. Thick concrete and steel, it was designed to hold out structurally against a nuclear weapon, but the guns would slowly but surely chip away at the defences.
However, the column moving from the crash site was making good time, and was now roaring down Hassabain Road. The surprised militia didn't have time to prepare roadblocks initially, and only when three miles from the embassy did the column encounter anything but small arms fire and the occasional rocket.
Irvine had stuck his head out of a fire port on the roof, his rifle resting on the hull of the APC. He was lining his crosshairs up with the head of a rocket soldier down the road, almost half a mile away.
'Got about a dozen rockets at the first roadblock,' he told the APC gunner, who relayed the information on. 'Suggest you hit it from here with some MGs. I'll take care of one.'
He fired. The gunner, three other APC's and the autocannon of two IFV's joined in a few seconds later, hurling bullets and shells along the street as the rocket soldier Irvine had killed fell. They slammed into the hastily built blockade of tyres, furniture, and overturned cars, causing the fuel in the cars to ignite as the weight of fire began ripping the blockade apart. The fuel then finished the job, exploding and kicking a fireball fifty feet into the air.
The column simply slammed through the burning roadblock, not slowing as they fired upon the next.
'Okay, column could be there in a few. Have the marines and Paras move from docks and airport, calm this city down. How's the embassy holding out?' Golmann asked.
'Last airstrike didn't do anything, they dropped their bombs on the wrong block.'
'Goddamn it!' Golmann cursed. 'Get me the SeeD captain.'
'Yes sir?' Zell replied. Golmann got to the point
'Alright, Dincht, what's the status of your guys on magic?'
'We've mostly got enough left each to hurl an -aga spell or two about.'
'How about AT weapons?'
'At least one each.'
'Excellent. The plan is, you guys will be dropped off about a half block away, and the column will take a long road around. Enemy armour is attacking the embassy, and you guys can get in there and do it damage before it's too late. They've almost breached the outer walls.'
'Roger, sir. We'll take care of it.'
A few moments later, the entire SeeD force jumped out of their transports. Zell addressed them
'Okay,' Zell shouted . 'We've got armour assaulting the embassy and air cover will take ten minutes. The embassy doesn't have ten minutes. What we're going to do is simple...'
'Let me guess,' Selphie said, hefting a Light Antitank weapon over her shoulder 'We're going to blow them up with a rocket launcher?'
'Right in the ass,' Mellia agreed.
'That's it. Happy hunting. Split into groups of four or five, make sure two rockets or spells go onto each tank's rear. Saturate them, they'll pop.'
The SeeD troops dispersed, running quickly to surround the militia. They found the guns and infantry mostly concentrating on the embassy itself. Zell waited on every team confirming it was ready.
'All right, hit them,' he ordered simply. The guns fired one last time, before rockets and magical energy slammed into the vehicles, and, as Zell predicted, annihilated them. More than a few infantry were caught in the blasts as well. The SeeD teams opened fire, fighting for another five minutes until the column moved in to surround the embassy. Minutes later, the embassy was now surrounded by a ring of allied troops and armour, as the Militia regrouped and once again, blindly charged into the gauntlet.
At Parliament, a cheer rose from the government lines surrounding the battered seat of government, as Marine tanks and APC's smashed the attacking Socialists from behind. The crossfire and confusion led to hundreds of the militia falling back into the waiting guns of the Galbadian forces, and the rest wisely surrendered. They quickly handed the prisoners over the government.
It was now fourteen hundred hours, and in that time, nineteen Galbadians had died, along with at least a thousand militia from all factions and half that many government soldiers. But the city was still up in arms, and the embassy was still isolated.
The sun was setting over the city, and though much was now back in the control of the peacekeepers, bolstered by air power and further reinforcements from Bakara and the Marines, the relief forces would take some time to reach the embassy. But it was quiet now. The Nationalists troops were in prayer.
Zell's squad held a building roughly a block from the embassy itself, an IFV sitting in the road beside it. Tired Galbadians used the lull as a chance to eat, drink coffee, or simply chat. One unfortunate rookie had found himself ordered upstairs with the SeeD forces.
'First time actually in a firefight?' Selphie asked him.
'Yes,' the rookie replied, keeping his rifle aimed out of the window.
'You can relax. They're praying. You'll know when they stop. Be cool,' Irvine pointed out.
A couple more Galbadians came up the stairs, enquiring if anyone wanted some coffee their sergeant had brewed. A few SeeDs nodded to take up the offer as the rookie replied.
'I don't know if I can. I'm terrified. Is that normal?'
'Yeah,' Selphie said.
'How do they train you SeeD to get through this sort of thing? ' the rookie asked.
'Well, we all wind up dealing with it in different ways... You know, a lot of people think I'm not cut out for this when they first meet me. I think about what I'm doing. I get emotional over fighting, but after it's done. Places like this, for instance. Most people just get on with the fighting, and maybe worry about it later. But while I'm fighting, I think about civilians. How many mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters... How many people are going to be unlucky today and get caught in the crossfire. How many are going to get at least another day? How many widows and widowers, how many orphans?'
'Sounds a little defeatist,' another Galbadian interjected.
'That's my point. Everyone thinks I'm depressing myself thinking like that. In fact, I'm just pissing myself off. I'm pretty damn dangerous when I'm angry. Every single one of those things is a point of anger. I get really angry when people are wasting life because... Well, I'm a woman. I'm meant to be able to help create life, but I can't. So all I have left is to preserve it. And every innocent death means I've not done my job yet, and I get annoyed when I've not got something finished quickly. Anyway, aren't you glad we're in a Solaran section of town?'
'What do you mean?' the newbie Galbadian asked, meaning an earlier statement and not her question
'Well, while they're praying, you can get a nice little chat. But I have a feeling they're using the condensed prayers today.'
'No, I meant...' he began, only for an explosion to signal the start of the fighting again.
'What? Can't hear you!' Selphie shouted, firing her rifle out of the window. The militia were making another assault.
'Sir, what does she mean?' a SeeD asked Zell.
'It's a private matter, soldier. I doubt the corporal meant to bring it up,' Zell replied, firing his own rifle at three militiamen on the rooftop opposite.