Balamb Defence Force troopers wore the same camouflage pattern as SeeD forces, and shared much of the same equipment bar service rifle. The BDF rifle was the L97A1 Bullpup rifle. It resembled the SR3 in that its foregrip was essentially identical, and also shared sights and pistol grip, but the L97 was a bullpup rifle. In place of the side folding stock, was the magazine well and a solid stock. The rifle was the same barrel length as the SR3, but the same length as the SR3 Carbine variant with the stock open. Balamb's Marines, however, used the L99 Carbine, a much shorter weapon that was half the length of the SR3 yet had the same barrel length as the SR3C. It had a built in forward handgrip in place of a flat hand guard, as the portion of the rifle forward of the trigger was too short for any person to hold the weapon if the handgrip was not there.
The pilots of the landing craft announced that they were thirty seconds from landing via the intercom. Despite earlier bombardment of the shore defences, mortar shells streaked overhead. Then the rocket launchers and weapons of the landing craft began firing towards the shore. The commanding officers roared over the din of battle to make themselves heard. Their pre-landing speeches generally went along the same basic pattern.
'Listen up! We are thirty seconds from a hostile beach. Your life and the life of the man next to you will be at greater risk the second that door opens. Your objective is to push into the refinery as soon as possible, clear the route for our tanks, and most importantly, live. See your sorry asses on the beach!'
Amongst the landing force here were eight Balamb Defence Force Challenger tanks. However, even these war machines would have trouble overcoming the tank traps and obstacles that despite the bombing, still blocked the route from the refinery docks to the refinery proper. The trap went both ways though, stopping the Amanverian tanks that were here from getting near the beach.
It was a similar story at Izrani, except SeeD troops could get their tanks on the beach and then into the city theoretically much quicker due to the bombs on the defences here having blown apart the traps on the road and beach. Unfortunately, two of the concrete pillboxes were still intact, and the infantry defending the site had raced to the cliff tops and took cover. Even one of the tanks here had rolled onto the cliff top and was taking pot shots at the approaching ships.
In Orgavner, the paratroopers dropped down from the skies. The soldiers descended, their circular parachutes designed to drop them down as quickly and as gently as possible, rather than the controllable rectangular stunt parachutes that were more like miniature gliders. The justification for this was, hundreds of soldiers swooping through the air were more likely to collide than hundreds dropping down. And though the canopies they fell on could carry up to four men maximum in case they did become entangled. The stunt chutes couldn't. This meant the troops simply had to hope that nothing on the ground firing up could aim.
Helicopter forces were dropping down their troops across the island, generally in the middle of the cities, except a few that were supporting the Special Forces as they descended upon the ruins of the airbase. As it happened, the Ragnarok was the first allied transport to land, about a half mile from the end of the western runways, the burning ruins of the base still suffering from explosions as fuel and aircraft weapons cooked off. Seifer's vehicle was the first to roll out of the cargo bay, as the six DGPT-4s drove off towards the ruins. The Ragnarok lifted off, and fired on the base as it flew overhead before pulling back towards the Garden.
'Hell of a mess the bombers made, Captain. I doubt that you'll find anything alive in there,' the driver commented as the first canopies of the twenty-four Rangers being dropped here and their DGPTs landed on the northern runways. Helicopters dropped the other Special Forces on the southern runways along with their transports. SeeD marines took the eastern runway as the six SeeD vehicles reached the runways themselves.
'We're not really looking for that, Sergeant. We're just going in to finish it off then move in to seal off the escape routes. Rest of the Rangers are moping up anything alive in this part of the island,' Seifer replied.
Across the island as Izrani, Zell's feet hit the sand, the rest of the troops on the landing craft not fair behind them. The tank at the top of the cliff had pulled back, and SeeD forces were using what little cover remained on the beach to hide behind. A few AT rockets streaked off towards a pillbox, followed by a thermobaric missile. The concrete bunker collapsed as the larger warhead struck home. The landing craft had fired a thick blanket of smoke grenades across the beach, but high winds were blowing most of the smoke back out to sea.
'Everyone, keep moving forward!' Zell yelled, firing at the cliffs. The rifles and last few machineguns at the top kept up their hail of fire even as the first tank rolled onto the sand and blasted a large swathe of the cliff face away along with half a dozen Amanverian troopers. They and their FADAN-91 rifles fell along with the rocks.
Most of the SeeD troops here had small rifle scopes mounted to their weapons, with a three-times zoom letting them aim their weapons better at long range. Those in cover were using this to pick off or lay down cover fire for the charging SeeDs.
Zell's squad reached the bottom of the cliffs. A slope a hundred meters over the sand berth they were taking cover at led up behind the last pillbox, which was currently taking fire from the tanks before another thermobaric warhead took that fortification away. A small set of sandbag walls blocked off the slope, and barbed wire blocked the path fifty meters away.
Zell ordered his team to ready SeeD's special weapon to handle blockages such as barbed wire, the C3 Clearance Torpedo, as it had been officially named, or the Holemaker as SeeD troops nicknamed it. They were essentially flare tubes, modified to hold a forty millimetre grenade round loaded with fire magic energies. The resulting temperature could melt barbed wire in a flash. The fact the heat lingered for a few seconds meant that in most cases all that was left were the burning remains of the wooden poles holding the barbed wire up.
'Fire in the hole!' Zell yelled, noting that only a few SeeD had fallen during the charge. His squad fired six of the charges over the sand, and the heat from the blast felt like it was singeing eyebrows even from fifty meters. Zell glanced over quickly, seeing molten metal and to his surprise, what appeared to be molten sand.
'Move! It's clear!'
The SeeD troops charged over, the troops at the sandbags firing down at them. A shell or rocket landed in the midst of them, firing sandbags and a soldier high into the air.
Zell was at the front of the charge, nearing the sandbags as the dazed defenders picked themselves up. He fired a burst at a head that popped up, the bullets tearing through the steel helmets the Amanverians still used. The grenadier charging beside him fired a single round over the sandbags, kicking up more dirt and blasting a helmet over. A few moments later, the SeeD troops were at the edge of the sandbags, vaulting over and shooting anything still holding a gun and breathing that wore the brown and green tiger stripe pattern the Amanverians wore as a battle uniform.
The top of the cliff here was at the outskirts of the city, and a small bunker was lying in ruins across the road, a victim of the bombing runs. A trench system lay between the cliffs and the road, and the SeeD forces vaulted over them carefully. A few Amanverian soldiers were fleeing towards the bunker, but were put down by gunfire. Troops within the rubble of the bunker shot back just as a tank rolled up the slope from the beach. The challenger span its main gun towards a DGPT-3 approaching from the town, and fired a single shot, destroying it.
Zell led his platoon towards the ruined bunker, bullets and grenades thudding into the rubble and keeping the heads of the defenders down.
At the refinery, the BDF troops had pushed through the docks, and the tanks were rolling in past blazing warehouses and the pulverised rubble of shattered buildings. And they made contact. A LeCraic tank turned the corner at the end of the road that one tank was advancing along. A single shot was fired from the main gun, slamming into the sloped turret of the Dollet-built tank, causing the turret to fly into the air on a pillar of flame as the fuel and ammunition aboard exploded. On a parallel road, a second LeCraic burst out from a burning warehouse, right behind a Balambian tank. The Amanverian turret had lined up with the rear of the BDF tank first, and fired. The shell slammed into the tank, but detonated harmlessly on the side of the traversing turret. Despite the ringing in his ears, the gunner lined his own gun up with the exposed side armour of the Amanverian tank as its driver desperately tried to reverse, having mired itself on rubble. The explosion collapsed the rest of that side of the warehouse.
BDF infantry meanwhile advanced, finding the defenders were not able to put up a particularly stiff resistance to their advance and were already in amongst the ruins of the main facility. The tanks still rolled up through the docks as the tank which had managed a narrow escape from an ambush blasted another warehouse on a hunch. The result was a third LeCraic exploding within the building, collapsing it on the burning tank. Meanwhile, a third Challenger was almost inside the oil refinery, advancing to the main gates where thick oily smoke billowed from a fuel tank that clearly had not been drained properly.
From that smoke, the challenger suffered three hits from four shots as the South Timberian tanks advanced. The Galbadian-made light tanks did not manage to destroy the tank, but did immobilize it and destroy the main gun. Two more challengers advanced, firing into the smoke, and were gratified to see another column of smoke and flame from within the nigh-impenetrable black haze.
The Timberian tanks moved out into the open, each firing a shell at a SeeD tank to no effect as they either missed or scored only a glancing hit. The return volley did not fail, one shell ripping through the front armour and only detonating when it tore into the engine block of the tank at the rear. The resulting blast almost tore the entire vehicle apart. The other two tanks suffered hits that set their engines aflame, the crews quickly bailing out and fleeing straight into the waiting arms of BDF forces. They surrendered, as the Balambian tanks finished off their own.
Zell's team had cleared the ruined bunker, finding that only a few dozen Amanverians had been concealed there. The SeeD tanks were roaring into the town itself, a city that showed signs of abandonment. Trees grew from rooftops, mould and ivy grew along walls, paint flaked, metal had rusted. The roads were cracked, with weeds and grass thriving in every tiny scrap of dirt in the sunlight. This section of the town had been warehouses for storing oil, right next to the docks, and empty, rusting barrels lined the streets. The SeeD forces advanced cautiously behind their tanks, most of them pondering exactly how a city could become so degraded just through the passage of time. True, a few buildings had been collapsed by airstrikes aimed at the beach defences, and the smoke could still be seen rising from further into the town.
'Where did that tank go?' Corporal King asked aloud. An explosion along the street answered that question. The tank had been found along with two others, firing at the advancing SeeD tanks. The LeCraic's guns stood little chance of affecting the heavy armour, and the return shots destroyed the tanks or forced the crews to bail out. A fourth tank was caught by SeeD infantry, and had barely time to realise the danger it faced when two AT missiles slammed into it. Four tanks and six platoons of infantry advanced into the city as more air cover pounded the buildings ahead, claiming three tanks and a dozen enemy vehicles.
The DGPT3's and dune buggies roared down the hills towards the ruins of the base. Five hundred of the Timber-hired mercenaries had been hiding in the rocks and valleys to the east of the base. This range of mountains and hills separated the westernmost portion of the island from the larger section in the east, where the oil, and the cities, had sprang up. All that had inhabited the flat west of the island had been radar dishes and the air base.
But the Special Forces and Marines had spotted them, and had taken cover in the base as the fleet of vehicles raced towards them. Heavy Machineguns opened up at a mile, anti-tank missiles at five hundred. The advancing mercenaries found themselves losing at least a vehicle every fifty yards they advanced, blazing away at the entrenched allied forces. Then they stopped, a hundred meters short of the nearest pile of rubble from where allied troops aimed weapons. And the mercenaries leapt out of the vehicles and charged forward.
'Three or four bursts then fall back!' Seifer yelled. The mercenaries advanced, heedless of casualties against the force of just over a hundred allied troops, despite fire from the fleet of vehicles as cover. The allied vehicles meanwhile were waiting in the wings.
'Fall back!' Seifer shouted, and the Special Forces with him did so. The other portion of this outer perimeter was made up of BDF Rangers, and they too had fallen back. They dived over the next line of cover as the mercenaries hit the booby traps the Special Forces had quickly placed. The Special Forces joined the second wave as mercenaries and their vehicles flooded the ruins of the base.
Seifer switched his rifle to single shot, placing a round in the head of every mercenary to appear. Then a DGPT3 rolled over rubble, the machinegun blazing away. He dived, hurling a hand grenade at a trio of mercenaries and fell behind cover without seeing the effects. The machine gunner on the DGPT fired a burst, and the rounds slammed into the concrete slab the SeeD captain was hiding behind, kicking up a cloud of dust. He quickly fired his C3 torpedo at the vehicle, and heard a scream. Glancing up, he saw the round had struck the gunner, or his general area, and the fireball was just rising as the area of the vehicle affected melted. Seifer was not surprised to see that none of the occupants, driver or gunner, appeared to be there any more. After all, if it made liquid of steel in under a second, what would it do to a person, made up mostly of water and carbon?
The other Special Forces, marines, and Balambian troopers used the same trick, lobbing the torpedoes high into the air. The mercenaries turned and ran, headfirst into the allied vehicles, which had already started tearing apart the rest of the mercenary vehicles. Within a few minutes, the allies were starting to mount up, passing the bodies and wrecks of the counter-attack force.
'Irony, isn't it? South Timberian anti-mercenary group. So they hire a bunch of crazies from Dishagoum. Clever,' Seifer said aloud. A Marine captain nodded agreement.
Zell's platoon had mounted into the DGPT-4s and alongside four tanks and a further three platoons of mounted troops. It had been two hours since the landing, and the mechanised force was clearing the city, heading for the oil fields in the centre of the eastern portion of the island.
'Colonel Matrix, this is Major Dincht. How are we doing overall?' Zell radioed in.
'Quite well is how I'd sum it up. Paras hold the northern urban area, BDF are advancing on the oil fields already. Only downside so far is the guys who landed at the airbase are only halfway there. Ran into some enemy troops apparently. Kicked their asses of course.'
'I hope they get there fast,' Kelly noted. 'If we don't have that route blocked off, they can probably hide in the mountains for long enough to let Amanver mount a real counter-attack.'
'Apparently, the vast bulk of all troops that have not found themselves trapped in Izrani have fallen back to the oil fields and holding the perimeter around it. Air strikes will need to be very careful, but we don't have any movement of the objectives yet. Allied troops are holding their ETA to match yours so they get hit from everywhere at once. One other interesting thing though. We've just found out that the Amanverian mainland was bombed just after we dropped some weapons, and let's just say our pilots spotted a few black triangles flying in the general direction of Galbadia...'
'Oh damn, UFO's again?' Zell joked. Modern Galbadia really was full of surprises.
On the mainland, the commanders there had responded with fury at the damage inflicted. All contact with the island had been lost except for sporadic radio communications, and worse, the homeland had been attacked. The naval base had been bombed, barracks were ablaze from missile strikes, and someone, doubtlessly Galbadia, had used Stealth planes to attack the air force!
Well, Commander Nazaire Papillion thought, they'd forgotten about his forces! His troops ready to do their duty in defence of the homeland.
'How long until we can launch?' he asked his second in command.
'Well, sir, as you know, the launch platforms need to stay concealed until shortly before we fire. But we should be ready in five minutes.'
'Excellent. Now, we have reason to believe the enemy have taken all the outer areas of the island. The cities are theirs, the refinery is theirs. When we fire these missiles, those cowards in the Air Force will be forced to take off again, and the navy can finally move in southward to mop up those damned hulks these foreign bastards have brought into our waters!' the commander ranted.
'What are your target areas, sir?'
'Land some missiles on the refinery, and the cities. Aim half at the oceans where we think the enemy ships are. And then target the roads to the oil fields. Make sure that Brenner Tor and the fields themselves are unscathed by the attack. After all, most of our brothers in arms are there.'
'And what of the special weapon that command has authorised you to fire?'
'I want to get Garden with it. Don't fire it until we know where that is,' Papillion stressed.
'We know the general area, sir.'
The commander thought this over for a second.
'That will do. Get confirmation from the president's office on it.'
'Sir... I have to admit that...'
'Come now. The morale blow it will strike on the attackers is enough. If I'd been in charge of the defences, I'd have moved it onto the island and sank their damn fleet with it.'
'But what of retaliation, sir?'
'What justification do they have to retaliate? They can't do it without heavy civilian losses. '
'But no one has ever used one of these weapons in anger...' the second in command persisted.
'Well, then, it will be something to tell your grandchildren. And besides, you forget, Esthar doesn't see Amanver as a major threat to their security to warrant them re-targeting all of theirs off Deling and at us. They launch... Well, they have Dusania, Dollet, Gdeto and Galbadia all thinking that they might be the target.'
The second in command was shocked.
'But sir... That would be the fourth world war!'
'Second, Jean, second. If you'll recall, the first was the only true world war, between all the colonial powers. Such irony that our forefathers, so badly defeated in the first one, wound up the only winners. Of all the colonies, only we survived and grew into a great nation... The so-called second was just an effort by Esthar and her allies to stop Galbadian expansion that failed. The third was just Galbadia and Esthar fighting about sorceresses. '
The commander paused, staring into space.
'Anyway, get me the confirmation. I'd like to become famous throughout history, wouldn't you?'
Five minutes later, the missiles rolled out on their trucks. Short-ranged ballistic cruise missiles, known as the Theatre Artillery Ballistic Missile, rolled out of dozens of sheds and bunkers across the mainland near the island. Amanver's second last line of defence involved these weapons. If Tansin invaded and the situation looked like it would end in defeat, these missiles could be used to bombard the cities of the enemy and the advancing forces of their troops. If that failed, they had a last line that only a few people knew of outside Amanver, and of those few, almost all lived in fear of such weapons in the hands of xenophobic madmen.
One weapon from that last line was being launched. It left another eight operational across the country. Plus the ten the air force had.
'Colonel Matrix sir!' a radar analyst shouted in the command centre.
'Yes, Sergeant?' Matrix asked, looking up from a computer map displaying the island and the progression of allied troops.
'We have a large number of theatre ballistic missiles firing from the Amanverian mainland.'
'They seem to be aiming at the island and some portions of the navy fleet, but these missiles are slow. SAM's or planes can intercept them,' another analyst said.
'Oh fuck!' the first shouted.
'A problem?' Matrix asked.
'Yes sir. We have a missile launch from Riggs, sir. The mountain.'
'The mountain? But that's... Sergeant, can you confirm they're firing that missile?'
A few tense moments, and requests to Esthar to recalibrate the spy satellites to look at the area the missile was. The sergeant turned ashen-faced.
'Sir... We have confirmation. Amanver has launched a nuclear weapon.'