We got back to Alpha as soon as we could. Powell was angry, but could live with the fact that I’d survived and taken out a Russian base in the process.
It seems that things had gone south while I’d been away. The Russians had gained ground and were developing their own siberite bomb. Of the Arabs and the Alliance we knew almost nothing. Recent attacks had reduced Alpha’s defenses to shadow of their former strength. Not looking good at all, really. The latest recon reports described a large column of Russian tanks drawing near. There was a large gap in our defenses to the south, so I volunteered to take command of that area of the base, mostly to save Powell the embarrassment of having to order me into so suicidal a situation.
I took my men down to the south end and started working. Unfortunately, we were only able to get one storage building done before we were attacked by two Russian light tanks. While it wasn’t the crushing attack that I had feared, it made me think that we had better work fast, or we were basically done for. We built some defenses on the shoulder of the hill(I), so that we would have the advantage of height. Then we built the other necessary buildings, including some solar generators, a lab, and a siberite mine, all the while fighting off intermittent attacks. Towards the end of this process, Powell decided to go off and attack the Arabs, but he was beaten back harshly.
This continued for a while, us building up farther and getting attacked, and Powell launching an occasional unsuccessful counterstrike. I was just thinking that if this went on too long, Powell would be left with no soldiers at all, when his sector was attacked by some Arab self-propelled bombs. They didn’t do as much damage as they could have, just one factory down, but still the General totally lost his composure. He drove his vehicle in a mad dash to the Arab line of defense and plowed right through. He hadn’t gotten much farther when the vehicle could take no more. I thought then that he was done for, but he nimbly hopped out and into a self-propelled bomb. At that point I began to experience a grave sinking feeling in my stomach. He then drove in a mad dash towards the factory where the Arabs were constructing their siberite rocket, and my fears were confirmed. The vehicle crashed with a wild slew into the side of the factory and the hatch opened, revealing Powell with the switch in his hands. He screamed something, but it was lost in the distance. What wasn’t lost was the low thump and bright flash that indicated that neither Powell nor the factory were there anymore.
I don’t think that any of us could believe our eyes. I didn’t like Powell much, personally, but his valor then, although wasteful, was undeniable. Moments later, the XO was on the radio, asking me, as the next person in the chain of command, if I was willing to assume overall command of the mission and the American forces there. I assented, and then stood quiet for a moment.
I had a lot of work ahead of me if I wanted to win this thing. And I had to try, for Harrison, for Powell, and for all of the fallen. For the future of my country.
Powell’s informant contacted us not long after that. He said that Kozlov had survived, and that we had only earned a reprieve from the threat of an Arab siberite bomb. We had to work fast. I had the two small storage buildings torn down, since we needed the materials, and built a larger one on the protected shoulder of the hill(II). Since we were going to need them, I upgraded the bunkers into computer towers, and the rebuilt the factory. I had about half of the people in the base researching, and the other half running some sort of ragtag defense. When we had gotten to the point where we could produce a siberite power station, we started building computer controlled vehicles with siberite engines. We were in the middle of a resource pinch, though and I could spare almost no one for collecting any additional materials.
Things were looking pretty grim when Joan arrived at the head of a column of computer controlled vehicles. It would be fair to say that I was stunned. She had even brought the basis for heavy cannons, so we immediately revamped production to put out computer controlled half-tracks with heavy cannon. When we had seven or eight ready, I put a group together for a first foray against the Arabs. The heavy vehicles, five or so snipers, four medics, and our two best mechanics to keep the vehicles running.
When everyone was ready, I ordered them all into the fray. The weakened Arabs, who had been throwing themselves against our defenses this whole time, were no match for our powerful and highly organized forces. Our old friends, the turncoat mercenaries, surrendered on the battlefield and offered to join us. There weren’t all that many of them left, so I told them that they could. It wouldn’t matter that much either way. I asked their leader why the Arabs main factory had exploded during our attack, even though we hadn’t even been in a position to fire upon it. They didn’t know, but said that that was the factory where Kozlov was working on his siberite bomb. Inspecting the site, we found his remains, which meant that the Arabs were out of the running in the competition for building a siberite bomb. It looked like we had broken the strength of the Arabs for good. One down, but the Russians weren’t going to be so simple to defeat.
I rushed everyone back to the base, worried that the Russians would attempt to take advantage of our engagement with the Arabs. None too soon, because before we were all able to get back, Russian Tanks started appearing on the northern access road(II). Despite the surprise, we were still hot from the battle with the Arabs and were able to finish them without too much effort.
In the following respite, we further fortified the base, upgrading all of our defensive positions to computer towers with heavy cannon, and adding a radar tower near the end of the lower access road(III). We had one of our Arab workers build a barracks so that we could reequip the troops with mortars. To top things off, I put a small detachment of tanks at each of the locations that the Russians had used to attack us before, so we wouldn’t be caught short by any more surprise teleports.
Hugh Stephenson and some of his troops showed up around that time. They had been stationed at a far flung research station which had been overrun by the Russians a day or two previously. In addition to the loss of the base, he had some other bad news in his report. When they had overrun the base, the Russians had captured our plans for a siberite rocket. This didn’t bode well, and meant that we had no time to waste. Since the Russians would have a siberite rocket soon if they didn’t have one already, I put Stephenson and his team to work immediately on producing. Since we were running short on materials, I scrapped the vehicles that his team had come to Alpha in, and the mercenary base.
While the troops were working on these orders, I got an open channel call from Pete Roth. He was adamant about stopping the conflict and putting everyone’s efforts towards researching the extraterrestrial artifacts. However, in the middle of his impassioned message, he was interrupted by the commander of the Russians, Platonov. Platonov asserted that he would never concede, and that we would all be safely in the ground before the conflict would be over for him. Surrender and death were our only options. That was that, I supposed. Roth went on for a while after that, trying to impress upon me the importance of not using the siberite rocket again, saying that using one so close to the other rockets and to siberite lodes could set off a chain reaction that could doom all life on the earth, now and in the future. The paradox implied there made my head spin, and I assured Roth that I would do what I could.
It seems that Roth wasn’t impressed by my dedication, since my intelligence officers informed me that he had ordered some of his people to kidnap my troops, using cloaking suits and teleportation technology. Their plan, apparently, was to use stealth suits to sneak up on troops who wandered away from the base, and then teleport them back into a holding facility at the Alliance base(IV). The obvious solution would be to reduce the Alliance base to a heap of rubble, but that seemed a bit heavy handed and premature. In any case, Kurt, the mercenary leader, had a good idea for neutralizing these agents. He told me of an Arab technology called biodetection, which allowed us to use our sensors to detect any living organism, including ones that were wearing stealth suits. I told him to get to work on it, since it would allow us to either avoid or neutralize the threat posed by the Alliance agents.
Our comm. man then told me that he had intercepted an interesting Russian transmission. It was incomplete, but there was enough of it there, he said, to warrant my direct attention. Sure enough, there were distinct fragments of Platonov talking to some of his officers about the deployment of some big new project. Although it all sounded very vague, I told the men to be on the lookout for anything unusual, and that the Russians might have something special up their collective sleeves.
I had thought that since we had produced one before, we would win the race for having a finished siberite bomb. However, just as the rocket had gone into production, I got a triumphant call from Platonov. He had finished his, and would move it into range and destroy us all unless we immediately surrendered. Looking at the production, it looked like we only needed a little bit of time to assure a stalemate.
I said that I needed ten minutes to communicate with my officers and come to a decision. I told him that something this big couldn’t be decided by fiat, that we had to, as Americans, reach some sort of consensus. I suppose that he didn’t know that it didn’t work that way in the Army, because he bought it, at least partially. He gave me three minutes.
I got to sit on my thumbs for that time, sweating and thinking of what would happen if we weren’t able to finish it on time. Finally, when our time was up, the Russian called again. I thanked him for the time that he’d allowed us, and since it seemed that the rocket was almost done, I bluffed, telling him that our rocket was complete, and we would have even more soon. He said that he didn’t believe me, but I knew that he couldn’t afford not to check. He said that he would launch immediately if we weren’t telling the truth. He then went off to go confirm, and I got the thumbs up from the techs! It looked like we were safe for now. Although only from the rockets. I was sure that the Russians wouldn’t stop coming at us with conventional weapons.
He came back on the line, and said as much as I had surmised. They wouldn’t fire on us with his rockets, but that he would pursue all other means to defeat us. I said that our position was much the same and ended the conversation. Now that I had some free time, I wanted to end the threat of the Alliance once and for all. I had nothing personally against any of them, but they could critically get in the way when things came down to the wire, and I couldn’t afford that.
Since the Alliance base was surrounded by a slowing field, I guessed that it would be cheapest to send them off with a siberite rocket. I was doing this with a heavy heart anyway, and this only compounded the feeling, but there was little else that I could do. I needed the threat that he posed to end, and immediately. I sent a few tanks, a radar truck, and a bulldozer down to their location. Since we had recently finished biodetection, we were able to tell at that point that two people in stealth suits left their base, heading towards ours. Most likely, they were the kidnappers that the intelligence reports had been speaking of.
I parked the tanks and radar truck at the edge of the forest, and had the ‘dozer clear a trail into the base. It started encountering fire around the time that it was starting to have trouble with the slowing field, so I pulled it back to the tanks. I assigned a target for the rocket(V), since we had a spare one by this time, and told them to go ahead with it, privately hoping that at least Roth would be spared.
The troops scouting the location after the rocket had hit the Alliance base found only Roth and a few soldiers alive. The devastation was terrible, and Roth was shocked by the blast into near catatonia. I felt terrible, but Roth could complicate things at a crucial moment and get us all killed. Soon afterward his agents came in and gave themselves up. I tossed them in detention with Roth, and decided to come back to it later.
The Russians chose that moment to attack us with some bizarre new creation of theirs, which must have been the secret project that I had heard about in the radio intercepts. It was a tank, but it looked more like a moving fort, studded with just about ever imaginable weapons system. With its weapons and layer and swirls of armor, it seemed for a moment like some seabed creature, evolved into a form dedicated to withstanding the tides. Or at least for the first few seconds. Then it revealed itself to be a creature of fire, as it opened up at our perimeter defenses, all guns blazing at once. The troops and turrets opened fire, but this monster wasn’t going to go down easily. Unfortunately for it, it was too heavy to mount the hill, and we were able to defeat it while only taking minimal damage. The situation could have easily turned much more sour if we had been based on the plains.
I knew that if they were able to finish many more of those things, that we would have been in a lot of trouble. So I equipped a group of snipers and medics, accompanied by a radar truck, to go and scout out where they were being built, and stop them from completing anymore. I readied six tanks to serve as backup, but I kept them some distance from the snipers, as otherwise they might have given their positions away. They crossed the river and went into the forest, which had been fairly devastated by the Behemoth tanks passing through. By following those tracks, they were able to sneak past the Russian line of defense into a little clearing(B) where there were many Russian mechanics working on these vehicles. They were able to kill all of the engineers and some of the soldiers, but I had them pull back to the edge of the forest, where I had the tanks and a group of mechanics to meet them. I figured that if we could take that location and finish the Behemoths ourselves, we would have a huge tactical advantage over the Russians.
While this was going on, the Russians were mounting a sustained assault against the southern edge of our base. North of the access road(T), where I was massing the tanks and the mechanics for the other operation, some tanks and a slow-field truck materialized. We were able to take them out without a huge amount of trouble, but it seemed to me a message, that the Russians were not at all out of the fight yet.
In response, I had my troops attack the base in the clearing, and massed together a larger force to assault the main base, partly to cover the other group, although it quickly turned into the final battle.
I had the mortars use indirect fire on the rocket tower on their line, and then attacked they base full force. We were pushing inwards slowly, when we saw a vehicle that looked a lot like our siberite rocket launcher trundling towards the teleporter. I told the troops to destroy it at all costs, for if it was able to teleport to our base, then we would have no home to go back to, and all would be lost. We managed to destroy it, but it cost us in losses and in our tactical position.
Around the time we had finally managed to penetrate the Russian line and start doing some serious damage, the troops in the clearing finished taking the small base there, and then finished work on the Behemoths. Once they were done, I had them roll down the rest of the line, finishing off the Russians defenses. It would have been grand to use the Russian’s secret weapons against them, but matters of terrain kept the Behemoths out of the base proper.
Then, it was done. We had finished off all of their static defenses, and all of their crew was either dead or had surrendered. We had won the first war to be fought in the history of the Earth.
Just then, a titanic explosion shattered our calm reverie. Where, moments before, had stood a mass of boulders on the northern border of the Russian base, was now nothing. Or almost nothing, for out of the dust came a horde of Arab troops. Their leader, Sheikh Omar Ali, stood astride an enormous mastodon, and his consort, Heike stood near the beast with a large and ugly looking rifle in her hands.
For a split second, I was confused. But then I remembered the words of our Arab informant, and a leapt into action. I told my troops that they were heading for the siberite load, and that they were willing to kill us all and doom the human race, rather than being the ultimate losers in this battle. My men, though exhausted and bloodied, rose as one and rushed into the fray. They focused first on the scientists, and then the leaders. Mortar fire rocked both sides, and it was almost impossible to see anything, such was the dust and the smoke. Sheikh Omar fell, and Heike became enraged, firing around her furiously and with terrible accuracy. After a moment, she stopped. She stood there wobbling for a moment, staring at the largish hole in her chest, where a sniper had put his fatal bullet. She finally fell, dead, in a pool of her own blood. Moment by moment, the firing around me tapered off. Finally, there was silence.
We all stood there, still and silent, while the dust cleared. It was all over. We had finally, completely, won. The medics attended to the wounded, and the soldiers took care of their dead, and winning proved somewhat bittersweet to the thoughtful. But we all knew that for some time, we would be busy with rebuilding and celebrating our magnificent victory.
On 8th May, ERA + 2