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“Counting Six Romeo, Sir!” Striker shouted over the gunfire,

“Roger that, blow us a hole.” Hawk directed Striker, as he tossed him a grenade.

“Understood!” Striker threw the grenade. It bounced 3 times, and landed directly next to one of the SAWATs who had holed themselves up in a sandbag bunker. The explosion threw the sandbags in all directions, and allowed the Delta Squad to move up the street.

The Squad was split into three fireteams; Striker, Hawk and Flash, Were pushing up through the street, the head of the spear, as it were. Matrix, Blitz, Doctor and Eagle were supporting them, moving from rooftop to rooftop. Vector, Ranger and Scorch were staying behind the first fireteam, providing Long Range support, and clearing up any ‘unfinished business’ that the first fireteam left behind on their speedy advance. 

“Matrix, we’re pinned down.” Hawks voice came over the radio, along with the sound of bullets hitting wood. 

“Second.” Matrix said. He signalled for his fireteam to move up, they stumbled over roof-tiles and when a large gap appeared, they leaped it one at a time. Doctor barrel rolled onto the next roof, while Matrix and Blitz just took the pain. Eagle’s jump was awkward, and he landed on his stomach. Doctor leant him a hand, and as he got to his feet he brushed the dust off of his stomach. The roof they now stood on was flat and had a small stone fence around it. There was an MG emplacement facing where the lighthouse once stood, about two hundred meters forth.

“Blitz, get on the gun. Everyone go prone.” Matrix nudged Blitz, who then crawled there. The fireteam went prone, to minimize the possibility of incoming sniper fire. Doctor took his SMG and placed it on the edge of the stone fencing, crouching and taking a scope from his belt, clipping it on to the gun. Eagle and Matrix shuffled up next to him, a pair of binoculars in hand. Eagle just sat down, he felt like a hindrance. Matrix took a look through his binoculars, Hawk and his fireteam were all clearly visible taking cover. Hawk was behind some crates on the left side of the street, Striker and Flash were in a stone and wood market stall on the other side. Flash had popped his head up for a look, and had received a warm welcome of dust and specks of wood in his eyes as bullets slammed into the surrounding wooden frame. He quickly withdrew his eyes from view.

Matrix took a small object from his backpack, whilst one hand still held the binoculars he peered through. His vision moved left from where the market stall stood, to a bunker of sandbags. Three or four pets dressed in khaki green uniforms were using pistols and an MG turret to give Hawks fireteam enough reason to hide. Matrix lowered the binoculars, and raised the other object to his eye. It had a scope on top of it. He pressed a button on the front, and it made a repeated beeping sound.

“What is tha-” 

“Second Blitz, you getting this Vulcan?” 

“Roger, target marked.” The fuzzy reply came over the radio.

“Tell crew they’re Weapons Free on that target. Make it burn.” Matrix finished with the strange item and put it away. 

“Doctor, Blitz, Start firing on my mark.” Matrix held his hand in the air, it had three fingers up. Then two, then one. 

“Now.” 

Blitz and Doctor squeezed their trigger fingers in unison, Doctor the one on the MG in the left shoulder and Blitz didn’t try to aim, he just pointed the muzzle in the enemies general direction. Eagle instinctively covered his ears with his hands. About three seconds into their firing barrage, the bunker was lit up in fire and dust. A shadow moved over the street and everyone knew what would be there if they looked up. Ranger, Vector and Scorch watched from behind. 

“Well then.” Ranger said.

Vector radioed into Matrix, “Well, just don’t ask us then.” 

Scorch laughed childishly, he aimed his bazooka in the air and fired. It landed directly where the bunker once stood.

“My contribution.”

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Chief was rudely awakened to a sharp buzzing sound. His boats engine had cut out, and he was at peace among the gently rocking waves, and the calm sound of their splash against the side of his vessel. The buzz sounded again, and Chief remembered where he’d just come from. War. He rolled from his current laying position, to a crouch. He had been lying on his com. radio. He picked it up and looked at it. After a few seconds, the same message came through that had made the buzzing sound.

‘All Personnel at Reefwater are advised to evacuate immediately. Ten mile distance is required for survival certainty. Repeat, All Personnel evacuate Reefwater immediately. Offense Protocol Zero-Two-Niner has been activated.’

Chief looked up to the sky, the clouds covered the sun, lightning had started while he slept. Rain started to come down heavier than before, when the battle had started. Chief crawled to the other end of his boat. He squinted, he could faintly see the outline of land. In the center, the land had a glow. The fires of the town, he assumed. Slowly but surely, the land faded from Chief’s view. Chief’s thoughts drifted back to Protocol Zero-Two-Nine. That was the solution. Really? SAWAT High-Command were now full of warmongering thugs, in Chief’s honest opinion. That Protocol is quite simply total annihilation of the target. Reefwater would become exactly that. Reef water. Lost to the sea for eternity. Obviously with their vast army, SAWAT had still managed to be beaten. Unorganized and unintelligent. High-Command focused on the numbers, not on the skill. Half of the pigs probably didn’t realize they’d been attacked. Chief would cross the waters, and reach the DA homeland. He’d try to defect. If the DA thought he was a spy, he’d prove his loyalty. He’d kill SAWATs, cut off their heads. Whatever. He just wanted a place where he could trust people. If they killed him on sight, so be it. Chief didn’t know if that would be better, but at least that way he didn’t have to think anymore. Thinking hurt. 

Protocol-Two-Nine. Thermo-nuclear eradication.  --- “How are things going up there, Zero?” John asked.

The reply didn’t come for about half a minute. 

“We’re almost in the base. Just a little more of a push. No casualties to my squadron so far. We’ll be seeing you in a minute.” Delta Zero spoke.

“You might want to hurry it up. We’ve got nowhere to run and there are hundreds of pets rushing through Base 17 corridors. And they’re trying to break into the High Command Center. The civilians in Sector One are all dead. We managed to get Two and Three in the emergency rooms. But there’s a little overrun, and we’ve packed this room full of those who were left. It’s getting hard to breathe in here. We probably only have a few minutes left. Just get your ass down here. Fast.”

John took his hand off of the ‘speak’ button and took a deep breath. Wulf looked at him.

“All good?” He said.

“Mmhmm.” Was John’s simply reply.

“Then I’ll go check on Lace.” Wulf started to walk off.

“Wulf.” John put his hand on Wulf’s shoulder.

Wulf looked at him questioningly.

“In case they break in and kill us before I get the chance to catch you again. It’s been an honor.” John offered Wulf his hand.

Wulf took it, and interlocked his fingers with John’s. He then brought his shoulder into contact with John’s and when their shoulders made contact he put his other hand on John’s back. John did the same.

“An honor indeed.” 

And with that Wulf left, forcing his way through the massive crowd of people.

The Medical Room had been evacuated and two of the radio rooms had been converted into make-shift hospitals. (Since the need for radios were useless anyway, the only form of backup that was coming was Delta). 

Wulf made his way through the civilians, the women and children cried and clung onto his clothing, saying things like:

‘Save us,’. ‘Make it stop.’. ‘Please.’

This made it hard for Wulf to move easily. But he kept pushing on. Anyone in a Soldier’s uniform received this treatment, in a time of war and crisis people look up to soldiers like gods. 

Wulf turned a corner and in front of him was the room in which Lace was resting.

He attempted to walk through the door, but was stopped by a nurse who exclaimed;

“No sir, you can’t go in there.”

Wulf smiled at her and said, “I think you’ll find I can.”

He simply walked straight through. When the woman dived back in front of him and shouted for help, it was too late.

Wulf had already seen it.

This wasn’t a medical room.

It was a graveyard.

Bodies lay strewn on the floor, pale and cold. Wulf felt sick. He’d seen bodies before, but these were different. They stank. In the battlefield, everything stank. But here, the bodies had a distinct smell. Wulf hurled onto the floor. Dropping to his knees whilst doing so, he then rolled onto his back. 

“Uhhh...” Was all he could manage. A minute later he rolled onto his front, to bring himself back onto his feet. When he recognized the body in front of him. He crawled to it’s side, and it was definitely him.

Lace.

“No... no.” Wulf stuttered.

Wulf couldn’t speak. He’d actually thought he’d made a friend who, when the war was over, he’d go for drinks with at the local pub. Remember the war days. Stories and jokes. Laughs and tears.

Forget it. Goodbye Lace.

‘We’re all going to hell anyway.’ He said as he left to get back to John. --- “Matrix, This is Vulcan. We have multiple bogeys airborne, we’re going down!” Vulcan screamed over the siren in the Airship. All personnel onboard had retreated to the pilots room. The Zeppelin was on its last legs and numerous fires had started in the engine rooms. There were at least seven SAWAT planes that had come as air support, and because the big thing in the air was what was destroying the majority of ground forces, it was the target. The zeppelin lurched, and Zach and Zeroed stumbled and fell over. They helped each other back up. 

“Matrix, permission to abort.” Vulcan slowly said over the radio, then repeated himself after a few seconds of no reply.

“Damn it Matrix!” Vulcan took his finger off of the talk button,

“Screw him, we’re going.” Vulcan said and walked out of the room, the others followed him and tried to stay standing as another lurch almost knocked them off of their feet. They grabbed parachutes from the hooks on the side of the steel walls, and prepared for the jump.

“Okay, while Matrix is away I’m in charge. We jump in this order: Zeroed, Zach, Wanderer, Thorn, Met, Me. Got it?” 

They all nodded and approved. They shuffled closer to the edge of the cargo bay, the opening was large and the wind from it was starting to pull them out.

Vulcan began... “Three, Two, One. JU-” The Zeppelin exploded in a ball of flame. The SAWAT pilots had made another past, and several bullets had pierced the thin steel and hit the engines and fuel tank. As the debris fell from the sky, so did six limp bodies.

“Throw your smokes and move up!” Matrix shouted. Eagle, Blitz and Doctor threw their special grade smoke screening explosives, waiting a few seconds and then his team ran into a small alleyway across the street, bullets tore the ground up around them, SAWATs were blind-firing into the smoke but they made it without any actual hits. They’d come down from the roofs, as the entrance to Base 17 was less than one hundred meters away. Hawk’s team was waiting on the other side of the street, and Vector, Ranger and Scorch were all sprinting down the main street, catching up to the main force, covered by the smoke. At the end of the main street was a T-Junction, Hawk and Matrix were covered in an alleyway almost at the end of the middle road. There were three main groups of enemies left, about seven were taking cover in a makeshift bunker near the entrance to Base 17, four or so were hidden down the left road of the junction, using trees as cover. The last group was perhaps the toughest, five pets in a bunker built of Sandbags, with a mounted turret and a 50.cal mounted sniper rifle, at that range it’d take a second to acquire a target, a second to steady the shot and a half a second to pull the trigger. One pet down in two and a half seconds. Matrix explained all of this to the squad when they’d all grouped up in the alleyway, he’d seen it all from the when he’d been on the last roof. 

“Boys, you know the situation. We get into Base 17 no matter what. We’re the only thing left. We’re outnumbered in this situation, but not outgunned. Prepare for an onslaught.”

“Ready for anything” said Hawk.

“We got your back.” Said Vector.

“Let’s move.” Said Eagle, Matrix looked at him. Right into his eyes, a piercing look, trying to reach into his very soul.

“You really are one of us, Eagle.” Matrix closed his eyes, then directed Eagle with his head deeper into the Alleyway. Eagle obliged and walked there, Matrix was a few paces behind.

“You’ve been through a hell of a lot. And with only standard military training, you’re one hell of a soldier. And I’m sure that makes it through the fight in Base 17, you’ll be one of them.” He whispered, so that none of the other squad could hear, as they were all ‘lock and loading.’ Eagle managed a nod, as he was feeling rather inspired.

“Thank you sir.” He managed to stifle.

Delta finished loading up. Eagle was tossed an SMG and a knife. 

The air went cold.

The wind grew still.

The rain fell lighter.

The thunder became quiet.

“Move, go go go!” Matrix bawled. 

And with that, Delta charged.

End of Chapter 20: Movin' Up

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