Disclaimer; I don't own Advance Wars

It was a glorious day. The sun shone through a large round window and brightly lit the high up office. The office had a view over a huge expanse of forest leading to picturesque mountains in the background. The office was a large circular room, decorated with long hanging tapestries, all showing Blue Moon troops crushing their enemies, all of which were part of the Black Hole alliance. A single desk, positioned just in front of the window was completely empty, except for a few discarded notes. Struggling as best he could to sit in the most dark and shaded corner of a bright and round room was a boy wearing slightly overly formal military dress.

Colin stood up from his small plastic chair, feeling that the large executive chair at the desk was far too luxurious for anybody except Grit and Olaf. He strolled around the room and, as he enjoyed to do immensely, saluted at the various scenes on the tapestries. Colin reached the one that represented the final battle with Sturm in the Second Black Hole War, and saluted through a small frown. The scene showed Olaf, approximately seven feet tall and with perhaps slightly exaggerated muscles, standing with one of his feet on Sturm's fallen body, who was begging for mercy as the Orange Star COs looked on in admiration, especially Nell. As Colin had remembered the battle, Sturm's death had had slightly more to do with Hawke, but given that the defeat in battle had been very much to do with Olaf's impeccable planning and organisation followed by an inspired execution of exceptional tactics, then Colin supposed that the imagery was fairly apt.

Colin suddenly looked up and his eyes widened. He ran across the room back to his plastic chair. Commander Olaf's instructions had been clear; he was to stay there and not touch anything. Colin had been unsure exactly to what extent he was to 'stay there'. Did that mean he was stay in the building, the office, or the chair? Just in case, Colin was going to fulfil all three criteria, by staying in the chair. He then remembered Commander Grit's instructions, and, after all, Commander Grit had equal authority to Olaf as he was just as intelligent, skilful, qualified, proficient, practised and certified. Commander Grit's words had been, Colin believed exactly,

"You just relax boy, and be taking no notice of Frosty. He's just in a huff because things ain't going so well up north "

Colin decided that, though to disobey or, far worse, take no notice of Commander Olaf was unthinkable, Commander Grit's words did authorise Colin to take a brief walk if he felt it was necessary. Colin thus stood up again and walked over to the large window. The view was exceedingly beautiful, however, the sound was not. The rumbling of ever moving tanks was a faint drone in the background, often drowned out for a moment by thunderous crash of tanks firing. The trees largely shielded the view of the combat. In such heavily forested areas, trying to figure out who was winning was completely pointless, as Colin knew well. Firstly, it was impossible to tell the size of either army, so speculation was pointless, and secondly, Commander Olaf was leading the Blue Moon offensive, so of course he was winning. The grim reality of the scene was reinforced by the occasional volley of artillery fire that rose up over the trees and then fell to Earth and shook the ground with its impact. Nonetheless, Colin had faith in his commanders and his own safety, being in the Blue Moon HQ for the local area.

Colin sat back down and, deciding that he would act in as productive a fashion as he could given the situation and save Commander Olaf the time of dealing with administration later, thus allowing him to enjoy his victory party. Colin got out his journal and began to write, as he had been doing since the beginning of Black Hole's latest invasion,

"Day 27 since first encounter with third Black Hole army, battle continues in the central areas of Blue Moon territory. Battle is joined in deep forest, preventing estimation of enemy numbers. Commander Olaf in local area, leading vehicular direct combat units against unknown enemy, thought to be Hawke. Commander Grit approximately 120 miles east in mountain ranges with indirect combat units, attempting to prevent a significant group of tanks from surrounding the local area. Last communication suggested a temporary stalemate as enemy held position out of range, reason unknown. Final units arrived from the northern front. All resistance there has formally collapsed. Conservative estimations of infantry units in area suggest that the north sea naval forces have fallen into Black Hole hands without a significant fight. Many infantry units were able to safely return south, largely due to a well organised T-copter evacuation. Taking this into account, Blue Moon would appear to have lost over 200,000 G of military equipment through the hasty retreat and another 140,000 G through units destroyed in battle. Value of enemy units destroyed in battle unknown, but thought to be lower than this."

Colin put his pen into his pocket. He had been at the northern front when the Black Hole fleet was first seen in the distance. His command had been simple, to draw up all available indirect combat units in the defensive cover of the city, with tanks on the beaches, preventing any force landing. The enemy had been overwhelming. Despite a significant level of missile support, the air force had torn through the tanks. The landers had Neotanks aboard. There had been no method of resistance. Though Commander Olaf and Commander Grit had initially been critical, their anger softened, or rather melted away leaving only despondency, when they had their first battles against the new Black Hole army.

Colin was disturbed from his thoughts by the sound of footsteps outside the door. The door swung open without a knock and banged quietly against the wall to reveal Grit, with a rather laboured smile on his face. Colin saluted, and Grit awkwardly saluted back out of politeness. Colin stood to attention and failed to say anything, seemingly awaiting orders. Grit gave him a dour gaze and added,

"Now what did I tell you about relaxing a little there Colin?"

"Yes sir!" replied Colin, adopting a well practised 'casual slouch' before daring to say to the mildly amused Grit, "Commander, how goes the eastern front, if it is permitted to talk about it?"

"Things ain't exactly going to plan, Colin. I've got to admit, I don't like the way things look like they might be turning"

"Commander, what happened? Where are the indirect fire units?"

"Now don't you worry about them. They're heading down south now"

"Commander, what exactly happened? Did Olaf recall you?"

"Ah," said Grit with a sigh, "there's a point. I'd better be telling old Captain Snowflake what's happened out there. C'mon, boy, I'll fill you when I've got in contact with Olaf"

Grit sauntered towards the communications office, and Colin took this as an order to follow him. Grit entered the darkened room, lit only by a large number of screens showing various technical readouts and messages, being dealt with by blue clad experts in this field, each trying to synchronise individual unit's need to advance or retreat as appropriate and then relay this information to Olaf to keep him well informed of what was happening at each end of the battlefield, allowing him to make the executive decisions far more easily. Grit walked to the end of the room and tapped one of the men on the shoulder. The man gave a quick nod to Grit before handing over a receiver to him. Grit held down a button on the front of the device and began,

"Come in, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty, do you read me?"

"Grit!" came the exceedingly angry sounding reply, "You impudent excuse for a Commanding Officer! Use the official code names!"

"You got it Aurora Blade, this is indeed Sniper Dragon"

"Grit! Where are you?"

"Closer than you'd think Olaf, I'm right here with Colin"

"Incompetent fool! Why aren't you at the mountains in the east?"

"Well, I know why those tanks were just playing wait and see with me anyway. The lot of them were waiting for some air support. Soon as I saw a few bombers gathering on the horizon, there was no way I could have stayed. There weren't enough missiles to hold them off. If I were still there, the whole lot of them would be destroyed by now, as it is, they're all heading down south to the southern ports. Face it, Olaf, we can't keep doing all this"

"Well…" Olaf grunted and fell silent for a moment

"Anyway boss, where are you?"

"Heading back to you now"

"How's it going?"

"There are too many of them, and thanks to your cowardice we're going to be encircled before long! Idiot!"

"Now don't you worry, you just tell our boys to head south 'til they get to the next town. There should be a good group to join up with there. You head back here"

"What are you planning?"

"Now don't you get your beard in a knot worrying all about it"

"Grit! You're lucky I don't exile you this instant, you impertinent rogue!"

"Olaf, we've all got bigger things to be worrying about now. Face it, if we keep fighting this war like this, the whole army might as well give up now. We can't take on these boys face to face. We need to fall back and consider our options"

"What are the odds of some help?" said Olaf sulkily

"Not great," admitted Grit, "Yellow Comet's busy with its own battles and Green Earth has formally surrended"

"And Orange Star?"

"Busy with preparations of their own. They recommend that we evacuate to their soil immediately. The Green Earth lot are already there, apparently"

"Grit, why do you want me to come back to the HQ?"

"Over and out, Snowy" Grit then turned to the man sitting in front of the transmitter, "If he rings back, tell him I'm not in. I think our boys are on the move now, you get your men on the next APC heading south, and take any staff you can find with you, you got it?"

As the man gave a clear nod and began collecting files scattered throughout the room while his fellow officers did the same, Grit walked briskly out of the office without offering Colin any explanation, who followed anyway. Grit walked as fast as Colin could run behind him, and got to the main stairway for the building, which a large number of people were running down in a panic now, before stopping and turning to Colin, looking deadly serious,

"Listen Colin, you remember how you asked me to teach you how to be a good CO?"

"Yes sir!"

"Then ignore what I'm about to do. A good CO would get out of here now. Remember, without a CO in charge, the troops have no direction, there's no synchronised attack, it all falls apart. A good CO has to know when it's time to leave a few men behind for the good of the rest. Well, I never did buy into the whole good CO thing, Colin. Now, here's the problem. There are too many units advancing too fast outside, and we're going to be surrounded and hit by an air force. We're getting out of here by T-copter. There are two up on the roof, so you head up there now. There should be a unit of infantry up there, get them into one of the T-copters with you and tell the pilot to take off and head south"

"Commander, what about you?"

"Olaf's still out there, son, and I don't fancy his chances alone. Anyway, there's still a unit of mechanised infantry out front. Me, Olaf and them will get out in the second T-copter"

"Commander, it's too risky! There's too much indirect fire being launched!"

"Sorry, Colin, but this is how it's got to be. Now head up to the roof and that's an order"

"Yes sir!"

"Colin!" yelled Grit over his shoulder as he hurried down the stairs, " Just Remember, you are a CO of the Blue Moon, same as any of us. Whatever happens, from here on in, you're going to have to be making decisions"

"What if I make the wrong decisions, sir?"

"Colin," said Grit as he stopped as looked up at Colin from below, "never judge a CO by his right decisions. Any fool can get lucky. It's the good COs that can make bad decisions and win in the end anyway, ok?"

"Yes sir!"

"Then get going, Colin, and good luck"

Grit ran downstairs and through the corridors to the deserted front lobby of the HQ. The only movement was a few papers rustling from the breeze coming through the open front door. Grit walked to the wall with the door in it and peaked his head out quickly, and again for slightly longer. The dirt paths that passed the HQ were all full of units, most of which were badly damaged and moving quite slowly, as Grit could see from the top of the stairs that led up to the HQ main building. As he looked forwards down onto the expansive courtyard, he saw what he was after. The mechs were drawn up behind an improvised barricade made of some desks that they must have borrowed from inside. Grit ran down to them and crouched alongside them. There were only three men left. Each had a look of solemn concentration, though their eyes seemed empty and dull, as they never took their eyes off the gateway, the gates themselves having long since been destroyed by a tank unit that had been dealt with appropriately. Grit turned to the captain,

"Has Olaf checked in yet?"

"Yes sir," replied the captain without shifting his gaze, "He'll be here shortly"

As if agreeing, an APC came clearly into view out of the shadows of the forest, clearly having sustained a great amount of fire. As the APC drew into the courtyard, Olaf's head appeared out of the hatch, sour disapproval of the situation in general quite evident from his face. He somewhat inelegantly pulled himself out of the APC and jumped to the ground and immediately began vocally attacking Grit,

"Unbelievable! Just as I start making some progress, you go and dismiss half the army and force us to abandon a triumphant battlefield to avoid being encircled! Not only that, but with such shortages of men on my front, I find out that you've been sunbathing with who knows how many troops without even firing a shot!"

"Now now, Olaf," interrupted Grit, "You'll have plenty of time for all that later. Right now, we've got to get out of here. You guys come with us" added Grit, turning to the mechs

"We can't" replied the captain, "We're here to cover your escape"

"That's an order, captain" replied Grit bluntly, "and get the crew of that APC as well, I'm not leaving anyone behind"

"Grit! Don't be more of a fool!" exclaimed Olaf, "I've got word that Hawke himself is leading the attack on the front lines! He'll be here to personally ensure that the HQ is captured any second!"

"I thought as much" replied Grit with a half smile

"Grit! What are you planning?" growled Olaf

"Olaf, do you want to be standing here when Hawke himself arrives, or do you want to heading to the evacuation copters that are waiting for us right about now?"

"Fine… Everyone follow me, and, if it means anything to you Grit, then that's an order!"

Olaf, Grit and five men ran back up the steps and into the main building. As Grit entered the building, he looked back to see Hawke stroll calmly through the open gateway, his face giving nothing away, surrounded by five Black Hole mechs. Grit smiled as Olaf yelled something at him from the far side of the hall. He drew his infamous revolver, casually slid one bullet into the chamber, held the gun steadily with his right hand at arm's length, breathed deeply, and fired. The deafening bang echoed around the cavernous entrance hall that he was still just inside, and drowning out any noise in the background. As the Black Hole unit froze in the courtyard, Grit lowered his gun and watched. The mech standing immediately to the right of Hawke bent over and, as his knees and legs started shaking uncontrollably, fell to the ground. Hawke didn't look down at him, but rather up at the source of the shot. Another one of the mechs raise his machine gun towards the building and Grit, but Hawke immediately grabbed the gun and lowered it himself. Hawke, still glaring intently at Grit, gave two quick hand signals and the remaining mechs ran into smaller side buildings. As soon as they were out of sight, Hawke himself began moving towards the main building, straight towards Grit. He walked slowly but purposely, and was completely unarmed. Grit smiled and turned and find Olaf yelling at him,

"Grit! Are you listening? What just happened?"

"I got one of the mechs, let's go"

"Why didn't you shoot Hawke!"

"That one's got strange powers, Olaf, beyond what either of us know. I reckon it'll take more than a bullet to put him down"

"Grit! Stop being so ridiculous!

"Olaf, if a single bullet could stop him, do you honestly think he would personally lead an assault against an enemy HQ with unknown resistance inside?"

Olaf didn't reply as the pair of them ran across the hall. Just as they were about to leave through the glass doors towards the stairs to the roof, Olaf stopped and looked like he was about to speak. Grit didn't let him start, and, while effortlessly reloading his revolver, replied in advance,

"Fine, Olaf, let's just see shall we?"

Grit pressed himself against the wall outside the entrance hall and stared intently at the wall opposite the door. Olaf soon realised what he was doing as Hawke's shadow appeared against the wall. Grit breathed deeply, threw himself out from his cover and fired, shattering the closed glass doors. Hawke calmly stopped and raised his hand unnaturally fast. A strange shadow appeared in the middle of his palm. The bullet hit the middle of his hand, not seeming to pass or make any impact upon the shadow. As Grit dived back behind the wall to safety, Hawke closed his eyes. The shadow over his outstretched palm began to shake exceedingly fast, before suddenly exploding outwards in a wave of shadow. The darkness seemed able to effect the physical world as the doors collapsed from the overwhelming force, stone walls cracked and large sections of the ceiling fell onto the floor. Grit and Olaf, seeing part of the wave come through the door and break through the thin wall opposite them, ran without a word. As they got to the stairwell and began running upwards, closely followed by the five men, Grit breathlessly mentioned,

"That, I do believe, was Black Wave, the lesser of Hawke's two powers"

Olaf didn't reply. As they approached the final door to the roof, the distinctive sound of Hawke's hard boots against the HQ's marble floor made it clear that Hawke knew where they were. Another wave of shadow passed by them, terrifying the soldiers. The wave passed by like a fine black haze, silent and almost beautiful, before striking the ceiling and sending more falling stone towards the COs. As the men briefly took cover in a small corridor off the stairwell, the sound of Hawke's continuous approach forced to brave the failing roof. Grit kicked open the door and waved the men past him, ordering them to instruct the pilot to start up the T copter, before going back in briefly to help the quite out of breath Olaf.

Olaf and Grit rushed out to the helicopter and ordered the pilot to take off at once. As they began to ascend away from the building, Hawke emerged from the door and looked up at them, with almost a look of anger on his face, much to Grit's delight. Grit then leaned out of the T copter, gave a clear salute to Hawke and, while still in full sight of him, picked up the transmitter's receiver from beside the door and casually said,

"This is Grit, Squadron 27, you are free to go, repeat, free to go"

At the same moment Grit put the receiver back, as Hawke finally turned to go back down the stairs, an unusually loud series of explosions unmistakably came from the far side of the mountains, almost all at the same moment. Olaf staggered over to the door and looked out. A vast explosion suddenly consumed part of the HQ that they had been in so recently. A series of equally immense explosions began pounding the very building, tearing it apart as the outer walls collapsed. With a huge groan, the HQ began to lean over to one side while flames consumed the offices. With a final volley of artillery blows, the building surrended and fell inwards on itself, leaving a burning ruin alone, smashed by the occasional rocket. Olaf, pure horror and disgust visible on his face, turned to Grit and began stuttering madly,

"My… my, my tapestries! Do you have any idea how long it took for those to be made! You'll be paying for those for a long time!"

"Yeah, I admit it was that one with Sturm that made me originally think of that plan, but I never thought it might actually be useful for something or another"

"Grit! You had all this planned? What if something had gone wrong! We could both be dead! More importantly, I could be dead! Did it never cross your carefree little mind to run this over with the Commander in Chief of Blue Moon!"

"To be honest, no, because you'd have probably forbidden the idea. Anyway, it all worked out fine. A bullet, probably not, but if it's enough to goad him into the blast of a full artillery barrage, then that might do the job"

"All that was part of your plan! You were gambling with our lives!"

"Yeah, but it all worked out fine, didn't it? Hawke's dead, Olaf, and things will be a fair bit more simple with no CO in the south. Might just give us a chance"

"Sir," said the pilot nervously, "there's another Blue Moon T-copter nearby, it seems to be circling"

"Put me though to it" said Grit as he picked up the receiver, "Colin, now what do you think you're doing here? I thought I ordered you to head south"

"Yes sir," came the reply, "but you also ordered me to relax and take it easy. Given that the two orders seemed contradictory, I thought it better to wait for further instructions before following either course of action"

Grit smiled as Olaf grabbed the receiver and yelled,

"Colin! You are hereby banned from obeying any order given by Grit, do you hear me?"

Grit casually took the receiver off Olaf and said,

"It's good to see you Colin, now follow us"

He then put the receiver back against the transmitter. Olaf began to come up with more problems with Grit's plan, still failing to acknowledge that it had achieved anything. Grit wearily sat down and muttered,

"It's going to be a long flight"

Just at that moment, a frantic beeping came from the front of the cockpit as the T-copter began to shake. The pilot yelled back,

"Something's firing at us! I think there might be some anti air units in the forests, commander, what should we do"

"Increase altitude" came Grit's instant and confident sounding reply, his calm face betrayed by the sweat drops on his forehead. As both the T-copters pulled up, Grit was terrified by the risks. He knew well enough that too low and anti air units tear you apart, but increase your altitude and missiles can pick you off like flies. Grit's worries were answered soon enough. Another alarm from the front sounded. The pilot resignedly turned around and quietly said that a missile system had locked onto them. There was nothing to be done. Try to drop altitude and it just hits the rotors, then you're guaranteed to die. Try to raise altitude and you just fall further. As the beeping got faster and then became a drone, Grit and Olaf both grabbed onto something and nodded at each other once, brave determination on both their faces.

Colin looked out from the other T-copter. Grit's tactics had been certainly unconventional, but they had certainly worked. He looked forwards immensely to arriving at the southern ports to congratulate him properly on his crushing victory over Hawke. He looked on and could have sworn that he caught Grit's eye for just a second, a strange despondency seemed to be there. Less than a second later the T-copter was catapulted forwards, its nose thrown into the air, before wildly swinging and trying to regain a level course with only one rotor. Colin felt sick, mute, unable to move. Two men were in that T-copter who couldn't die, they just couldn't. The other T-copter continued to lose altitude, now in a downward spiral. The back half was completely missing, blown away by the devastating missile strike. Colin, feeling completely detached from the world, totally helpless, stumbled to the cockpit and yelled,

"Pilot, go after that T-copter! Land wherever it does!"

"I'm sorry sir, I can't"

"That is an order, pilot"

"Grit's orders were clear, sir, if anything were to happen to him or Olaf, I am not to set down under any circumstances before we reach the south ports"

"That…" Colin began. That made sense, and Colin knew it. As he sat down slowly, and stared at the T-copter, it finally disappeared underneath the trees, leaving only smoke behind it