Chapter 11: Fall
Do your duty in all things.
You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.
Robert E. Lee
Slavik looked at the display, his scowl fierce as ever as CABAL described the defenses surrounding Hammerfest. The base was home to one of GDI's premier weapons R&D facilities and it wasn't surprising the bastards had fortified it so heavily. However, all that firepower paled in comparison to the Firestorm defense system surrounding the base.
"I've uploaded the analysis my staff has produced on Hammerfest and its defenses," O'Connor said on the screen.
"The technology is perfect," CABAL stated coolly. "There are no weaknesses."
"Nothing is perfect," Slavik countered.
"CABAL is right in the sense that the technology is conceptually perfect," O'Connor said, half correcting and half acknowledging the AI's conclusions. "Nothing can penetrate a Firestorm wall when it is active. But that there is the rub."
"General O'Connor is correct," the AI continued, though it sounded almost reluctant to make that admission. "The Firestorm system requires tremendous amounts of power. Disrupting that supply of power should deactivate those defenses."
"I would not advise that," O'Connor said. "Dropping the power on Hammerfest is going to attract the attention of every GDI unit within a hundred kilometers, at which point your forces will be found and run over by sheer numbers if nothing else. You'd never get all your forces through the perimeter in time after dropping the power."
"Do you have another suggestion, general?" Slavik asked.
Tapping his console, O'Connor brought up an image of a Firestorm wall section. "These emitters become extremely hot due to the amount of current flowing through them. Due to the cold weather, Hammerfest is one of the few GDI bases that can keep them running nearly indefinitely. But nearly is not the same as indefinite."
Slavik nodded in understanding. "When they drop the emitters, we can move right in."
"But we have no idea when the next time that will be," Oxanna said, not convinced.
"How fortunate your commander had the wisdom to consult me when he encountered this problem," O'Connor said, a feral grin crossing his lips. He tapped his console again and a set of dates and times slid over the Montauk's main display. "The timetable for Hammerfest's Firestorm cooldowns."
Oxanna's eyes grew wide and even Slavik felt a tingle of surprise. "May I ask how you acquired this?"
"Hammerfest's value is not the base itself, but the research conducted there. Any overt attack on it risks the destruction of that research, so I had my staff draft plans that would allow us to seize the base with the data intact. This little tidbit is a result of their work."
"That doesn't exactly answer the question," Slavik noted.
"No, it doesn't," O'Connor said, grinning again. "Suffice it to say, it was an inside job, and one that will only work once, so I'm prepared to let you have it if you do two things for me."
Looking over at the data, Slavik noted that the only future cooldown time on the list was a mere hour from now. That was too soon to get his forces positioned. The good general was as thorough as ever.
"And what would that be?"
"Get me a complete copy of Hammerfest's data banks. And get me Jake McNeil, dead or alive."
The first request Slavik had been expecting. The second left him feeling confused once more.
"He's a lieutenant stationed at Hammerfest. You may have heard of his older brother, Michael McNeil. He is GDI's lead field commander and the one that recovered the ship Vega managed to crash. The McNeil brothers have a longer history with Nod than most people realize and I would like to have his brother or at least his corpse in my custody."
The last comment implied a medical or scientific reason for the request, though Slavik did not particularly care. The younger McNeil would have likely ended up as a casualty of his operation anyway. That Slavik was to ship out his body was merely a footnote to the man's eventual execution, if he was lucky. If not, then Jake McNeil was likely to get a firsthand experience of Nod's progress in Divination.
"I'll see what I can do," Slavik finally said.
O'Connor tilted his head in acknowledgment. "Good hunting."
The feed terminated and the console blinked. Accessing it, Oxanna nodded to Slavik.
"The general has transmitted us an up to date timetable."
"Display," Slavik instructed.
"Rather remarkable the assets General O'Connor has kept from the rest of the Brotherhood," Oxanna noted.
"Compartmentalization of intelligence should be something you are quite familiar with, lieutenant," Slavik chided. "After all, it's the second rule of the intelligence business."
"Of course, sir."
Even as he spoke, Slavik's eyes scanned the times. There were three cooldowns scheduled for the next 48 hours, all spread out along the Firestorm perimeter.
"CABAL, how many sets of the chameleon suit do we have on hand?" Slavik asked.
"The damage two infiltrators could achieve would be minimal."
"True, but we do not necessarily need them to inflict any actual damage or destruction. CABAL, display recon photos of Firestorm post six."
The image of three GDI soldiers lounging around appeared.
"Sloppy, but to our advantage," Slavik commented. "These men believe themselves to be safe while the wall section is active. After the cooldown is completed, they will be even more lax because nothing will appear to have happened. That is when we shall take them. With no one to confirm either way, it would not be difficult for them to deactivate that section of the Firestorm wall and let in a much larger stealth force."
"And perhaps find a place for our subterranean units to surface?" Oxanna suggested.
With a plan, the wheels were set in motion. Over a dozen stealth tanks rolled out, two very important passengers riding along. Slavik would have loved to sneak a larger force closer to the base, but there were limits to the assets available for this mission. It was ironic that a full frontal assault would have afforded him more tactical deployment options, but O'Connor was right. Hammerfest's value lay in its research. Success would require a more delicate touch.
"Our stealth units are in position," Oxanna reported nearly two hours later. "Subterranean units are also standing by."
"Excellent. The Firestorm section should be deactivating momentarily. Our agents are not to remove the GDI guards until they can take all of them at once and only after their scheduled check-in."
"CABAL, once our agents plug you into GDI's local grid, I want a feed of the base's interior."
"As you command."
"Firestorm wall section down," Oxanna reported. "Our agents have crossed over. Firestorm wall section has reactivated."
Slavik nodded. The margin had been under a minute, but they had succeeded. Now they just needed the next phase to go as smoothly. A beep soon sounded, indicating just that.
"GDI sentries removed. Our agents are interfacing with the local controls."
"Dropping Firestorm defenses," CABAL reported. "Overriding GDI sensors. Hammerfest command will continue to believe the sections are still online."
"Excellent. Roll in the tanks."
"Establishing video feed of Hammerfest base," CABAL continued.
The images fed to them by the security cameras revealed much, including a very major oversight by GDI forces, Slavik noted.
"The base appears to not be completely paved over," he said.
"A surprising mistake considering Hammerfest's reputation," Oxanna commented.
"But one we were unaware of because no one has been able to get close," said Slavik. "Though I must wonder whether General O'Connor had any idea of this."
"And decided not to share with us?"
Slavik shrugged. "It changes little. We would still needed to have moved in the stealth tanks before trying to penetrate the base. CABAL, are there any sensor arrays deployed?"
"Three," CABAL reported. "Shall I interfere with their telemetry?"
"Of course. It would be problematic if they saw us coming before we were already on top of them."
"Devil's Tongues are to surface here, here, and here," Slavik ordered. "Assault and engineering teams will follow. First priority is the radar station, second are the power plants. The radar station must be taken intact. Secure as many power plants intact as possible, but they are expendable if the need arises."
As the Nod units moved in, Slavik continued watching the hijacked feed. As the Devil's Tongues burst forth, GDI soldiers scrambled to meet the threat but were quickly incinerated. Fanning out, the flame tanks secured the initial foothold as subterranean APCs surfaced. Soldiers piled out and began storming the buildings, not giving GDI any time to recover.
"Sir, we've knocked out power to the defenses!" a report came in.
"Stealth tanks, move in and distract the walkers," Slavik ordered.
While the Devil's Tongues were more than a match for the soldiers stationed around the base, GDI's armored walkers would chew through their light armor in no time. Already a Titan was blasting through a flame tank and looking for a new target. But the stealth tanks were not Slavik's only answer to armor as rockets slammed into the lone Titan. More GDI armor was converging on the base but it was too late as they suddenly found stealth tanks unloading salvos behind them. Flaming wrecks toppled over as the stealth tanks disappeared from view again.
"So much for an impregnable fortress," Slavik said, grinning.
"I have full control of Hammerfest's systems," CABAL reported.
"The sonic crystals?"
"They are being stored in the secure research vault inside the inner Firestorm perimeter," CABAL said. "GDI's researchers have been, incapacitated for the time being."
"Still alive, I hope? They may turn out to be quite useful once we convince them to serve the Brotherhood."
"As you wish," CABAL said.
"Any sign of this Lieutenant McNeil the general is interested in?" Slavik asked.
"Not yet," Oxanna said. "Once we get more bodies on the ground we can conduct a more thorough search. Right now GDI forces are still trying to delay the inevitable."
"Courageous of them," Slavik noted. "But futile. What's the ETA on the main force?"
"Another six minutes or so," the lieutenant replied.
"Establish a secondary base southwest of Hammerfest's main base," Slavik ordered.
"Outside the perimeter?" Oxanna asked.
Slavik nodded. "If GDI attempts to retake the base, they must also find a way to circumvent the defenses now that we have taken them intact. Best to intercept them outside the perimeter and not have to drop the defenses to meet them."
"But what value is there in holding the base?" Oxanna asked. "Once we copy their research data and take the crystals, why not just level it?"
"Two reasons. First, holding this location will stall GDI, and the stronger our defensive position is, the longer they will take before they can pursue us. Second, possessing a working Firestorm system will allow us a chance to examine the technology up close. That should prove useful if we ever need to defeat the system again."
Oxanna found that she agreed with Slavik and simply nodded, focusing her attention back on the battlefield. Of course, with most of the GDI defenders killed or surrendering, the scene was relatively calm. Somehow the Black Hand lieutenant doubted GDI's response would be anywhere as subdued.
Through his binoculars, Lieutenant Ramsey could see the outlines of a few sentries meandering around the bridge. The wreckage of a single wolverine lay smoldering close to the bridge entrance, victim to an artillery battery somewhere out of sight. The presence of artillery was forcing a rethink of the whole operation. Though the titan company could easily roll over the soldiers protecting the crossing, there was nothing stopping Nod forces from wrecking the bridge while they tried to cross.
Another pair of wolverines was pressing south, both to investigate the source of Nod attacks and to see if there were any suitable beaches for deploying an amphibious assault on Vega's island. Frequent as the probes were, they were mostly composed of infantry so shouldn't pose any problems for the light walkers.
"Sir, Nod outpost sighted," a voice said over the crackling radio. "It's lightly defended but they have the bridge covered with laser turrets."
"Acknowledged," McNeil replied. "Lieutenant Ramsey."
"Yes sir," Ramsey quickly said.
"Take two platoons south. You should have the range to knock out the turrets without getting hit back. Avoid destroying the bridge, I want it intact."
Dropping into his unit, Ramsey nodded to his pilot and the titan rose along with seven others. In an effort to conserve space, the titan only had room for two crew, which resulted in the commander also serving as the gunner. Even with the autoloader, the arrangement was hardly ideal and having to handle the actual shooting unnecessarily split the commander's attention. Ramsey had heard rumors of a new mark II design that remedied this problem and as far as he was concerned it couldn't arrive fast enough. For now, he had to make do with the tools he had and get as many of his men out alive as possible.
The wolverine scouts met up with them quickly and fell into an escort formation. The advance did not go unnoticed as a few buggies appeared on the display. However, they remained wary of approaching so much firepower and simply shadowed the force from a safe distance.
"Keep an eye out for bikes," Ramsey said.
Acknowledgments came quickly and Ramsey followed his own advice as he scanned the terrain, rotating the titan's upper scope left and right. Surprisingly nothing appeared to harass them even when they came into sight of the bridge.
"Ramsey," McNeil began. "We've got incoming air support. Let the orcas pick off the turrets and then haul ass over the bridge. I don't want them to get a chance to blow it."
Plans rarely survived intact during an engagement. This time it hadn't even lasted long enough to start the battle. Still, Ramsey wasn't about to complain about getting some help. While they waited, he fired off new orders of his own and the wolverines peeled away. The upper modules on the titans all rotated and each let loose a single round, all directed at the following buggies. None actually hit and only one actually managed to land anywhere close, but it was enough to disperse their stalkers, if only momentarily. Whether they regrouped Ramsey couldn't tell as the buggies were no longer within visual range.
"Sir, the orcas are executing their attack run," the driver reported.
"Alright, let's get moving as well."
The roar of engines was considerably diminished inside the titan though Ramsey could still make out a general direction for the source. The explosions that followed were equally muffled but he didn't need to hear them to know the laser turrets had just been blasted into smithereens.
"Wolverines, form ranks and advance!"
Falling into a line, the wolverines marched forward and poured lead down the bridge. The kill zone they created precluded any counterattack by infantry, but that did not stop Nod forces from mounting a response. Cyborgs lumbered forward and returned fire, even if their chainguns could not match the wolverines. However, as the GDI walkers shifted their fire to concentrate at the hulking monstrosities, Nod soldiers popped out and let off RPGs and missiles aplenty. The explosives were still not enough to outright stop the advance but the distractions were slowing them down.
A roar and the titans joined the fray, their guns trained squarely on the cyborgs. Despite their heavy armor, not even they could survive continuous pounding by AP rounds. The first cyborg to go down went flying back instead of merely crumbling thanks to a simultaneous chance hit by two titans. The second lost its head due to another demonstration of superb gunnery and the others were finally forced back by the sheer volume of fire now that the wolverines were coordinating their fire once more.
The red light that accompanied the beep pulled Ramsey's attention from their advance and he cursed. With all his forces focused on crossing the bridge, the buggies had regrouped and were now barreling towards them. They couldn't hope to do any serious damage with just their machineguns, but at the speed they were driving Ramsey doubted it was to take potshots.
"Keep moving!" Ramsey shouted into the radio and the GDI units rushed to obey.
Swerving his own unit around, Ramsey took aim and blasted the wheel off an incoming buggy. The others veered away but continued racing forward, now letting loose with their own guns, trying to do anything to split the attention of the GDI attack. Another died before reaching the bridge but the others were quickly zipping across. Even so, Ramsey's own units were already on the other side and the wolverines were turning around to deal with this new threat. Using the titans was too risky as a misplaced shot might seriously undermine the bridge's integrity. After all, McNeil had ordered it taken intact and Ramsey had no intention of disappointing.
The Nod defenders inside the base continued running about but at this close a range even a titan could effectively take on infantry. Near misses by HE rounds were more than enough to kill someone, even if they were using up a lot of them in the process. An explosion behind marked the only success of the Nod buggies and Ramsey grimaced at the sight. One had managed to actually get across the bridge only to hurl itself into the closest wolverine. The walker had topped over and one of its legs had snapped clear off, but otherwise it was intact and the operator alive. However, if they were going to evac him they needed to clear out the rest of the defenders.
"Ramsey, hang tight, help is on the way," McNeil said.
"Hanging sir, and the sooner the better!"
Even before the words left his mouth another roar filled the air. Dropping suddenly, the orcas literally bounced in the air as they leveled out and let loose with their chainguns, carving the Nod defenders into bloody pulps. Those lucky enough to duck in time stayed down or suffered the same fate as the orcas continued hunting for targets. The next time any stood it was with weapons thrown aside and arms thrown up.
"Enemy units are surrendering sir," Ramsey reported.
"More backup incoming," McNeil said. "Let them handle the prisoners. For now keep an eye on them and don't let them blow any of the structures."
Reinforcements were not long in coming. The APCs quickly offloaded and engineer teams went to work taking control of the various buildings. Others kept an eye on the surviving Nod defenders even as more units rolled into the base. Once he made sure the wolverine operator had been evacuated, Ramsey found himself on the march once more north. They would have to take that bridge sooner or later, regardless of artillery, and Ramsey needed to be in position to make the push.
"Someone, kill me, now."
"How the hell did you make it out of basic, Harrison?" Lawrence said to the soldier strapped in next to him.
The soldier didn't respond, instead leaning back in an attempt to keep from throwing up inside his helmet. The three APCs rolling with the waves were fully loaded and awaiting permission to make landfall. The orders for the units aboard were simple, find any SAM sites they could and blow them up. The mission was not one Lawrence considered to have a high survival rate, but someone had to do it and the 22nd light infantry platoon were some of the best at such raids. Even if they got pinned down and wiped out, Nod forces were likely to pay a very heavy price for their victory.
"This is McNeil. Commence landing. Good luck and godspeed."
"Alright, you heard the commander," the lieutenant said. "Get your gear ready to hit the ground running. Who knows what patrols Vega has on his island, but I want us on the move immediately."
A bump signaled the APCs landing and the front ramp slammed down seconds later. The soldiers poured out onto the beach which was mercifully deserted. Lawrence and the other light infantry formed up in front of the disk throwers. With two APCs dedicated to getting them onto the island, hopefully there was enough firepower to hold off anything Vega could throw at them. Moving off the beach, the assault force ran into a SAM site almost immediately. The disk throwers didn't even need to be told to topple it.
"Move east," Lieutenant Jarvis ordered.
Obeying, the soldiers carefully advanced deeper into the island. Patrols were not long in coming and gunfire erupted.
"Cyborgs! Grenadiers, front and center!"
As the infantry fanned out, the disk throwers stepped forward and unleashed a volley at the hulking monstrosities. The explosives quickly reduced the cyborgs into scrap while even catching a few regular infantry. However, the enemy soldiers did not die alone and two soldiers next to Lawrence went down hard. A quick check confirmed their loss but there was no time to mourn. The soldiers took off, not waiting for more Nod soldiers to find and engage them. Another SAM site was quickly rubble and the assault team was about to hit a third when an explosion knocked Lawrence off his feet. He bounced but managed to scramble to cover as another blast cratered the ground.
Lawrence couldn't make out who had shouted but it hardly mattered. Disk throwers were already unloading but the frontal armor of the tanks laughed off their efforts. Lawrence paid the tanks little heed short of trying to avoid its attention. It would be up to the disk throwers to get them out of this alive, but they needed to give the tanks their full attention to do so. Taking aim, Lawrence picked off two Nod soldiers trying to advance on them. His fellow riflemen joined him even as more cannon rounds landed amongst their positions. Screams from both sides sounded but soon an explosion blossomed amongst the Nod lines as flames engulfed a tick tank.
"Keep the pressure on!" Jarvis shouted. "Lawrence, Harrison, flank left and pin down those soldiers!"
Harrison was the only one who verbally responded as Lawrence obeyed through action. Running over, he sprayed the incoming soldiers and managed to clip one in the arm. The others ducked and returned fire but Lawrence was already behind cover. Harrison opened fire next, catching Lawrence's attackers in the open. Another went down and the pair continued alternating fire.
"Miss the boat ride yet?" Lawrence joked.
"What's there to miss?" Harrison replied. "Shooting up Nod fanatics is much more fun!"
An explosion cut off Lawrence's response, at least momentarily.
"Fun, you say!"
Another tick tank exploded and Lawrence rolled over to get a better shot. As he did so, a shadow loomed over and the GDI infantryman suddenly found himself next to another tank.
The machinegun swung down and Lawrence froze, almost as if he was waiting for the bullets to riddle his body. Instead, the gun snapped and sparked before drooping over.
The scream snapped Lawrence out of his daze and the soldier pulled out a grenade. Pin pulled, he quickly tossed it against the turret of the tick tank and doze for cover. The explosion seemed to do little, but the vehicle ground to a halt and the crew started bailing. They did not get far as Lawrence and Harrison opened fire, cutting down the retreating operators.
Looking around, Lawrence caught sight of five burning wrecks and countless bodies strewn across the battlefield. Most wore the red and black of the Brotherhood, but a good number were in the golden brown camo of GDI.
"Lieutenant!" Lawrence shouted.
"Javier's dead," one of the disk throwers shouted back. "So's the sergeant."
"Damn. Alright, all units, rally on me! Check for wounded as you go but we need to move it, now!"
The soldiers obeyed and as Lawrence counted the survivors a grimace formed. Out of the forty some soldiers that had landed, only twenty-eight were still standing on their own. Seven others were still alive, but a few looked to be in bad shape. They could not stop however kept pushing northwest. Another SAM site fell on their march but Lawrence did not know how much longer they could keep this up. If Vega sent another force to flush out his unit, they would likely not survive the encounter.
"Sir, harvester sighted ahead! Looks like it's moving towards a Tib field!"
Even with all the remaining disk throwers working together, Lawrence knew they could not hope to take out the heavily armored harvester. But perhaps they did not have to.
"Grenadiers! Move up! Take out that thing's tracks."
The ten surviving disk throwers obeyed, lobbing explosives at the vehicle. Wheels and tracks shattered, leaving the massive truck stuck in the dirt. The driver immediately bailed and threw up his hands. Fortunately for him, Lawrence and his men were feeling merciful.
"Alright, bunker down around the harvester," Lawrence ordered. "We'll hold out here until reinforcements arrive."
Just as soldiers moved to obey, more shouting filled the air. Looking over, Lawrence cursed as the horde of Nod soldiers swept towards their position. A pair of buggies led the charge and would be on top of them in no time.
"Move, move!" Lawrence screamed.
Even as they did so, the soldiers formed a screen as others carried the wounded. Lawrence followed his own advice and ran even as he opened fire. If they could get behind the harvester they would at least have a strongpoint to try holding. Out in the open, they would be cut to pieces.
A sharp pain ripped through Lawrence's leg and he toppled over. Pushing himself up, he continued firing. Another GDI soldier fell not too far from him and stayed down. Suddenly someone grabbed Lawrence's shoulder and hauled him off the ground.
"Keep shooting!" Harrison shouted as he dragged his friend along.
Lawrence needed little urging and did his best to aim. Most of the survivors were at the harvester and luckily the two reached the others without getting any more holes. The buggies were mercifully wrecks already but their numbers were whittled down to just twelve now. But Lawrence did not let the losses daze him. Locking in a new clip, he opened fire again, determined to delay his demise as long as possible. The roar of guns and explosions filled his ears as his comrades followed suit and drowned out every other thought. It was thus quite the surprise when missiles suddenly smashed into the ranks of the advancing Nod soldiers.
A loud screech sounded as suddenly a trio of Orcas dropped hard before braking in the air just above the ground. Each one let loose with their chainguns and unleashed a torrent of lead. More Orcas streaked through the sky even as missiles rose up to greet them, but none found their mark. The Orcas returned fire and their own missiles smashed into the remaining SAM emplacements. Then to Lawrence's surprise, a squadron of Orca carryalls roared toward his position. Soon after, a dozen wolverine and titan walkers were on the ground and advancing towards Vega's base. But the most remarkable site was the massive Orca Command Carrier that descended from the sky, guns roaring. The howitzer under its belly let loose, smashing the laser turrets and blowing holes in the walls. By the time the walkers reached the base perimeter, there was little to stand in their way.
Collapsing, Lawrence felt the adrenaline slowly fade. Looking down at his leg, he finally noticed just how much blood had escaped. He quickly pulled out his medpac and tied the wound. It would have to hold until he could get to a field hospital or the like.
"Hey, you okay?"
Looking up, Lawrence saw Harrison leaning over.
"Yeah. I think so."
Grinning, Harrison reached out. "Still wondering how I got through basic?"
Chuckling, Lawrence nodded and took Harrison's hand. "Yeah. Cause you still haven't shown anything I would care to call skills. Not when we were kids, and sure as hell not now."
As McNeil entered the chamber, his attention was solely on the man seated before the massive screen, not whatever was being displayed on it. Stomping over, the GDI commander considered the very painful ways he might employ to get Vega to talk. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one's perspective, the politicos got rather squeamish at such methods so McNeil decided to settle for beating Vega into the ground before 'accepting' his surrender. However, before he even reached Vega, it became apparent Vega would not last long enough to do any surrendering. Cursing, McNeil grabbed hold of the Nod general and pulled him up.
"Alright you sorry bastard," McNeil spat. "Before that crap fries your brain you're gonna tell me what happened to the rest of that ship. What happened to the technology that you and Kane stole off that UFO!"
Vega snorted, his eyes fluttering as the eyecandy shot through his system. Still, he remained lucid enough to respond to McNeil's shaking.
"Kane didn't steal it. He made it." A wheeze escaped Vega before he continued. "He's got the Tacitus."
"What does Kane have!" McNeil pressed. "What is the Tacitus!"
Unfortunately Vega was too far gone and merely slumped over. Tossing the man back in disgust, McNeil glanced over at as Chandra stepped up to his side.
"Sir, I have some very bad news."
Following Chandra's gaze, McNeil finally took note of the countdown on the large screen. Another second passed before he reacted, quickly bolting out the room right behind Chandra.
"All units, pull out, I repeat, pull out now! Transports, get our people off the ground! There's some kind of self destruct counting down!"
Another minute passed before they exited the pyramid and McNeil watched as carryalls clamped onto walkers before lifting off. APCs were also racing away and the moment the door locked behind McNeil the Kodiak began lifting off.
"Sir, we're detecting an incoming missile!" Binks reported over the intercom as McNeil marched up to the bridge.
"A missile? Where from?"
"Space Command is tracing, but sir, from its height and speed, it's looking like an ICBM."
"What?" McNeil exclaimed just as he reached the bridge. "Is it a nuke?"
"We're about to find out," Chandra said as he assumed his post. "Missile landing in twelve seconds!"
McNeil didn't need a countdown as he watched the display. The projectile raced towards Vega's pyramid and moments later smashed into it, igniting into a massive ball of fire. The Kodiak shook from the shockwave but the cruiser quickly escaped the blast zone. Behind them, a black mushroom cloud floated in the air, blotting out the sky.
"Did we lose anyone?"
"Two titans and a wolverine didn't make it in time," Binks reported. "There just weren't enough carryalls to lift everyone out in one go."
Slamming his fist against the armrest, McNeil silently cursed. If only they had seen the missile sooner, if he had been paying attention to the screen behind Vega instead of focusing on payback.
"Sir, General Solomon wants a word with you," Chandra said.
"Put him on," McNeil said. "I suppose we have some good news for him."
However, when the African-American general appeared on the display, his face told McNeil right away something else was up.
"Nod forces have broken through our European perimeters, Mac. They've taken Hammerfest."
The name immediately registered, for more than one reason. "Hammerfest?"
"We think they're after our disruptor technology. The sonic crystals," Solomon continued. "I need your forces ready for immediate deployment. Destroy everything Nod has there. Get them off our base."
The general's rather empathic command ended the transmission, but McNeil was still considering the consequences of losing Hammerfest in the first place. Glancing back, Chandra gave voice to that concern.
"Mac, wasn't your brother at Hammerfest?"
McNeil felt his teeth grind but he gave a choppy nod. "See if General Langley is available. Hammerfest is still his backyard. Maybe he has some more details on the situation."
The response came rather quickly and it soon became apparent his friend had not been getting much in the way of sleep.
"Will. You look like hell," McNeil said.
"Well, good thing you never had much taste to begin with," Langley replied with a wiry grin. "You finished with Vega?"
"Was just getting started," McNeil said. "Then got a nuke dropped on us. Barely got out of ground zero myself. Some of my men weren't so lucky."
Langley blinked. "A nuke?"
McNeil nodded. "They're still tracing it, but it seems like the Brotherhood's a nuclear power again."
"Just bloody great," Langley muttered.
"Solomon just tapped me to retake Hammerfest," McNeil said, getting to the point. "What can you tell me?"
Langley sighed. "Not much. The bastards came out of nowhere. They somehow got inside the Firestorm perimeter and managed to basically take the base intact. We're still trying to figure out how."
"Yeah. So much for impregnable."
McNeil considered the ramifications of Langley's report. His friend had been stationed at Hammerfest for quite some time before being handed European command and knew the systems there inside out. If even he had no idea how Nod had managed to penetrate it, retaking the base intact just got that much harder.
"Are there really no backdoors into the base?" McNeil asked.
"Oh there are backdoors," Langley said, surprising the field commander. "However, none of those back doors would have let Nod slip in such a large force. They're all water routes."
McNeil blinked. "I've never heard of that."
Langley snorted. "Of course not. You think we'd advertise such a vulnerability? But again, trust me when I say Nod's not equipped to move such a large force through them. They had to have gotten in another way."
Again Langley's words offered more revelations, but McNeil immediately latched onto one specific part. "You say Nod isn't equipped. What about us?"
"You could try, but the main problem is the Nod force that's set up camp southeast of the perimeter," said Langley. "I'd suggest sending in a small force to take down the perimeter. Once you do that, we can fly in reinforcements."
"Sounds like a plan. I'll be overhead within the next two hours."
Langley nodded. "I'll have a small team stand by for your orders. Due to the conditions, you'll only have light armor. But you need to take that base back intact, Mac. That place has too much of our weapons R&D facilities to let it get flattened."
"Don't worry about it Will, I'll take care of it."
Nodding, Langley sighed again. "Sorry, Mac."
"Hey, what're you apologizing for?"
"You know," Langley said softly.
Grimacing, it was McNeil's turn to nod. "Yeah, I guess I do. Don't worry about it, Will. If Nod really did find a way around Firestorm, then it's our own damn fault."
"Maybe. But taking Hammerfest is only going to be the tip of the iceberg, Mac. Whatever it is the hell they're planning, it's big. And now a nuke?"
"Yeah. But first thing's first. I'm taking back Hammerfest and getting back those crystals."
"Planning to pull another miracle out your ass? Well, it wouldn't be the first time. Godspeed, Mac. And we've got your back here too."
End of Chapter 11
The Nod mission to seize Hammerfest is vastly different from the one in the game for obvious reasons. The mission to take Vega's base is more in line with the game and was partially based on my own playthrough, though I did not really use Orcas that much. Those things were bloody expensive and the limited ammo got annoying. That and their vulnerability to SAMs was ridiculous. The Orca bomber on the other hand, a work of beauty.
Anyway, one thing people are likely to be curious about is O'Connor's powerbase. After all, he's been basically kicking GDI's ass all across western Russia. We won't really go into much depth about it until the Firestorm segment of the story, cause that's when his network really comes in handy for the Brotherhood, since specific part of O'Connor's command and control is not reliant on CABAL. There's a reason for this, but I have to be careful to not make O'Connor perfect. He's still going to take damage from CABAL's uprising, but it will be from O'Connor's powerbase that Nod regains much of its strength after the end of the Second Tiberian War and lay the foundation for the Third.