The Combine forces in the middle of the city recovered fairly quickly from their (barely) controlled crash landing in the park. A beachhead unit comprised of assault 'mechs, armour and heavy infantry cordoned off the park while the rest of the personnel and materiel were unloaded from the DropShip. More ships were landing in the outskirts of the city, with units moving into the governmental and military districts of New Pontiac.

"Do we know how many units they're bringing down?" demanded Field Marshal Metzger. He watched as the base's garrison lances moved towards the main gate, to help defend against the Kuritan assault. Mainly made up of the medium-class Griffin and Wolverine chassis built in the equatorial 'mechworks, they weren't likely to hold the line for long against the Combine's assault and heavy lances. The turrets and emplaced positions were throwing enough fire at the advancing enemy that it sounded more of a permanent bass rumble rather than individual reports. Great gouts of dirt, concrete and fire were throw up around them as returned fire chewed into the ground. The contrails of massed missile salvos almost entirely blanked out the vista; targets were being acquired on electronic basis alone.

One of the harrassed strategic analysts tore his gaze away from his station. "No, sir. There are too many ECM-capable units out there, and our satellite network is being systematically destroyed. Just about the only units we know about directly we only have knowledge of because they are currently engaging our own units. Current strength on-planet is estimated at division-level deployment."

Metzger allowed himself a private grimace. An enemy aerospace wing strafed the base, flashing lasers and whickering tracer-fire down towards the running personnel in the open base. Anti-air batteries replied in turn, chasing the fighters through the sky. "What about Duke Rastkel? Has he been evacuated?"

"He is en-route to the mountain fortress line. His family are already there."

Metzger sighed. "Sound the evacuation. We are relocating command to the mountain bases. The garrison is to give as much time as possible for the personnel to get to the airstrip. And have the weapon stockpiles destroyed."

The command bunker, already a hive of activity, became even more frenetic as technicians gathered paperwork and rushed for the exits, analysts wiped their stations' memory cores and data viruses were left behind in the base's mainframe. No trace of their access codes or operational plans would remain by the time the Draconis Combine took control of the base.

"Get over here!" the sapper bellowed over the noise of the battle. He waved his team over to the towering doors of the stockpile, backed against the thirty-metre tall, five-metre deep curtain wall of the base. Four men burdened with bulging backpacks, filled with explosives, huffed over to the personnel access door. Inside, the cacophony was barely diminished.

"Charges every ten metres, gents. Make sure you rig the good stuff by priority." He looked out the door as a particularly close explosion bathed a wedge of the room a baleful orange. "Maybe be quick about it."

A Griffin fell backwards as it was felled by a lucky shot, blackened, burned and pitted by countless munition impacts. A yelling corporal fought to be heard as she tried to get her heavy weapons team into good order. The wind carried smoke over the squad, hiding them from view. A Bulldog tank was gutted from stem to stern by a hypervelocity gauss round, the crew being sucked explosively thorugh the twenty-centimetre hole in the rear armour. A fine mist of bloody gore spattered the hangar wall behind the wrecked vehicle.

He followed behind his men, moving between the shelves and crates, making sure the radio detonators were all online and sync'd. This was only one of three such buildings to be razed, and it looked as if time were running out.

"Last charge laid!" one of his men, Caffran, called.

"Right, next one!"

As they were moving to the next stockpile, he looked over to the airstrip. A huge cargo plane was taking off, engines screaming in protest. A pair of Stilettos rose with it, providing escort. The evacuation was proceeding apace. He fully intended to be on one of those planes in the next ten minutes. His team wired the stockpile quickly; perhaps they sensed the ticking clock as well.

Partway through wiring the last stockpile, mostly ammunition and electronic gear, he noticed a change in the noise from outside. Sticking his head out of the door, he looked over to the gate. He couldn't see any friendly forces through the haze... but he couldn't hear any, either. The Combine forces were still firing, though, making sure any survivors were suppressed. A gigantic, hulking shape resolved out of the smog: a Katana assault 'mech. Further colossal footfalls from the smoke heralded its lancemates, as well as the throaty roar of armour engines and the shouted combat-cant of the Kuritan infantry.

"We are out of time. Rig it. Now."

"It's gonna take a few more minutes, boss."


The enemy 'mechs moved into the base, occasionally blowing a hidden team away. APCs skidded up to the entrances to the command bunkers, and the infantry fanned out to take defensive positions and sweep for traps. Several squads headed towards the stockpiles.

"Caffran, get over here and cover the door."

"Arright." He jogged past, unholstering his pistol.

He busied himself with the detonators. Willing himself to work faster. He doubted he'd see an evac plane, now. He was pretty sure at least one of those 'mechs was heading for the airfield. Any of the planes caught on the ground wouldn't stand a chance.

"Shit! Boss, I think they saw me," Caffran called. A shout wafted through the door, followed by the sound of sprinting booted feet. A helmeted head appeared in the doorway - his visor was shattered by a well-placed shot from Caffran. The trooper slumped in the doorway. More shouting outside. Schmidt tugged the rifle from the dead soldier's shoulder. He readied his own pistol, looked at the detonator in his other hand. It sounded as if a 'mech were coming closer; maybe they were hoping to intimidate them into surrender?

"Heh," he chuckled to himself. "Come closer, you bastards."

Three Kuritan troopers launched themselves through the door, cutting Caffran down before he could fire again. Schmidt claimed another before being torn to shreds by a long burst.

"Hey!" the sapper shouted. More Combine infantry had entered the hall. They all looked towards him now. "Fuck you." He thumbed the detonator.

Several thousand tonnes of munitions and weaponry exploded. The blast bounced back from the curtain wall, sending most of it right back at the Combine forces arrayed within the base. Windows shattered in the city for a kilometre in all directions. 'Mechs and tanks outside the stockpiles were ruined or destroyed outright by the fireball. Most of the infantry not already under cover didn't stand a chance.