Authors note: This chapter may be a bit...lacking. However, I couldn't really think of anything else that needed to be added, and to me it is quite satisfactory for what it is. Enjoy.

Franco-Swiss Border, European Federation
Large Hadron Collider facility, ten minutes after SGB infiltration

General Matz was unimpressed. He walked down the corridors and viewed the carnage that had taken the place of the once pristine facility. Bullet holes riddled the walls along with scorch markings from light explosives. Broken glass littered the floors, soaked in blood, covered in pieces of flesh and bone. The smell of death was thick, but it didn't faze the General. Some of the others held their hands to their noses while others gagged as they tried to hold in their vomit. Matz snarled and rolled his eyes at their pathetic nature. This is unacceptable, he thought to himself at the failure of his men to stop the Russians. His tech officers were looking into it, but who knew what information could have been stolen. It was bad enough knowing that the Russians had escaped, but it was unnerving that he had no idea what they intended to do with the intel they had acquired. He was enraged, and was going to hold accountable those who had failed him. He had sent his best men to defend the facility, and more than two thirds of them were dead. They were the lucky ones. It was the ones who were alive that were going to feel Matz's wrath.

"I am not pleased, Commander," he spoke to Jantzen Hjorth, the man who was in charge of the defense of the facility. "I gave you a very simple task of defending this facility; I gave you command of my best men, and this is how you repay me?"

"General, understand that there was no way of knowing the Russians would come here! We did everything we could."

"I am not here to address what you did; I am here to address what you have failed to do." Hjorth's shame was apparent on his face. Finally he was given a task of some significance, and he let the enemy slip away. Up until now he had had a minimal role in the war effort, having only been deployed for combat three times over the course of two years. It was because of his average prowess and lack of ambition that he was here to begin with.

"I accept full responsibility for the deaths of your men, and for letting the enemy escape."

"And you rightfully bear the blame," Matz replied, unshaken and unsympathetic despite the Commander's courage.

"In my defense, General, we did manage to stop half of them in their tracks," Hjorth said regarding the elimination of the second group of Spetsnaz that had taken part in the infiltration.

"That is insignificant," Matz replied. "The fact is that the other half of them got away, and with them, the vital information they were seeking. Spare me your defense, Commander; it is irrelevant to me." Hjorth didn't say anything after that. There was nothing he could. Matz looked down to the dead bodies of his men. He was disgusted that his best couldn't stop a simple infiltration. He stepped over them and continued on. Other Enforcers were scouring the facility, checking the bodies, running forensics and checking the computers to see what information had been stolen. This failure was unacceptable and disgraceful to the European Federation. If the Russians could hit this facility, they could hit anywhere. It was a wakeup call for Matz; the enemy wasn't as precarious as he'd suspected. It lit a fire under his ass that he couldn't ignore…he would need to accelerate his plans.

"I got a live one here!" an Enforcer called. Matz and several others walked over to see a Spetsnaz covered in blood and delusional because of his wounds. He was propped up against a wall and his head listed lazily back and forth as he tried to remain conscious. Based on his insignia, this man was a Captain…no nametag, though. The General's first thought was to take him in for interrogation, but he knew what Spetsnaz training was designed to do; it created soldiers who were incapable of being broken, even with enhanced truth serums and what some might call dangerous methods. Matz himself had had a chance to talk to one of them when the war started. He interrogated and tortured the Russian for hours and hours, but couldn't get anything; not even a name. At that, he looked to the wounded Russian, took out a Glock 19 pistol and shot him in the head. No one so much as flinched. He safetied the pistol and holstered it. The Enforcers continued their investigation.

Suddenly a feeling of extreme uneasiness befell the facility, and Matz knew that he would have to work quickly to get his plans in motion. In two days, high ranking officers and officials from both America and Europe would be meeting to discuss and flesh out a new strategy for ending the war. Colonel Hans Jaeger was also going to be present, being an essential puppet in Matz's plan; he was disposable, like many other men in the European military, the pitiful bastard. But Matz needed a man, and Jaeger was it. There was no way the General would take the blame for what was going to happen. But to him, the ends always justified the means, even if it did involve the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But the fact of the matter was that American and European forces were fighting the Russians across the globe, their forces growing more and more exhausted, stretched thinner and taking more losses every day, and yet despite his best efforts, there was actually very little the General could do by himself; if someone didn't do something, this war was not going to end in their favor, and Matz would not let that happen. In two days, he would make it abundantly clear that defeat was only a breath away.

Washington DC, United States
Zero Two Hundred Hours, July 30th

David Becerra was not the most popular president to ever serve a term. His administration was secretive, its actions shrouded in mystery; he was a proponent of military intervention and use of force. He signed multiple executive orders that infringed upon the liberties of the people, including firearms confiscation, wiretapping, prolonged detention and the suspension of habeas corpus, and posse commentates among others. He granted excessive funding to the military and cut welfare, raised taxes and initiated martial law. He had made it all too clear that anyone who did not support the nation's war effort would be detained, jailed and black listed. He made it possible to shut down the internet so as to remove any anti-war media, including videos, articles and photos. Protests were not highlighted by any major media outlets, and were viciously stomped out by the police and private military forces. He also reinstated the draft for all men and women ages eighteen to thirty five. Yet somehow his approval ratings were higher than that of the last three administrations; and it was all because of five magic words; a matter of national security; that and the "rally 'round the flag" policy, in which a leaders approval ratings sky-rocketed in times of crisis.

Becerra understood that the population had been fed up and the whole country was on the verge of revolution before the war began. Lucky for him, the corporate media was more than willing to spread fear for ratings. They would report on arms buildups in the Middle East and Russia and how their influences were spreading across the globe. They branded the enemy as extremists and warmongers, and would invite American and European officers and Generals on their shows to talk about the growing threat of the Russian "empire." They also began doing more and more reporting on the American militia groups and constitutionalists, as well as servicemen and women who had severed their loyalty to the military. The media did a great job of making them look like extremists, terrorists, religious fundamentalist, and other bogus titles. Before long, people were begging for the government to step in. They demanded that the militias be hunted down and killed, that all privately owned firearms be taken away, and that all forms of communication were monitored. In a speech Becerra made to the public the first month of the war, he stated

"In order for us to remain secure as a nation, we must be able to take action in a way that best benefits the whole. We must be able to decide at every given minute when the rule of law is applied or suspended. In ancient Rome during times of crisis the government would suspend democracy and place the act of defending the empire on the shoulders of one man; I will be the man to do that for our United States, but let me make it clear that the survival of our nation rests on complete and total compliance with all laws and regulations and protocol instituted by this government. We will do what needs to be done, but the American people must uphold their end of the deal, too."

Of course there were those who were opposed to and offended by the president's words, but most of them had been taken care of by now, either being imprisoned or killed if they refused to be imprisoned. Becerra wanted to make it clear that any form of dissent was absolutely unacceptable. If America was going to win the war, the people would need to fall in line. That being said, the militias were becoming more and more of a pain in the ass. The military had no idea how unprepared they were to fight the insurrection; it turned out there were way more militias than previously suspected. Then there were resistance groups in local towns, and some cities had even declared themselves demilitarized, while some of the states had attempted to secede. Becerra authorized full military force to take back the lands that had declared independence. Despite the growing numbers of dissatisfied people, the war effort waning, and the Russians massing for an invasion, the President was still confident that the war could be won. In two days time General Mitchell and other high-ranking officials of the European military and parliament would meet in Copenhagen to finalize the details of Operation Wild Knife. And when General Joseph Whitney Merrill, one of the president's most enthusiastic lobbyists entered the oval office, David knew that today would be business as usual.

"I've got good news," Merrill said. "The Chinese have stalled the Russian advance on the capital. Now they're gathering up all the remaining forces they can; buy some time so maybe we could send some reinforcements."

"I'm sorry, who are you again?" the president joked. "I thought you were just an enthusiastic supporter?"

"Hey, I'm a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, too; and the Trilateral Commission. I'm an invaluable member of your cabinet."

"Yeah well that's not gonna' help beat the Russians." The President was aware of every movement made by the enemy and allied forces. Right now the areas most important where American support would be needed were China and Europe; the Euros were holding their lines well enough and had even launched small offensives in Eastern Europe and the Middle East earlier today. It was ironic that China opted to assist the United States in the war effort, but when David actually stopped to think about it, it made sense considering how economically bound the US was to China. Still, though, it was unusual; but in this war, the more allies the West had, the better. The European military had a strong influence in Northern Africa, with troops stationed in ten countries. Throughout the last two years, multiple militant groups had taken up arms against the European troops stationed on the continent, but not one of them was strong or organized enough to put up a legitimate fight. However, recently attacks had begun to turn up in large volume, and it was beginning to affect Europe's operational capabilities on the continent. Overall the situation was getting worse.

"If we're going to send support to China it will have to be limited," Becerra spoke. "Perhaps a Carrier battle group…we're already having enough problems holding our positions in South America and Europe without having to sacrifice mainland defenses. Our commanders in South America have been suggesting withdrawal from the continent."

"On what basis?" Merrill asked.

"That the resources we've been committing to an area with no real strategic significance could be put to better use elsewhere. In that case we'd hand over combat operations to the PMCs."

"I would advise you against that action; the Russians could very well use Venezuela and Columbia as staging areas for attacks on the mainland."

"We'd still have our bases in Mexico and Texas; if we pulled even one battalion out of South America, we could send them to China to reinforce their positions, give our allies a fighting chance."

"Perhaps the Euro's would be able to send some support to compensate for our withdrawal."

"General, what's with you and keeping our forces in the South?" the President asked, annoyed. "It's a region of no significance to us which is costing men and money everyday." The General wore a look of stern disapproval. In his mind, if South America was lost, the Russians would easily use it as a staging area for attacks on the US mainland…support for the Russians was popular enough in the region that they would have no trouble establishing bases. "I understand your concern, but we simply do no have the man power to keep our troops in the region and support our operations around the globe. Today I will issue orders to begin immediate withdrawal of our forces." Becerra looked down at the papers on his desk and began writing. The General stared at him with his mouth gently hanging. The president paused for a second, and looked up.

"Why are you still here, General Merrill?" He didn't say anything. It was as if this man was personally offended by David's words…as if he had just insulted the General's grandmother. But Becerra wasn't intimidated; he'd dealt with people like Merrill time and time before. "Did you hear me? Get going."

"Sir, yes sir," Merrill calmly replied, seething with rage underneath his cool exterior. He turned and exited the oval office. The General's plan was now compromised, and what was worse was that David seemed to have shaken from his leash; strange considering every major decision made up till now had been made by Merrill or one of the President's many lobbyists. Now this son of a bitch was trying to exercise his freewill…Merrill was enraged. But it wasn't like he could technically do anything; it was more or less an unspoken agreement that the President had with his lobbyists; they told him to jump, he would ask how high. It wasn't like they could touch him…not yet at least. Time was running out, and with the Russians knocking on America's backdoor, the window of opportunity was closing fast. Now was the time to act.

Qashqadaryo Province, New Russian Republic
SGB Forward Operating Base (FOB)

Sitting in the infirmary with multiple bandages and various painkillers pumped into him, Artyom felt pretty damn useless by most any standard. The medics said he would be good to go in a week; the advent of modern medicine in the year 2022 was easing the healing process, but the Sergeant had still taken a hit from a 7x43mm round…luckily it hadn't clipped any vital organs, and the squad medic managed to stop the bleeding on the ride home. This wasn't the first time Artyom had been shot, and it probably wouldn't be the last. But that's not what was bothering him.

It wasn't the fact that Captain Kozlov had been killed and his entire team wiped out, it wasn't the fact that he had lost some men of his own or the fact that he would be utterly useless for the next week. What was truly bothering him was his interaction with Tanya on the chopper. He looked up to her and smiled, for the first time in what felt like so many years…and he hated himself for it. He had allowed himself to develop affection for this woman, he had let his guard down and he knew that he had to let go. If he had truly gained a sort of love for the Lieutenant, and he lost her in the field, Artyom would be consumed by his inner darkness forever. If there was any chance of reclaiming his old light, he would take it; and he would have to disconnect himself from Lieutenant Kostyk. The Sergeant simply couldn't afford to have a soul…for now, at least. And wouldn't he know it, speaking of the devil, Tanya entered the infirmary.

"How you holding up, Sergeant?" she asked him.

"Not too bad," he replied. "A little drowsy from all of the painkillers, though."

"Not to worry, you'll be on your feet again in no time, which is good because things are about to get interesting."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well according to General Tatarev, the information we stole from the Euros is going to be used to build some new sort of weapon…and that's not all; now that Kozlov is gone, we need a new company commander…and I'm next in the chain of command."

"Are you sure you're ready for it?" Artyom asked.

"What choice do I have? Until we get a replacement for Kozlov, the company needs a leader, and right now most of our senior officers are out in the field on extended operations."

"Then I guess we better hope our next op isn't for a while," Artyom replied.

"Yeah well you get a nice comfy bed and food service for the next week," the Lieutenant joked.

"Trust me, I'd much rather be on my feet. It's quite unsettling to not have a gun on me right now."

"You want mine?" she asked and motioned to her MP-443. "This holsters starting to dig into my hip."

"If you can get my AK from the armory that would be preferable," Artyom said and grinned...before realizing he was getting, as the Americans would call it, flirtatious, with Tanya. She gently smiled and let out a chuckle.

"One week ain't gonna' kill you, Sergeant," she said and got up to leave. "Now get some rest; you've earned it." Artyom leaned back, put his head into the pillow and Tanya exited. Silently he cursed himself repeatedly for having let his guard down. He didn't understand. Why was it that he was unable to keep this woman at a distance? Why couldn't she be like all the others that Artyom could treat as fellow soldiers and nothing else? It was a mystery to him, and he fought with everything he could to suppress it. What was most disturbing to him was how fast he had developed feelings for her. All it took was a small glance on a helicopter…could he have fallen that easily?

No… he couldn't have; and he would not let himself fall further.

Colorado Militia Headquarters,
Thirteen Hundred Hours, July 31st 2022

Officially, the United States was in the midst of a second civil war, what many of the militia liked to call the Second American Revolution. That was how Peter Gabriel saw it, but of course the media and the current administration had put a much darker spin on it. The militia groups were branded with the usual slanders of dissenters: terrorists, extremists, violent militants, traitors, etc. For the most part that did not faze Peter, nor did his men seem too affected by it. The way the government was going about running America, it was easy for Peter to recruit new men. First, both the civil war and the one that America and Europe were fighting abroad were unwanted and unwelcomed by the American people, not to mention the fighting around the globe was becoming more and more unsustainable with each passing day. It was bad enough that American taxes were so extreme before the war began, what with the military having nearly nine hundred bases around the world and having fought multiple wars in the Middle East, Africa and South America, but the new taxes introduced to fund this massive war effort were effectively enslaving the American people, as it required all citizens to pay up to fifty percent of their salaries to the federal government, not to mention the fact that new legislation had been introduced years earlier that would allow the military to detain individuals without trial or charges read to them, and they could be kept in jail for an indefinite amount of time. Now these unconstitutional policies were being implemented, and the American people were mad as hell…most of them, at least.

Protests that had erupted because of the war and subsequent new taxes were met with police forces with military assistance. People were being killed in the streets, sent to FEMA camps and getting tazed and shot at with rubber, and sometimes live munitions. But the straw that truly broke the camels back was the massacre at Arlington, Texas where US Army personnel flat out opened fire on protestors without prior warning, being provoked into shooting or even as a final last, albeit foolish resort. That was what finally got Peter to stand up and fight, and that very same week he and his men coordinated the first militia offensive of the war when they attacked a US Army outpost.

Since then, hundreds of other groups had risen to face the threat of their tyrannical government, finally opening their eyes and realizing what needed to be done. Of course there were those who blindly followed, who were too cowardly and timid to stand up against their oppressors, and even supported the system that was enslaving them…a poor, pathetic bunch. They were the ones who saw it as patriotic to support the war and the killing of protestors. It was strange to Peter that some of them still supported this system, but it was ultimately of little significance. The Colorado militia was the largest in the nation and had made the most progress in the war against tyranny than any other.

The militia headquarters was actually a massive series of tunnels that spanned for miles in each direction, with larger areas that served as dining halls, ammo storage, etc. Multiple entrances and exits were built sporadically throughout the vast woodlands of Colorado Springs, and sometimes they were no bigger than two feet across; just big enough to crawl through. But the real trick was remembering which of the entrances were real. The militias had dug hundreds of "dummy holes" throughout the region so as to deter any intruders who may have been on search missions. So far, no one except the militia knew where the headquarters were.

Peter sat down at a small wooden table and turned on the radio to listen to the media broadcasts. He constantly awaited the news of Russian ground forces landing on the American shorelines. He had been in contact with Russian spy elements in recent months who assured Peter that when the invasion forces arrived, they would support the American militias. It was an uneasy alliance to say the least; it was borderline treason. But Peter knew that the Russians weren't his enemies and they would be an invaluable ally in the war effort.

Peter listened in to a local broadcast that was being transmitted from a Department of Homeland Security facility. "You're listening to DHSR evening news; our top story tonight: sixty one civilians are dead in the wake of a militia shooting spree. Fifteen militiamen stormed into a local outlet mall armed with automatic weapons and improvised explosives and carried out their indiscriminate attack for ten minutes. Local authorities in conjunction with Army personnel executed an extremely precise not to mention heroic raid on the mall and were able to dispatch the fifteen men in quick order, with one of the men surrendering. It was confirmed by the sole surviving insurgent that the men who participated in the attack were members of the local militia force led by one Peter Gabriel, whom they received their orders from to attack the mall."

At that moment Peter took the radio and threw it across the room in a massive fit of rage. "FUCKING LIARS!" he screamed. He was breathing heavily in complete anger when Dan Redding turned the corner and Peter turned to face him. Peter turned red in the face from his embarrassment, but he was so frustrated that these flat out lies could pass for truth. What was worse was that thousands of people in the area tuned in to hear these broadcasts! Moreover, what would be the advantage of killing innocent people? What would a militia, working to restore constitutional government gain from such an atrocity?

"You've been listening to the broadcasts again?" Red asked. Peter sat down at the table once more and Dan joined him.

"I don't know why I insist on punishing myself," Gabriel replied.

"I don't either," Dan said. "But I think it's about time you stopped listening to that damn thing…I think you broke it anyway."

"Changing the subject, you got any news for me?"

"I just got contacted by Frank Morgan, leader of a militia from South Dakota; says he and his men raided an Army outpost and found chemical weapons stashed in with other small arms; he thinks it might be white phosphorous. He also says he plans to use it in an upcoming attack…that's bad news, but he said that he would appreciate your input before they go ahead."

"Tell him to dispose of it immediately; it'll be a public relations nightmare if we use white phosphorous on Army troops. Have you seen what that stuff does to people? No one deserves to die like that."

"Oh come on, man, fuck the public's opinion!" Dan exclaimed. "We need to use everything we can to fight the Feds! You know they would use it on us if they got the chance."

"That's why we need to be the better men here. The difference is that if we use it, support for our cause goes down; if the Feds use it, no one gives a fuck. Hell, I doubt the media would even report on it; Becerra alone decides what the people get to hear."

"This is bullshit," Dan said.

"I know it's a shitty situation," Peter replied. "But it'll be even worse if Morgan goes through with this attack; we've been making excellent progress in the last few weeks alone and we've recruited ten people in five days. We aren't savages, Dan; we don't commit atrocities on our fellow countrymen."

"I only wish our fellow countrymen upheld the same code of honor."

"This is war, old friend. I hate it, too; but remember what Jefferson said: the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants…we'll win this war…and I'll get my girls back."

"I hope so, Peter," Dan replied, uncertain. "I really hope so."

So concludes chapter four. It took me nearly a year, but I've uploaded four chapters to this piece. Overall I'd say that's pretty damn good for a working man. The coming chapters are going to reveal more plot points in the story; if you haven't noticed, I'm trying to keep things vague, because I really want to do a good job on this one. This is the final chapter to be uploaded in 2011, so I hope you enjoyed it. Happy new year, everyone! I'll see you on the other side.

-Bloodmark Mentor.