1000 – Tokyo

Swedo's vision swam. It blurred as though looking through foggy glass. He remembered that kind of vision, he wore glasses in a lost age before. He was drowning in something almost unbearably soft. He had been so used to the feeling of dirt, gravel and stone across his body, the snap of the wind like whiplashes as bullets shrieked around him, that this – whatever it was – was something so foreign, alien, that Swedo immediately didn't like it. He made his fingers flex sluggishly, they buzzed and tingled. He recognized the feeling of coming off of painkillers.

"Doctor…some…-ical activity…" the voice was hollow and loud, booming but was soft. Then his vision immediately cleared and was subject to a harsh light that tore through Swedo's haze.

"Lieutenant." A man's voice said this time. Swedo knew it was a man. He also remembered that he was a lieutenant, part of the 75th Rangers light infantry division. He was in a street in Pusan. A cratered hole that he had manned to stop the flow of Chinese and North Koreans at the tail end of the country. The captain – what was his name? – had ordered them all to fall back, they were evacuating. Swedo had disobeyed. He'd abandoned his platoon, his team, his friends to stay and fight.

"Lieutenant." The voice repeated this time sounding sharper to his ears.

"Fuck. Yes." Swedo's mouth and tongue remembered how to form those words. "How long?"

"Were you out? Three days." The voice said. Swedo still couldn't see through the harsh light. "They flew you in from Osaka. You're in Tokyo now. You're in good hands."

"Fuck. What happened?" Swedo moved his hand forward to shut out the light but another hand firmly moved that back in place. Three days ago Swedo would have broken that arm and shot the man who owned it.

"You were knocked out, slight swelling in the brain due to shell fall and head trauma. Psychological stress and chemical imbalances were disrupting your basic vital functions including lung control and heart rate. You were on the ropes there for quite a bit."

"A fight."

"Yes. Quite. Its good to see you've recovered Lieutenant Swedo. I hope you don't mind that we took the liberty to shave your beard and hair. Your hair was removed to accommodate the electrode scanners, your beard was nonregulation."

"My eyes hurt. Cant see."

"Side effect of a medication. Your eyes will be extremely sensitive to light for quite some time but it should clear up after two or three weeks."

"My men?"

"They will be notified once you are up. And congratulations."

"For?"

"I think your Captain has put you in for a medal."

Swedo didn't hear anything else the doctor said. He was being put in for a medal. For what? For heroism? Swedo had been scared the whole time. He was angry. He loved death. Loved it so much he had almost begun to kill himself, putting himself on the line like that. That was suicide on a mass scale. He was being awarded a medal. Swedo drowned in the softness again. The light swallowed him.


1000

Tokyo Forward Operating Base

"You navy pilots are alright." Rogue Leader was a Captain called Cotugno. A jovial looking lanky man who didn't shirk from his third pint that morning. "You handled yourselves well."

"We aren't nuggets." Pierrera shrugged and took a sip. "Its our job."

"I know the jitters." Cotugno said "everyone gets them. that isn't part of our job though."

"You air force guys don't know what flying really is." Pierrera scoffed. Naval aviators had always held themselves to be the Air Forces superiors. Nobody in the air force could land their supersonic fighter on a moving deck in the middle of night while aiming at one of 4 arrestor cables that were not even a foot wide.

"You liked my advice when I gave it to you back there." Cotugno sipped his pint. Pierrera didn't like the brew in Japan. It didn't have anything on a good British beer. His own pint sat there, untouched other than the occasional swirl to keep Pierrera's hands from shaking.

"You have more experience than me."

"So I'm better." Cotugno shrugged and finished it off.

"I didn't say that." Pierrera looked back in time. Things were so much clearer up in the air. There were orders. He completed them. Why was he nervous at all about it? It wasn't up to Pierrera to make those orders, just to follow them.

"Care to keep a score card?" Cotugno said, flashing a 4x7 sheet of paper. "prove that you're better."

"I don't need to keep something around so I can walk around like I'm king of the world." Pierrera shook his head. "It's stupid."

"Suit yourself. But when are you gonna be king of something?" Cotugno signaled for another drink

Pierrera nursed his beer a little more and thought about that and shot a glance at the score card Cotugno had. It was dotted with red stars, the number of kills seemed to be in the dozens. Unheard of. And Cotugno seemed supremely confident of his skills. Why couldn't Pierrera be like that? What was wrong with a confidence booster.

"Got another one of those cards?" Pierrera asked as casually as he could. Cotugno took a paper beer coaster and slid it over to answer. Pierrera took it and patted his pockets for a pen. He found one but it was out of ink. He jabbed his thumb onto the point, opening a small wound and pressed his kills onto the card. He looked at the kills and then slid it back into his pocket. Cotugno hadn't even looked over.

When Pierrera drained the glass, his hands stopped shaking.


1000 – Kongwong Bo mountain range

"Sir." Sullivan shook his head. "They couldn't find Park. Or Long."

Witt was leaning against a tree, bandages were noosed tightly around his torso, he'd broken three ribs and punctured a lung in the process, it was only the creative genius of the camp medical workers (two were former surgeons) and swift operation that had saved him. Juche was back in action. It would have to be, Witt wasn't in any position to lead them any longer.

Cho seemed to enjoy the responsibilities of command once again and was happily and sternly bustling around the camp between the tents. It seemed he never had a restful moment. He was totally devoted to his people and apparently, word was getting around that he was a great leader. People were rallying to him.

Tell them to look harder. Witt should have said that. But something, whether it was his medical condition or his lack of interest in finding a dead Ghost, held him back. Witt hoped it was the former.

"They're probably dead anyway." Sullivan shook his head again during the silence punctuated only by the sound of rifle practice in the other corner of the camp. The children were playing today, school was finished for them. It was important that Witt had set up a school, some to keep the camp busy but most importantly it was so they all could learn the basics of any civilized society: reading, writing, language. He was helping build a nation and an entire people from the ground up, and it started with those kids. He saw a gang of them wave their sticks as swords and a young mother swooped in on them and lifted her howling child up to nurse a splinter.

Witt half expected her head to evaporate from the impact of a .50 slug. He blinked and heard the mother coo in Korean.

The child wouldn't stop crying and so she began singing. Witt didn't understand the words, but they were soft and immediately he began to think of happier times. He closed his eyes and simply relaxed to the foreign ululating tongue. When she stopped he was left feeling empty, and the world was quiet.

"Where's the next attack going to be?" Witt said to fill the gap.

"Close by I think. The Russians are coming in country and if our resistance didn't like the Chinese, they sure as hell don't like the Russians." Sullivan grinned. "I think the convoy is coming by now in fact-"

In the distance a single rifle crack echoed through the mountains. To many, it was the sound of people fighting for their homes and livelihood, everything that made these people Korean. To Witt, it almost sounded like the booming note of a Chey-tach Intervention.


1000 Vladivostok, army hospital.

Things were extremely ugly. Doctor Rominov shook her head at the wounds this one had suffered as she strode to her post this shift. Corporal Ivana Melatvana had suffered major head trauma as well as punishing blows to the ribs and limbs that would have left many of the other girls in the hospital wing dead or dying. Melatvana was dying when Rominov took her in. Her uniform was too big for her frame, it seemed that the axiom of Logistics clothing either being too big or too small was true here. Had she been starving herself? Perhaps. It had been a long time since Melatvana had food. Rominov made some more notes on her PDA to inject a stronger batch of steroids to supplement the loss of nutrition as she took her first steps into the hospital wing during the night shift.

A shadow moved behind the patient curtains, catching Rominov's eye.

"Comrade corporal! You should not be up at this time!" Rominov said and strode briskly over to correct that mistake.

"I am getting dressed Comrade doctor." The voice that came back appeared to be strong, much stronger than Rominov initially expected. For all her wounds and weaknesses the girl seemed hardier than ever. The curtain's came apart, Melatvana was dressed in a nurse's scrubs and was tying the face mask around her mouth.

"What is this?" Rominov demanded. Melatvana finished tying the mask before reaching for the IV needle that lay unused at the edge of the bed and tore it off the drip. Rominov looked at the deliberate vandalism for just long enough to realize what had happened and for Melatvana to leap over the bed and jab the needle into her neck.

Rominov gasped and immediately felt the blood flood from her. She'd hit the carotid artery. Surgical precision from a corporal….no…damn…her….

Agent Kirsten Blanco left the needle there and held her side. That leap had taken more out of her than she thought. She was hurt badly. She was compromised. Her only thought now was escape. She strode to the end of the room to the cupboards where she searched for – there. Morphine and Belatophine, two steroids she was used to seeing. Her mother was a nurse. She grabbed a syringe and needle as well, pocketing them in the nurse's uniform as she strode briskly out of the hospital wing and made it with no further incident out the door, she even punched her time card out.

Blanco faded into the brisk morning and melded into the faceless population of Russia's people.


2100 – Washington D.C.

"Speed…Marker…Roll camera."

Becerra took a deep breath and put on the well practiced stern face to hide what really was going on. Like a good president.

"My fellow Americans, I am pleased to report that our forces have finished their reclaiming of Iceland and are preparing for our invasion of the European Federation, along with our allies in the New Commonwealth of the United Kingdom. This has been a tremendous success for our brave forces, of which 500,000 troops of the Joint Strike Force, US Navy and Commonwealth, Naval, Air and Marine Forces who bravely struck against the Federation troops which consisted of veteran paratroopers. Casualties have been light and have gone better than expected in this area, our invasion of European soil will occur within a few short months.

Strategically, we are at a peak. Our forces have an unstoppable momentum which will allow for a swift and decisive victory in this war.

Our commitment to retaliating against the Federation has not left us forgetting about our allies however. In the Korean theater, despite strategically numerical odds, our brave soldiers have held the battlefield against the Korean People's Army and the People's Liberation Army of China. The Korean people in the north are forming resistance groups to help combat the malicious forces of the communist regimes and our operations there, are successful.

Tonight, I am also here to announce the grave news of an unprovoked attack by the Russian Federation in which our forces in South Korea were subject to intensive artillery and air attacks by the 44th Spetsnaz Guard Brigade which is now operating in the Korean theater in retaliation to the Chinese attacks. Our retaliation has been swift. Our forces have struck naval bases all along the Kamatchka Penninsula neutralizing the effective strength of the Russian Pacific Fleet by at least half. This second unprovoked attack by a world power will not go unnoticed by the American people.

Russian forces have swept into the Korean peninsula without any respect for the basic rules of warfare and have indiscriminantly fired on both Chinese and American troops as well as noncombatants. I unfortunately have to report that the number of Russian troops in that area will overwhelm our forces. The Korean Penninsula is being evacuated of every Korean citizen as we speak.

By the weeks end, I will be asking Congress for a further expansion of our armed forces and elevated troop strengths in Japan, which will be serving as our staging point for the war against the Russians. I am personally calling any available American who cannot stand for the injustice of losing ones home to a vile invader. In addition I am calling Americans who do not fight, to save for the hard times ahead. War is not pleasant, and the sacrifices our sons and daughters will be making should only be respected by the sacrifices we make at home. Every American is now a soldier. Whether you fight on the front lines, wash dishes at home or take the bus to work, we are part of this war.

Our allies are our brothers, they are as much a part of the war as we are. And so I will also be asking Congress to reinstate the Refugee act of 1963 by week's end to welcome the Korean people who have lost everything they've had. Their suffering should not continue when they reach our soil.

To the Korean Americans here, I can offer no excuse for the actions that leave your homeland in the hands of foreigners. I can only ask that you keep the Korean people in your prayers, and to keep the American people in your prayers as well.

We, here, are all Americans united under one flag of freedom, liberty and justice. Every man and woman in this great nation are brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins. And every person who dreams of a life of freedom, liberty and justice are our brethren too. We will stand by them in their hour of need, and I will not forget the Korean people. We will be victorious there."

"…and cut. Thank you Mr. President."