"Holy shit, Sarge. I think Ivan really doesn't like us." Sergeant Timothy Carlos, the tank's loader, said as he pulled his hatch down tight.

"No, Timmy. I just think Ivan doesn't like you." Sergeant First Class Hank said with a sly grin. He heard his loader laugh quietly to himself. Sergeant First Class Hank adjusted his helmet and put the microphone a bit closer to his mouth. He glanced out of each of the view ports built into his commander's cupola. The Abram's thick armor kept out most of the noise but the sheer impact of the rounds was enough to rock the 60 something ton tank. Each man thought about how much power it would take to rock something this big. That meant Ivan was hitting them with their big guns. That was how one of their lieutenants had bought the farm. It was a one-in-a-thousand shot from a Soviet heavy gun that landed right on top of the turret and burrowed through the thinner top armor to explode inside the tank.

Sergeant First Class Hank looked to the right and left of him at the French soldiers cowering in their foxholes. He could only imagine what they were feeling; probably a mixture of fear and anger. Fear from being plowed into the ground by Soviet artillery and hatred from the thought that the Soviets were destroying their country. Sergeant First Class Hank had complete faith in the French soldiers on both sides of him. He knew when the time came; those men would willingly die for France. But wasn't it Paton who said, "Wars are not won by you dying for your country. It is by making the other bastard die for his." Deep down though he knew that if it was up to Commandant Jean-Pierre, a lot of Soviets would be dying for their country.

000

"Brilliant fire plan, Comrade General. Shall we follow up?" General Vladimir said calmly. A screaming roar that could only be Su-25s passed overhead. "I believe your air support has arrived."

Four Soviet ground attack aircraft banked right before beginning to turn left to align themselves with the NATO lines to drop their loads of napalm. It was quite ironic that they were using napalm in this war considering it was a Yankee invention. Well even Americans have their uses. A missile leapt up from the NATO lines and blotted one of the Su-25s out of the sky in an orange fireball.

The colonel frowned as two other Su-25s were shot down before they dropped their loads. The last dropped its canisters of napalm but missed its target. "Order the tanks and BMPs to prepare to move. The ground advance commences in one minute."

General Vladimir flinched when he heard the deafening roar of five batteries of mobile missile launchers ripple fire their weapons in a single sheet of flame. It had been a while since he'd heard the fire of so many rockets. He did remember what the payloads of the rockets would be. Considering they were covering a ground assault half of the rockets would be high explosive while the other half was smoke. The tactic worked moderately well against the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. But they were a long way from Afghanistan and their enemy was armed with more than a few AKs and RPGs. General Vladimir said a quick prayer for the troops embarking towards the NATO lines and turned his attention to the map laid out on the table in front of him.

000

Forty rockets landed in Sergeant First Class Hank's sector and twenty or so in the valley below him. The impact of the rockets rattled his teeth. All it took was one of those rockets to get lucky and land on his tank and boom, the war would be over for him. He could here shrapnel pinging off his tank's armor but that wasn't what worried him. A thick blanket of white smoke began to obscure the valley below his men. That meant Ivan was coming.

"Tom, activate the thermal sights." Sergeant First Class Hank said to Staff Sergeant Thomas Henkel, the tank's gunner, trying to keep his voice as calm as he could.

"Roger that, sir." S/Sgt. Thomas said as he flipped a switch. Everything turned black with hot spots standing out as a bright white.

"Steel Dragons this is Six." The troop commander called in over the command circuit. "Seems like Ivan decided its time to start things up again. Here we go again." Six's voice was terse. Sergeant First Class Hank could hear the worry in his voice. He knew that this was going to be a hard fought battle.

"Steel Dragons sign off." Sergeant First Class Hank ordered.

"Steel Dragon Two here. A bit shaken up but we're here."

"Steel Dragon Three is A'okay."

"Steel Dragon Four is ready to rock and roll, sir!"

"Steel Dragon Five is armed and ready."

Sergeant First Class Hank sighed with relief as the last tank checked in. That meant they all survived the artillery barrage. That means the holes the engineers and farmers had dug for their tanks had done the job. He'd have to buy them a drink if he got out of this one alive.

All tanks you have permission to engage at will. I repeat: engage at will. May God be with you all."

Sergeant First Class Hank's body tensed up. No more orders were needed. They knew what they had to do. It was all up to them now.

"Enemy in view." S/Sgt. Thomas said looking through his sight. The thermal imaging could penetrate the full mile of smoke cover with ease. Luck was on their side too. A light wind was blowing the smoke to the east right back in the Soviets faces.

Sergeant First Class took a long deep breath and did what he was trained to do.

"Target tank! One o'clock! SABOT! SHOOT!"

S/Sgt. Thomas trained the big 120mm gun right and centered the sight reticule on the nearest Soviet tank. His thumbs depressed the laser button and a thin inferred beam of light bounced off the target. The range display came up on his sight. Exactly 1200 meters. The fire control computer plotted the incoming speed of the Soviet tank and the distance as it elevated the main gun. The computer measured wind speed and direction, air temperature, humidity, and the tank's own shells. All S/Sgt. Thomas had to do was place the target in the center of the sights and the computer did all the work in two seconds. S/Sgt. Thomas jammed his index fingers on the trigger and grunted as the main gun roared in reply.

The forty foot muzzle blast disintegrated the shrubs planted in front of the Abrams. The 105mm gun jerked back in recoil ejecting the spent aluminum casing out the back. The shell came apart in mid-air to reveal a 40mm tungsten dart traveling at nearly a mile a second. The Soviet tank commander only saw the muzzle flash before his life turned into a living Hell.

The dart covered the distance in exactly one second and struck the Soviet T-80 at the base of the gun turret. Inside the tank, the autoloader was just ramming a shell into the cannon when the 40mm tungsten dart burned through the protective steel. The tank went up like a M80 placed under a plastic tank. The turret flew thirty feet up in the air and flames erupted from all the opening in the tank.

"That's a kill!" Sergeant First Class Hank yelled. Before they could celebrate another tank came into view; one of the older T-62s. "Target tank! Twelve o'clock! SABOT! SHOOT!"

The Hungarian tank and the American tank fired at the exact same time. However the Hungarian's round missed the Abrams by two meters. The Hungarian tank crew was not that lucky. The dart grazed the T-62's main gun and hit the turret. It sliced through the thick armor like a hot knife through butter. Flames erupted out of the commander's hatch as the tank stopped dead in its tracks.

"Time to move. Straight back to alternate one." Sergeant First Class Hank said.

The driver, Sergeant Nicholas Swanson, already had reverse engaged and was twisting hard on the throttle control. The tank sped backwards then turned right and headed towards the second prepared position.

000

General Vladimir was now at the wood line with several other officers. They were all crunched down and they all had AK-74Us in case those NATO pigs decided to check up on them. Even from their closer proximity to the battlefield, they couldn't see shit. The smoke that they'd deployed was now blowing back in their faces. This portion of the battle would be won by the superior sergeants, captains, and lieutenants the Warsaw Pact forces had. "Superior." General Vladimir grunted. "Moya zadnitsa."

"Colonel Orlovsky, may my men join the battle." A young man said. By his uniform and blue beret General Vladimir could tell he was a captain in the VDV. Then General Vladimir realized that the man he was talking to him was the Hero of Western Germany; Colonel Vladimir Orlovsky. For the first time General Vladimir thought about how him and the famous colonel had the same first name.

"Give the tanks a few more minutes to break through the NATO defenses. Then we will deploy your men." Colonel Orlovsky said.

"But, colonel. My BTRs will be able to greatly aide the tanks with clearing out the infantry."

"Captain Nikolai Malashenko you and your men will be deployed when I see fit. Do you understand?" Colonel Vladimir said with a stern face. A look of hurt appeared on Captain Malashenko's face for but a split second before it disappeared.

"Sir, yes, sir uncle. My men will be mounted in their vehicles when the time comes." Captain Malashenko said sounding disgusted.

"Good. You are relived. Go back to your men." Colonel Orlovsky said as he returned to trying to see through the thick smoke with a pair of binoculars.

"For the glory of the Soviet Union!" Captain Malashenko barked as he saluted. He turned around and disappeared into the woods.

"Son?" General Vladimir asked the colonel.

"Niyet. My son is in the Air Force. That was my nephew." Colonel Orlovsky said not taking his eyes away from the binoculars.

"He seems dedicated to both the State and this war. He will win us many battles." General Vladimir said nodding.

"He will lose us many good soldiers." Colonel Orlovsky muttered coldly.

000

Sergeant First Class Hank's tank was at the alternate position in forty-five seconds flat. It was almost the same as the other. The only difference was that they were actually on top of the hill and they were dug in deeper. Through the thermal he could now see infantry; lots of them. They ran out of their APCs and ran ahead into a battlefield where shrapnel filled the air in every increasing quantities as both French and American artillery tried to stem the Red tide.

"Target tank! Three o'clock! This one has a few antennas people! SABOT! SHOOT!" Sergeant First Class Hank barked. The T-80 that lumbered out of the woods had several antennas protruding out of the dome shaped turret. It had to be either a company or battalion commander's tank and he wasn't going to let it live long.

"I got it." Staff Sergeant Thomas muttered. The tank was coming right at them. He jerked the trigger and swore not a split second later. The Soviet tank jerked left causing the SABOT to miss its engine compartment by a few inches.

"Savvy son of a bitch. HEAT! SHOOT!" Sergeant First Class Hank said keeping a close eye on the Soviet command vehicle.

"HEAT loaded!" Sergeant Timothy reported as he rammed the High Explosive Anti-Tank shell into the breach.

"This bastard isn't gonna dodge this one!" Staff Sergeant Thomas yelled. He watched the tank jerk left then right then left again. "One more time. Come on. One more time." Staff Sergeant Thomas pleaded as he tried to predict the tank's next movement. He jammed his thumbs on the trigger as hard as he could and hoped his aim was true. The tank jumped at the recoil and the spent round clanged off the turret's wall.

Staff Sergeant Thomas' aim could not have been any better. The tandem charge warhead made contact with the tank a little to the left of the tank's turret. The Soviet crew had no hope of survival as the turret was carried fifty feet into the air on a fireball.

"That's a kill!" First Sergeant Hank roared. The smile on his face disappeared as soon as he heard the call on the radio.

"Our line is in danger of breaking! ZULU, ZULU, ZULU!"

000

The trench on top of the hill was a bit more fortified than the one his men formerly occupied at the bottom. Their new position also gave them a good view of the invaders below. Commandant Jean-Pierre kept his head down as a fresh wave of artillery rounds churned up the ground all around the trench. As soon as the barrage ended he looked down the hill. When he peaked up he saw an untold number of Soviet tanks and infantry coming at his position. A MILAN anti-tank missile leapt from one of the trenches and killed a Soviet tank. A bullet cracked past his head making him flinch. Soviet infantry were now making their way up the hill. A BMP-2 exploded as one of the American tanks hit it killing half a dozen Soviets in the process. Commandant Pierre took aim with his FAMAS and fired several rounds. He hit one Soviet who took a round in the shoulder, spun around, and took another in the back of the head putting him down for good. Another BMP roared up the hill shrugging off their small arm fire like it was nothing.

"Hit it with a MILAN! Hit it with a MILAN!" Commandant Jean-Pierre shouted frantically. Commandant Jean-Pierre felt a thump as someone fired the antitank rocket somewhere to his left. The missile hugged the ground and hit the BMP head on. The Soviet infantry fighting vehicle came to an abrupt halt and started smoking. Two hatches popped open and two men tried to scurry out. One had his head blown off as soon as his head popped out. The other lasted a few seconds longer but was quickly cut down. Soviet infantry was now only fifty meters from his position. If they got closer they'd easily overwhelm his men.

A soldier manning a FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun took a hit in the neck and hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. He just lay there bleeding profusely and holding his neck with mud covered hands.

"Medic!" Commandant Pierre yelled as he manned the MAG. He started raking the incoming Soviet troops with a wall of lead. Rounds kicked up the dirt in front of him but he paid no mind to it. One of the Soviets stood up and cocked his hand back to throw something. Commandant Pierre hit him dead center in the chest with a four round burst leaving a good sized hole and sending the soldier tumbling backwards. A bullet grazed the MAG lodging fragments in his chest. Commandant Pierre ignored the burning and kept shooting. He went through four hundred rounds and killed two dozen Soviets before a RPG exploded right in front of him. The concussion knocked him on his back in a dazed state. He just looked up at the sky. The clouds blocked out the sun and a light drizzle started. The rain felt cool against his hot face. He wiped a hand across his grime covered face and just lay there. A soldier with a boyish face appeared over him snapping his fingers in front his eyes. His lips moved but he couldn't hear what he was saying. All he heard was a loud ringing sound. He tried to put a name to the face he shook his head to try to stop the ringing.

Colonel Gérard Ranard? No. His son Caporal Alain Ranard? Yes that was it. It was all coming back to him. The man, no kid, was only seventeen. He carried around a G-3 because he was a designated marksman. Commandant Jean-Pierre had fought with, Caporal Alain's father in Ansbach. That was where he died too. When the company was pulling out of the city under the cover of darkness they were ambushed by two regiments of Soviet paratroopers who had infiltrated their lines. His father, Colonel Gérard Ranard, was killed during the opening seconds of the ambush when dozens of RPGs broke the silence of the night and tore through his men. He remembered the moment so fondly because moments before the ambush Colonel Ranard told him something on the radio.

"Commandant, something is wrong here."

After that the first barrage of RPGs hit and Colonel Gérard was turned into large chunks of meat. Commandant Jean-Pierre got his revenge tough. After a majority of the elite Soviet paratroopers were killed and the prisoners rounded up, he had them all executed. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SAUCER, personally admonished him for that but he was not reprimanded.

Caporal Alain's eyes were frantic but his face was as emotionless as a slab of marble. Slowly Commandant Jean-Pierre's hearing began coming back.

"-et up! Come on! The Soviets are getting closer!"

Commandant Jean-Pierre blinked a few times and tried to make sense of the words. He got what he was saying pretty well when a Russian RGN grenade landed in his lap. Caporal Alain scooped up the grenade without hesitation and tossed it back. He fired off a few rounds from his G-3 and turned his attention back to Commandant Jean-Pierre.

"You're bleeding, commandant." Caporal Alain said as he started unbuttoning Commandant's Jean-Pierre's uniform jacket and started propping his chest. The muscle shirt he wore underneath was soaked with blood.

"I'm okay." Commandant Jean-Pierre insisted as he brushed the younger man's hand away and buttoned his shirt back up. He could taste blood in his mouth as he squatted. "Where is my rifle?"

Caporal Alain picked Commandant Jean-Pierre's FAMAS off the ground and dusted some mud off before handing it to him.

"Thank you." Commandant Jean-Pierre said patting the younger man on the shoulder. He just nodded and stood up to shoot at the Soviets.

He yelped as a Soviet lunged into the trench pinning Caporal Alain to the other side of the trench with a bayonet attached to an AK-74. Commandant fired a three round burst into the Soviet's head making it explode like a watermelon. He jumped over the body of the soldier who had been shot in the neck before and went to unpin Caporal Alain. He raised his G-3 with his right hand and fired several rounds. Commandant Jean-Pierre ducked as bullets cracked past his head. Two Soviets that tried to jump into the trench tumbled in as lifeless bodies.

"Good shot, Alain." Commandant Jean-Pierre said as he pulled the bayonet out of Caporal Alain's left shoulder. He grimaced but then grinned.

"I think I dislocated my shoulder." He said with a halfhearted smile. Commandant Jean-Pierre ordered two soldiers to care for the man who just saved his life and turned back to the MAG. The machine gun was now useless. The barrel was bent at a ninety degree angle making it inoperable. He moved up to the firing line just in time to catch a Soviet trying to jump into the trench. Without thinking he squeezed the trigger to his FAMAS and jerked up. The Soviet was peppered with 5.56mm rounds all the way from his crotch to his neck. The now dead Soviet's body went rigid when he hit the ground discharging a round from his AK-74. The 5.45mm round hit one of the soldiers bandaging Caporal Alain right in the chest killing him instantly and sending a splash of blood across the wounded Caporal.

More Soviets with bayonets fixed were running bent over right at him. He took aim with his FAMAS and squeezed the trigger.

Click, click, click. Fuck.