X Nate 3 Days after the Meteors.

I couldn't go to sleep. I'd been twisting around on the mat for hours, probably. Everyone else was already asleep except for a few guys who were standing guard. Any minute now we'd wake up, get back in those trucks, and go kill those guys. I shuddered at the word. "I can't do this." Even if they were bad guys, I didn't want to be a person of action.

I sat up and glanced over the others. Macy was sleeping just a little ways down. I wasn't interested in her; despite everything, I couldn't forget Maria. But Macy seemed to be the only one to get that I was just a kid.

I hadn't even finished my training yet! And here they were expecting me to go against trained gunmen. They expected too much of me and nearly killed me when I showed them. Deserting actually did seem like something good to do again.

I laid there for another hour maybe before everyone started getting up. I was so tired that I barely could manage that. I ended up falling asleep once we were in the back in the truck, though. I had a nightmare where I did get executed. I jerked up, for a second convinced that it was what had happened and this had been a dream.

I was still in the truck, and the others were staring at me. I awkwardly scratched my head and didn't say anything. A few minutes later, the truck slowed down and turned before stopping I watched another stop behind us.

"Alright, dismount!" Someone yelled. When I tried to climb down, I ended up falling down. Marcus helped me up.

"C'mon let's grab the mortar." He said. Most of the supplies were in two trucks, which were now being emptied. I looked around.

"Whoa…" I stared at the giant house in front of me. I realized everyone was parking in the drive way. "Man, this dude has got to be loaded…"

"Squad and platoon leaders, line up!" I recognized the voice of Captain Sallee. I stood behind Eugene and Marcus. They were holding the large case for the mortar between them. "Okay, we combed over the intelligence available. We're up against a group of mercenaries that call themselves 'Golden Dawn'. They've been serving as guns for hire for several dictators in third-world countries. They are highly experienced and skilled." She warned. I gulped.

"They specialize mainly in guerilla warfare, but the only weapons they have is what they stole from the convoy." She went on. "Corporal Richards, take you squad and recon the blue mansion." She pointed to a house that stuck up in the air further down the road. "That's suppose to be their base." The Corporal nodded and he left, followed by a few other soldiers.

"This is some serious stuff." Marcus said. He didn't look excited anymore which only made me more nervous. I wasn't the only one, either. Since we technically weren't full soldiers, we had slightly different uniforms. I counted at least twenty people who wore the same uniform as me.

"Why are they doing this to us?" We were kids…why should we have to fight? The Corporal and his guys returned and talked to Captain Sallee, but I couldn't hear. She called us all back after a minute.

"Okay, they've made their base in the mansion seven houses down. Based on the court documents, there are probably fifty of them." This actual helped me relax; we had more guys on our side. "Here's the battle plan: Snipers and mortar crews will fire from the roof of this house."

"Huh?!" I cast a terrified look at the tall house. No one paid any attention.

"Squad A will form a road block here." She pointed to the street. "Squad K will form a road block past the target building to ensure more hostiles don't arrive. The machine gun teams will take cover in the house next door. They'll lay down suppressive fire while Squads B and C advance with the APCs and hold the drive way. Squad D, E, and F will flank around the house to hold the property behind. The remaining squads will enter the mansion. All teams will move as soon as the mortars initiate the first strike against the barricade they've set up in the driveway."

Us, I realized. We were going to begin the attack… "Questions?" She looked around. I almost raised my hand to ask if we had to fire from the roof. "To your positions then!" Everyone else was either jumping in the trucks or back in their Humvees. Eugene and Marcus started carrying the case indoors. I reluctantly followed.

"Oh god." I felt like I'd pass out again. We'd have to kill them, there was no other option. I still didn't want to, even if they were the bad guys. Just walking up the stairs made my stomach hurt.

We pretty much got lost. The house was so big, we kept wandering into spare bedrooms or bathrooms. One bedroom had a body in it. I let out a terrified shout and jumped back. Marcus dropped his side of the crate. We left, quickly pretending we hadn't seen a decaying corpse.

We eventually found the attic, and from there a window onto the roof. "They sure know how to decorate." Eugene pointed.

"Wow…" I looked in amazement. I hadn't seen much in the truck, but this neighborhood was huge! Big mansions were lined up like houses. This was where millionaires lived. Then I noticed the mercenary's house.

The house looked abandoned now. There was paint and graffiti all over the walls and most of the windows were broken. In the drive way, they had sport cars grouped together in a barricade. I suddenly shrunk closer to the ground.

I could see the guys even from here. There must've been thirty outside! "How many inside?" I wondered fearfully.

"That's a lot of them." Eugene seemed scared too.

"Heavy Weapons platoon is in place." Lieutenant Whitley reported over the radio.

"Snipers are taking positions." I jumped as two other men climbed up behind me. I never even noticed them. The three of us glanced at each other and unlatched the case for the mortar. It wasn't very hard to set up, only the base plate, barrel, and bipod. Adjusting the bipod determined where it landed. That's why I was here.

"Where should we hit?" Marcus pulled out his binoculars. I bit my lip. I didn't want to think of how many people would be killed if we didn't get enough of them the first try. I reached and unlatched the bipod to lower the barrel just slightly lower then it was.

"That should just hit the cars… right?" I said uneasily. There were a lot of them gathered around the cars…

"Uh, this is mortar team, preparing to fire." Eugene's voice cracked near the end. I gripped my side of the mortar tightly as Eugene took a shell out of the case. He held it above the tube and looked at me. I probably didn't look reassuring. I thought I was going to puke. Marcus was staring at us instead of through his binoculars.

"Any day now, boys!" One of the snipers snapped irritably. We all jumped.

"You sure this'll hit the barricade?" Eugene asked. I nodded, too afraid to speak. He looked from there to the mortar. He shrugged. "Fire in the hole!" He dropped the shell into the tube. I immediately ducked and covered my neck with my right hand, and almost my left hand holding the mortar.

I'd gotten use to firing it over the past few days, but the way it shook seemed odd to me. I didn't look up till the explosion had stopped. When the gunfire broke out, I almost ran back inside. I couldn't even see anything when I did look up, there was too much smoke. But I did see the APCs turn into the driveway.

Gunfire kept going off behind the smoke. "Are we suppose to fire again?" Marcus wondered. My mouth was glued shut.

"Hold fire." Lieutenant Whitley ordered over the radio. "We may hit our guys." I pressed myself down and covered my head in case any bullets came towards us.

The fire seemed to drag on for an hour. There was another explosion. "Damn, there goes a Humvee." One of the snipers said. When the sound started getting less loud, I looked up.

The sports cars had stopped smoking and I could actually see the APCs sitting in the driveway with the soldiers taking cover behind it. More fighting seemed to be going on inside the house. I ducked again as one of the windows shattered.

"Oh man." I kept pleading in my head over and over again for it to be over soon. The gunfire stopped after another few minutes.

"Building clear." A voice growled through the radio. I sighed and sat up in relief. Finally out of danger… "Twenty hostiles neutralized." The voice went on. I squirmed.

"We got the rest down here. Search the house for weapons or hostages. All other teams, hold position." Captain Sallee ordered. At last, I relaxed. It was over. I sat there dumbly for a while.

I'd been scared completely shitless at the idea of killing other people…but I didn't feel anything right now. "Does that mean I'm a bad person?" It wasn't like I'd enjoyed it… But why didn't I feel guilty?

"All squads pack up! We've over stayed our welcome." Captain Sallee called. I helped Eugene and Marcus load the mortar back into the box.

"So what now?" I asked.

"We head back to town, and we stay there." One of the snipers acted like I'd asked a stupid question. I probably had.

"How was your first time?" Macy asked as soon as we reached the driveway.

"…I don't feel anything." I realized she wouldn't believe me as soon as it left my mouth. But instead, she nodded.

"It takes time to set in." She patted my back. She went back to talking to some other soldiers.

"Friendly, isn't she?" Marcus elbowed me. I ignored him. Once we had climbed back into the truck, a lot of the recruits were excitedly discussing the fighting. It was stupid! People had died! I nearly puked when I thought about it. They acted like it was some adventure, but we had to do what others told us.

"What's so great about being a soldier to these people?"

X Vera 3 Days after the Meteors X

"Unbelievable. Insulting. Idiots!" Some more un-ladylike words were close to crossing my mind. I'd put up with a lot during this year: the bad food, the small living space and smaller bathrooms, not seeing the sun, the uncomfortable gender-neutrality policies, Kerrigan, and the simpletons that made up the rest of my Squadron. I'd dealt with all of it with no outward complaint. The least I expected in return was to be able to do my job.

We weren't going airborne any time soon. There weren't many reserve craft on the ship, and what ones there were had went to Stancill's flight. All the carriers in the fleet were understaffed; any one of them could deploy ninety planes instead of the thirty usually assigned, but we got the surplus while most of the planes and pilots went to the main fleets. Again, it came down to our idiot government.

Oh, but of course they tried to bribe us with a offer to go look on the island for aircraft. The base had been decommissioned for several years. There was no chance of there being F-18s or A-10s on that island for us. So Heather and me stayed, as did Vincent. The pair of us were waiting for their return in our quarters.

"It's completely foolish." I stared at the bottom of Heather's buck as if it'd heed some relief. I greatly disliked being powerless, especially when those in power were so incompetent.

"And insulting." Heather added. "We could do more then any of them." This was the reason we were friends, why we acted normal around each other, why we could be open on even the most intimate issues: we thought exactly alike, we knew how to balance seriousness with fun, and we were above childish giggling at perfectly normal subjects. The same could not be said for the others nor some of the older enlisted.

"Yeah, we could." I agreed. We sat in silence for some time, mulling silently over the injustice.

"I need to use the bathroom." Heather jumped down from her bunk.

"As do I." I got up. On our way back to our compartment, we ran into Vincent in the hallways.

"What's your thoughts on all of this?" He asked. I was slightly surprised at his break from being silent outside of missions.

"It it clearly humanity's darkest day." I said. "This new attack seems to have done severe damage to the planet." I remembered the red sky. The ecological and atmospheric damage was very visible. Vincent nodded.

"What weapon could even do such a thing?" Heather pondered.

"I don't think it was a weapon." Vincent admitted. I looked curiously at him. "The sky looks like those pictures in history books about when the dinosaurs went extinct.

"Ash blocking out the sun." I remembered those pictures.

"It was caused by meteors." Heather remembered. "They also caused extremely destruction of the landscape and caused water levels to-" Heather and we both jumped as if we'd been struck. Realization came to us in a brilliant stroke, and I again chastised myself for being so ignorant as of late.

"Meteors…That would explain all of it!" I exclaimed. "A second meteor shower…" Then I cringed with fear. It was worse then war. I felt light headed, and the next second Vincent had grabbed my shoulder.

"Steady, there." He said. I straightened up and shrugged him off.

"I'm fine." I stood erect to make a point. "But it is very possible." I conceded. "Though it fails to explain fighting." I realized.

"People are paranoid." Vincent shrugged. "They probably thought it was artillery." He had a point; people were that unintelligent. I tried to digest this information. On one hand, it did mean my educational goals were certainly delayed. On the other, armed with this information, we could prevent fighting and thus not endanger ourselves more then necessary.

"The Admiral should hear this." I decided out loud. Heather nodded. Vincent didn't look convinced.

"Would he even listen?"

"He's a leader, he's suppose to listen to his subordinates." I said impatiently and grabbed their hands. "Let's go." We got a couple of odd looks by other sailors. "Let them stare and go on with their lower work." We ran into trouble finally just below the bridge.

"Sorry ma'am, he's engaged in other matters." The Marine standing guard denied our request.

"We have a plausible theory on what happened." Heather let go of my hand and crossed her arms. If this intrigued the Marine, he had the discipline not to show it. But her words had the desired effect, and the Marine told us to follow him.

The bridge was as busy as any flagship. Officer's ran every direction, others talked seriously at their stations, but every motion remained fluid and even. Admiral Ryman was talking with Captain Benedict, the ship commander. "Sir, you requested the company of anyone who can offer an explanation." The Marine saluted.

"At ease, Corporal." Admiral Ryman returned the gesture. Captain Benedict glanced at us in clear disapproval. "Cavender, Waites, Schoenfeld." He addressed us all by our last names. "I had a feeling it'd be one of your flight. Bright bunch there." The pride I felt allowed me to completely ignore Captain Benedict. "So, what do you got?"

I quickly launched into the explanation, quoting the occurrence millions on years previous and how the effects were similar now. No sooner did I finish did Heather launch into a explanation of how it could have led to the outbreak of fighting.

"Vincent was the one who suggested it." We both said at the conclusion. He hadn't stepped forward to take credit. But unlike Amy, we gave credit where it was due; such resources were hard to come by.

Admiral Ryman nodded throughout the whole speech with his hand on his chin. Captain Benedict had said nothing but kept frowning. While they didn't turn their faces, I could tell all of the officers nearby had a ear to us.

"Well, I won't pretend that makes things any better." Admiral Ryman shook his head. "But a very interesting theory. Of course, we have no definite proof, but it's something to act on. In any case, we still have to continue humanitarian operations. And regardless, we must stay combat ready." He stopped for a moment. "Your flight is still grounded, right?"

"Yes sir." We all said. He shook his head.

"Not anymore " He shook his head. "Unfortunately, a carrier that had just been commissioned was passing through here and got pushed into the rocks on the far side of the island." I covered my mouth in shock. "The surviving crew and planes are being recovered as we speak." He said gravely. "I know this is not perhaps how you envisioned returning to the air…but in these desperate times, we must take extreme measures." He nodded.

"Horrible." Humans, due to our intelligence, had enjoyed a slight superiority over nature. That no longer seemed the case and example.

"You're dismissed. Thank you again for the information." We exchanged salutes and were ushered out of the room quickly; he was a busy individual.

"Not very progressive." I said bitterly. It seemed every step forward was greeted with a step back. "Those poor people…" I wasn't superstitious by any means…but knowing those planes had been used by someone made my stomach twist painfully. "Keep looking forward." I told myself.

Some good had occurred; our chances of combat were far less likely now. I couldn't really name another positive besides that. I felt queasy again. "I think I'm going to lay down for a few hours." I told them. They both uttered agreement.

Soon, much too soon in my opinion, we were awoken for a briefing session. We were the last to arrive, earning us stares from everyone else. We took our seats without acknowledging them.

"Thank you for coming." Admiral Ryman started. He paced back and forth, his face set almost near a grimace. "We have…received a new theory on what has occurred." This grabbed everyone's attention. Admiral Ryman went directly to his point. "We now think it may have been meteors." And he repeated our theory as if it was a memorized speech.

I smirked at the various expressions going around the room, ranging from terror to skepticism. "As if they'd have come up with a better one themselves."

"Regardless if this is true or not, we must still disperse aid and remain combat ready." He said. "We are staying here for only another two days to help repair civilian infrastructure. After that, we move on. Now that we have a more capable Air Wing, patrols will be organized so that we planes in the air 24/7. We can not allow any less." Someone spoke up.

"What military district are we in?" I heard Captain Bostack asked.

"We are not yet sure." Admiral Ryman responded at once. "But we are still below the main belts." He said, referring to the contested islands that made up the center of the channel. That put us at less risk for encountering Lazurian forces. When no one else spoke up, he continued.

"I want all pilots rested and ready to fly at the slightest sign of trouble. This is not a scenario we ever trained for, but it is one we will face with courage, commitment, and vigor. Dismissed."

XX Author's Note XX

The map in Vera's part is meant to be Antipode Map in the NA version. (I am unaware if the map names are also different in the European version). I meant to incorporate some combat on her part; starting with some small combat scenes like Nate. But I still am trying to refine my descriptive ability of air warfare, so it'll have to be next chapter.