Notes: This is a modern AU of ASOIAF. If you are a fan of the show and have not yet read the books, there will be some spoilers for the series. The intention is to include every great house if not every character from the series. This fic will unfold not only in the traditional format but also by utilizing social media. While it is not necessary to follow the social media component of this fic, plotlines will be fleshed out using tumblr, providing hints for future developments and encouraging interaction with the characters between updates. Feel free to follow and bug (nicely, please) the characters, as they are introduced.


Prologue

Robb jogs towards the helicopter, his boots pounding the hard, dusty ground beneath his feet. The noise of its four blades and twin engines is thunderous, a high pitched whine and patter that makes it impossible to understand what Private Torrhen is shouting at him. Robb signals with his hand that he can't hear and Torrhen shrugs without pause in their dash to join their squad in the aircraft for transport to Kandahar Airfield. Robb puts his head down to avoid the downdraft that batters at their bodies until his hands are wrapped around the open door and he's pulled inside by Sergeant Jon.

They call him Great Jon, not only because he's their squad leader, the oldest among them, and massive even for a well built Marine, but also to distinguish between Small Jon, team leader of Robb's fireteam. Torrhen ducks in behind him and they take their seats between Private Daryn and Private Halys, his team's rifleman and assistant automatic rifleman. Both their eyes are closed, ready for liftoff.

Torrhen elbows him and shows him a torn packet of Skittles, no doubt saved from his last MRE, wordlessly offering him some. Robb holds out his hand and Torrhen gives it a shake, dumping half a dozen into his hand. Robb tosses them back with a nod. Skittles, unlike M&M's, melt in your hand before they ever melt in your mouth, leaving a rainbow smear of stickiness behind, and it's a scorcher, pushing 100 degrees, hot enough to make sweat roll down the back of his neck into his desert digi-cammies, but the candy isn't unappreciated. Torrhen's a good guy. In fact, there isn't a Marine in this copter he wouldn't trust with his life.

He can't help thinking that if Jon had been with him, if Jon hadn't insisted on enlisting in the Army and they'd both signed up for the Marines instead, things would be different for his brother. Not that Jon would have been safer—Marines are tough, but not indestructible—but maybe he wouldn't be at home, sleeping in a darkened basement. When Robb's with his squad they've got running jokes and stories and stupid bullshit, which helps keeps them sane. Jon's always been too damn serious. Maybe no one knew how to respond to his moods. Robb would have made Jon laugh just to keep him from cracking up. From Jon's e-mails, it sounds like he could use some of that sanity now.

Their father was a Marine like his father before him. They were raised on stories of Grandpa Stark, a tough guy who'd stormed the beaches in the second wave to land on Iwo Jima. Jon by all rights should have been a Marine, but he followed Uncle Ben's example, going Army.

It's hard for him, Robb, his father had reminded him not for the first time, when Jon announced his decision. He feels like he has to cut his own path.

Because Ned Stark isn't technically Jon's father and this kind of follow in your father's path crap reminds Jon of that unpleasant fact, but Robb thought that was bullshit. All Jon knew about his real father was that they shared a last name—Snow—and Robb's father had been there for him ever since Jon's mom died in 2000. Robb could hardly remember what it was like before Jon Snow had come to live with them and become his brother. He always thought Jon should just legally change his name, be a Stark in name and not just in practice. He was already in all the staged family photos the AP photographers put together and was dragged around on campaign to be trotted up on stage during the summer, when they should have been out drinking and feeling up girls. There was all the expectation of duty to one's country and morally upright behavior heaped upon him. Might as well wear the family name too.

But there are those persistent reminders that Jon's not Robb's brother in the ways that count to some people—like his name and his former rank as Specialist Jon Snow of the U.S. Army. Jon served for over two years and he liked serving as much as anyone can like being sent to Afghanistan. Until it all changed for Jon four months ago, when his squad was lost. Robb doesn't know what would happen to him if something took his squad out; you can't really afford to think about something like that. But, there's no way he'd have to go through it alone. Where were Jon's brothers in arms, when he was falling apart after the attack? When he lost his girl and his buddies all in one roadside bombing?

Dacey grins up at him as she straps herself in with a click he still can't hear. He can see in her face what he's feeling right now, what they're all probably thinking, as the helicopter lifts off the ground, rocking and floating up with a forceful downdraft.

Almost there.

He's one step closer to eating something that tastes more like home. Something other than the chili with beans and rice MRE's he's been ingesting for the past five days. The thought of a giant soda and a greasy slice of Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza is enough to make his mouth water. He's one step closer to a computer too, where he can Skype with Jeyne and send Jon an e-mail with the filthy joke Ed Karstark told him. He also needs to send what will probably end up being a belated Mother's Day message to Mom. Something to tell her she's made him the man he is today, someone he hopes makes her proud.

WASHINGTON – The cause of a helicopter crash on Sunday that killed eight U.S. troops and three Afghans remains unclear, although the Black Hawk helicopter went down in a region infested with Taliban insurgents, according to NATO.

The crash took place in Shah Wali Kot, located in the Kandahar province, which makes up the heartland for Taliban insurgency. The Black Hawk, a workhorse aircraft for transporting both troops and gear, burned after the crash. One Afghan survived.

U.S. troops rely on the Black Hawks in Afghanistan to traverse rugged terrain that would otherwise have them facing broad deserts and roads planted with bombs. Helicopter pilots fly some 50,000 missions a year.

The causes for helicopter crashes are numerous. Insurgents shoot them down, but they can also be the result of mechanical problems, weather, and human error.

Sunday's crash was the highest death toll for U.S. troops in a helicopter crash since Aug. 16, 2012, when 7 U.S. troops died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.


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