• "Oh s**t..." Mario muttered as the first Separatist destroyer slowed to a stop over the grasslands, between the factory and the city.

    "Tanagus, you seeing this?" Sofia asked.

    There was a short pause. "Oh yeah... Gorchev, get a few men on your Mod4's get these things lined up just incase. Over."

    Sergent Gorchev lifted a pair of binoculars to his eyes, examining the Separatist destroyers. He lowered them, glancing at the mortarmen of his heavy-weapons team. They had a weapon standing by just for this kind of encounter. The MPKKW-AS Mod4, an acronym for the Man-Portable Kinetic Kill Weapon-Anti-Ship Model 4.

    Gorchev was a member of the JDTF. He was one of the best soldiers in the galaxy. Along with that skill came experience in the special forces field. He knew to always be prepared. He had brought four launchers.

    "Brian, Cook, Kim, get over here. Grab one of those Mod4's, get ready." Gorchev grabbed one of the launchers himself, pulling the huge tube onto his shoulder. The targeting package was still stowed above the barrel, but he wasn't about to fire it yet.

    Squinting at the destroyer again, he figured that two launchers would be enough to kill the Separatist warship. Because the rebels didn't have access to high-density armor plate like Girotanium or UEG ballistic plate armor, they instead relied on powerful energy shields. However, they had to drop them once they fell into a hover like this one had in order to offload or take on shuttles and equipment.

    That made them extremely vulnerable.

    Gorchev held up his binos with one hand. "Team 3 lead to Alpha lead. I have the destroyer lined up. He's pegged, but I don't want to fire yet incase more of his friends show up. That can give us the opportunity to take out one of his friends too. Over."

    "Roger that, Gorchev. Hold your fire. Bring them down once we hit their factory or you feel that they pose an immediate threat. Over." Sofia glanced at the distant hills that Gorchev was stationed on and behind.

    "Copy all. Gorchev out."

    Sofia glanced up at the destroyer again. She felt her stomach twist a little, a tinge of anxiety washed over her. An AC could take lots of punishment, but a warship was a little much. This could go bad. She needed to be extremely cautious.

    "Avus, Owen, get to the door. See if we can pick it."

    "Yes ma'am."

    Sofia quickly moved to the door with them as they led with her team in tow. Avus bent over. His huge body almost hid the door from sight. It seemed paradoxical when the hulking sentei drew a small electronic lock pick and delicately began checking the door. Suddenly, Avus froze. Then he withdrew the pick, tucked it back into his vest and motioned Sofia forward.

    Sofia, careful to stay hidden from the destroyer above, slid along the line of soldiers along the wall and slotted in next to Avus. "What is it?" she asked.

    "I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?" The big creature was crouched, hands resting on his knees. His face was frank behind his polarized shooter's glasses.

    Sofia sighed. "Good," she deadpanned.

    "I can pick the lock."

    Sofia frowned in confusion. "What's the bad news?"

    "The door is rigged."

    Sofia nodded. "Okay, we can deal with that."

    "There's an infrared lasr trip grid on the other side, wired about a millimeter or so from the door, inside the door frame. If I move this door even a little, it activates. I can't get the door open enough to disarm it. Plus, I don't know if the laser grid is rigged to an explosives pakage, or if it goes to a security checkpoint."

    Sofia listened and nodded. "Then we're going to have to breach. Team 2, this is Alpha lead. Give me your position. Over."

    "Alpha lead, this is Team 2 lead actual. We are advancing on the storage facility. Give us thirty seconds. Over," replied Sergent Orzeel.

    "Roger that 2-lead. Hold your position once you are in positon to enter the complex. Be advised, we've found a laser grid trap around our entry point. Keep your eyes peeled for traps. Over."

    "Copy all, Alpha lead. Thanks for the heads up. Out."

    Sofia glanced over Avus's shoulder, along the wall to where Owen was watching. She glanced at her rifle, pulling the bolt open halfways, checking for the silver gleam of a loaded cartridge. It shone at her, showing it's lethal payload..

    She hated waiting at moments like this. It was more time for the enemy to spot them.

    "Team 2 in position. Standing by. Over."

    "All units, be advised. Our entry point has been compromised. We're going to breach instead. The bad guys are going to know where we are. Get ready for some action, try to maintain your stealth as long as possible. Wait for my mark. Over." Sofia waited for everyone to acknowledge.

    "Owen, get me a breaching plate," ordered Sofia.

    "Hold on," replied Owen as he pulled one out a large holder on his belt. He passed down to Avus, who passed it to Sofia.

    Switching over to her thermal and soundwave vision modes, she found a spot where there were no obstacles on the other side of the wall and slapped the plate onto the wall.

    "Team 1 ready," called Sofia. "Karvik, with me. We're the first ones in."

    "Roger," the machine gunner simply replied. He lifted his M411 SAW and aimed it at he wall. Sofia slung her rifle and pulled her SPAS-8 free of her pack.

    "Team-2 standing by," came a call from Orzeel.

    "All teams breach on three. One... two... three! Breach!" Sofia pulled the detonator trigger and disappeared under a clund of thunder and smoke as the plate charge blasted inwards, caving in the wall.

    Sofia was the first AC to enter, stepping ofer the small jam of concrete, leveling her shotgun. She wasn't clear of the smoke yet...

    ...a hail of bullets swept out of the smoke, blindly slashing at the ACs. Sofia stepped forward as the bullets pinged off of her armor and shields, pulling the trigger and hearing a scream. She pumped the slide and entered the room, one of many machine shops scattered around this area of the factory.

    Another target with an asault rifle stood by the corner. She fired off another round, splitting the man in half at the strenum. A full squad entered the room, pouring in from two exits. By that time, Karvik, Owen and Chad had entered.

    Karvik fired a long burst into one of the doorways, cutting down a handful of rebels. The sentei turned and fired a short burst through the door to disuade anyone else from entering. A long burst from eight different rifles met on Karvik's armor. His shields strobed and failed, the bullets ricoched off of his thick ballistic plate. Karvik turned and let a long burst loose, walking it over the Separatist's cover, punching through their overturned tables and countertops.

    "Clear!" called Avus.

    "Clear!" agreed Chad.

    "Clear," Sofia replied. "Good work, Karvik."

    Karvik nodded as his shileds hummed and reengeged, popping into place over his body.

    Sofia pushed two shells into her shotgun, waving her team forward. "Next door, lets go."

    Team 1 moved through into the hallway beyond, finding it empty. Sofia followed the line that her ocular implants were overlaying onto the floor, showing her the route she had preplaned. She advanced quickly, her shotgun raised, her eye lined up behind the Dri Optics red dot sight.

    A locked door stopped her.

    Quickly firing her shotgun, Sofia shot off the top and bottem hinges along with the door lock, quickly pumping in each new shell. She pulled her foot back, kicking it in, blasting the steel door in and across the room. An explosion of red behind it signaled a crushed human.

    Falling into a crouch, Sofia sighted on a target, letting a shotshell fly, tearing apart a Separatist soldier. Chad, standing next to her, fired off three quick shots into another target.

    A grenade sailed into the air.

    Her mind racing with genetically-enhanced speed, she tracked the grenade, her hand outstretched to catch it...

    ...Karvik beat her to it, catching the grenade and squeezing it, crushing the device before the fuze could activate. He shook his hand clean, freeing it of the splintered steel debris.

    Avus and Mario blasted past Sofia, their rifles aimed at the Separatist bomb techies left in the room.

    "On the ground! Hands over your heads! Now!" demanded Avus, his rifle trained on the three in the corner. The terror in their eyes was almost contaigous.

    One of them produced a detonator.

    Avus shot him in the head. The man's head exploded across the wall, the decapitated body slammed against it and slumped to the floor.

    Mario slung his rifle, drew his sidearm with his strong hand and a set of flexicuffs with the other. While Avus covered him, Mario pressed them against the wall, patted them down, scanned them, and cuffed them.

    "Secure," Mario reported, his eyes still trained along the sights of his pistol to the techies beyond. He was too professonial to let his guard slip.

    Avus stepped forward to stand beside Mario, his M182 leveled as well. "Covering," Avus muttered, his eyes betrayed his contempt for the terrorists before him.

    Mario took the opportunity to swap back to his rifle.

    "Clear," Karvik reported.

    "Clear," Sofia agreed. Slinging her shotgun, she moved to the prisoners. "I'm sure you guys have seen enough movies to know what happens next. You tell me things I need to know, or else I start taking teeth and tongues."

    The prisoners shuttered.

    Sofia didn't smile. Her face was stone. She didn't like this part of her job. But she had to place the safety of her troops above all else. These bomb technicians might know things.

    "So please, by all means, start talking." Sofia folded her arms over her chest.

    What Sofia decided was the senior techie swallowed a very justified lump in his throat and looked up, staring her in the eye. He was almost shaking. When he spoke, his voice cracked.

    "What do you need to know?" he asked.


    Tanagus knew that the mission was blown wide open when the shooting started.

    Contact reports streamed into his command interface as Teams 1 and 2 pushed into the Separatist structure. While the gunshots didn't reach this far, the thumps of explosives reached his ears, warning him of a pitched firefight.

    Tanagus had scanned the area for any signs of any other rebel sniper hides. After scanning the area with thermal, magnetic, and heartbeat sensors as well as his own trained eye, Tanagus had picked out three more Separatist sniper teams.

    After a few shots from his own other sniper teams, Tanagus had removed them all. Now, surveying the area with his binoculars, he deduced that the entire area was sterilized of any enemy sniper activity. They were clear.

    Having been laying the dirt for hour behind the wrecked truck, Tanagus decided that it was alright to stand and get a better view. Ever vigilant, he carefully glanced behind him, glancing at his backdrop. It was a small hill, enough to conceal him should he choose to stand. His camoflage matched it, so he was clear.

    Tanagus stood up behind the truck, lifting his high-powered binos to his helmet, pressing them into his visor. They factory was a hive of activity. Separatist soldiers in heavy ceramic armor and wielding modern assault rifles were all converging on entrances to the factory.

    "Contacts, two APCs entering the west gate," called one of his sniper teams.

    Tanagus swong around, his binoculars fixed on the location of the incoming vehicles.

    "Gorchev, this is Gano. I have targets entering the facility's west gate, proceeding on the bomb facility. I need them removed. You are cleared for a mortar barrage. Designating the targets with a waypoint, reference your TACNET for details. Over."

    Tanagus commanded a waypoint to be placed over both APCs, his armor recognized the thoughts and sent out the command, marking them electronically on the TACNET.

    Gorchev, laying with his back against a rock, watched on his datapad as the waypoint for the APCs appeared, the fire support tag overlaid their information box.

    "Mortarmen, we have a fire support mission. Targets are marked as fire mission Alpha. Range is 4023 meters. Area saturaton. Fire for effect." Gorchev pushed his pointer finger onto both of the APCs on his datapad, selecting them as the priority targets for his mortarmen.

    "All tubes standing by," called Gorchev's senior fire director.


    As fast as they could drop them in, the gunners began dropping the bombs into the mortars, firing off sixteen bombs before the first one hit the ground.

    Tanagus watched through the binos as the first APC was stradled by a pair of bombs before taking a trio of hits on her roof. It exploded as the second APC disappeared along with the entire parking lot as the rest of the mortars landed, smothering the lot under a blanket of dirt and smoke. Tanagus lowered the binoculars.

    "Solid hits, Gorchev. Hold your fire."

    "Roger that, lead." Gorchev replied. The mortars halted immediatly.

    Tanagus lifted the binoculars again, settling them over his visor. He scanned along the building, scoping in the breaching hole that Sofia had blown in the wall. A mob of Separatist soldiers were swarming over the hole, diving inside to try to follow Team-1 into the structure. They didn't know that unless they were packing rocket launchers and demolishion charges, they were walking into a meat grinder.

    Sweaping his binoculars over the Separatist soldiers, Tanagus deduced that they were not equiped with such weaponry. Sofia and her squadmates were safe.

    Tanagus felt a tremor in the air, a deep bone-vibrating rumble that echoed through the grasslands and out to the ocean. His head followed the vibrations, a deep sonic thrum that was originating from the Separatist destroyer.

    It was a shockwave from the second destroyer entering the atmosphere, along with the much-larger freighter. It slowed to a stop above the land to the west of the factory next to the first destroyer. Tanagus frowned.

    "Gorchev, your Mod4's are up. Hit both of those destroyers. Bring them down. Over."

    "Angel lead, Team 3 lead copies. Stand by," Gorchev replied.

    Pulling the targeting package down from over the barrel to the appropriate loaction infront of his face, Gorchev pulled the plastic arming tab from the weapon, turning it on. The computerized sight illuminated the three ships with radar waves, setting fire-control solutions for each.

    Gorchev sellected the farthest destroyer.

    "Cook, hit the far one with me. Kim, Brian, hit the nearest one."

    "Yessir," the Sec3 soldiers replied.
    Pressing in the target-aqqisiton tab, he selected the destroyer he wanted. A lock-on tone sounded in his ear.

    "On three," ordered Gorchev. "One... two... three! Fire!"

    All four launchers thudded as the four kinetic kill rockets were blown free of their tubes by an explosive charge. Smoke billowed from both ends of the launchers as the opperators braced againsrt the recoil.

    Reaching the end of their lanyards, the engine pins snapped out, setting off their booster engines. The missiles accelerated into the sky, curving up into thesky above the destroyers, angling down at 45 degrees. Shedding their booster engines, the rockets went into glide mode, the electromagnetic sensors in their noses found the emissions emmited by their reactors, locked on, and then activated their main engines, snapping into a hypersonic speed that would allow them to smash into the warship's hull.

    To Tanagus it looked as though a blue glowing line had been drawn from the sky, through the destroyers, and back into the ground.

    Instead of using an explosive warhead, the missiles were a simple tungsten penetrator with a massive rocket on the back. Their speed and punch gave them the power of a Sabre anti-ship missile, but at a fraction of the size.

    Instead of blowing up, they simply blistered through their targets.

    Both destroyers seemed to function normally for a few moments, but then the exterior running lights on the outside shut off, followed by their engines. With their reactors destroyed, the ships simply fell to the ground, collapsing in a huge eruption of dirt and steel.

    The impact was discernable around the entire planet, enough to register in the Richter scale. Two pillars of dust and debris rose a full kilometer into the sky, the epitaph of the gutted warships.

    The hulking sentei turned to the smoking wrecks as they fell. Tanagus observed emotionlessly. There were a couple thousand dead humans in those hulks. "Good work, Gorchev," Tanagus rewarded the Sergent.

    "Thank you, sir," replied Gorchev.


    Sofia shouldered open another door, her shotgun snapped up, swinging from side to side. The room beyond was clear. She stepped in.

    "Clear," she yelled back through the door.

    Avus and Mario pushed the prisoners through the door, tossing them onto the ground. Their mouths had been taped shut to prevent them from making too much noise. Sofia moved out of the room. Owen closed the door behind her, taking a portable door lock and placed it over the door and wall beside it, drilling in the four bolts, sealing the Separatist technicians inside.

    "They're sealed in," Owne reported.

    "Good. Fall in team, we're Oscar Mike."

    Following the lines in the floor, she stacked beside a large steel door. "Karvik, take this door out."

    Karvik nodded, lowering his squad machine gun onto its sling. He moved to the door, bringing his foot up, stomping the center of the door. he kicked it three times before a crack formed in the center. karvik pushed his fingers into the crack, pulling the door apart to either side. With an angry groan, the door gave, sliding apart.

    Sofia was a bout to enter when her super-sensitive perception detected something amiss. It was right infront of her. She was looking at it. But it was like an optical illusion. It was blended into the background, seemingly part of the surroundings.

    And then it moved.

    "Vulcan!" cried Mario.

    Easily ten feet tall and plated in a foot of steel armor, the Vulcan assault droid was the Separatist answer to the Alliance Commandos and the JDTF. It was armed to the teeth, accurate, and was able to deliver massive firepower through an assortment of modular weapons such as assault rifles, gatling guns, rocket launchers, and magnetic rail cannons.

    Sofia was fast. She was the fastest AC in the galaxy. When the Vulcan suddenly brought its weapons to bear on her, she sprang to her right, diving into a storage room. A hail of bullets raked the ACs position, fed by a pair of GAU-8 Avenger gatling guns, the same kind of weapon that the JDTF used.

    Tracking her by thermal sensors, the Vulcan opened fire, blasting thousands of bullets after her through the walls, chasing the rest of her team with it's other weapons.

    Stepping forward, the droid's immence weight crushed the heavy wrktable that the ACs had been using for cover. It moved like Shiva, it's wepons each opperating as individual entities, aided by the Vulcan's advanced targeting systems. It was computerized death.

    Sofia fell forward, curling into a ball as bullets whistled and hissed by and over her armor, draining her shields. She covered her face, struggling to her feet and blindly charging forward.

    The wall collapsed as the Vulcan's volume of fire weakened it's integrity. Marching into the room, it pointed the barrel of a Gauss rifle directly into her face, halting.

    She was in a bad spot.

    "Tanagus, I need help," she whispered into her boom mike.


    Three kilometers to the south, Tanagus froze as he heard a ragged rasp of something leak through his ear bud.

    He couldn't be sure, but it sounded like Sofia.

    Moving to the truck, Tanagus fell to his right knee and wrapped his right hand around the trigger grip of his M80A5, bracing the stock to his massive shoulder, supporting it with his left hand.

    Peering into the electronic scope, he flipped on the thermal option and sighted on the bomb factory.


    She knew that the chance that this droid could shoot her before she moved. It wasn't organic. It was a machine. It reacted incredibly fast. She was banking on the fact that she was faster.

    She turned into a blur, snapping to her left.

    The Gauss rifle fired, a hypersonic ferrous slug zipped by her head, plunging into the floor in a rooster-tail of dirt.

    Her hands came up to wrap around the barrel, punching her left fist into the weapon, bending the barrel. She tossed herself back to dodge a melee swing, a thick thud reverberated through the ground as it mashed a construction table into the floor.

    Another appendage whipped out, intent on spearing her through the gut. Sofia twisted away, ducking backwards to avoid a follow-up horizontal swing. Her flipped into her hands, pushing off into the air to dodge another swing aimed at her arms.

    A quick swing of another arm took Sofia across the waist, pummeling her into the wall. Concrete shattered and she cried out as the droid strained against its servo motors and began to grind her into the wall.

    Sofia pushed back against it, straining.

    "Tanagus!" she cried, gasping for breath.

    She tried to locate her team, but they were engaged by an avalanche of Separatist soldiers. They couldn't help her. A sharp crack resonated over the sound of the droid and the gunfire as her chest plate snapped in half.

    Sofia screamed, a long cry of agony as she pushed against the huge titanium appendage that had her pinned. Tears began to cloud her vision.