LVII
The Siege at Leavenworth I

Riane had to force the air into her lungs and back out again. It wasn't that she was out of breath; rather it was because she was breathless. Battle had been waged before her eyes before at Ozark; she had seen gunfights in Union and high in the air with the Sea Dogs. Yet there was something different and much terrifying with the situation she was currently in. She blamed it on her fatigue and her injury, but deep down she was faintly aware of a fear that gripped her. It was unshakeable. Mortar fire nearly deafened her and the ringing it brought about was broken only by the pop of gunfire. Guns, she had discovered, were much louder in real life than in video games.

In all of the other situations she had been in, death defying moments happened within an instant. It was certainly not the case at Leavenworth. Every single second that ticked by could have been her last. Every bullet that was haphazardly fired could have found its home inside her chest. It caused her to shake. She kept telling herself that eventually she would calm down, but it never did happen. Even more exhausted than before, it was a miracle she managed to stay awake. The adrenaline certainly played its part. A sudden respect for those who did this on a regular basis entered her mind, but she quickly shot it down. No, she could not and would not respect soldiers. She couldn't respect anyone who was a lackey to the tyrannical government.

Still, it was hard to deny that an intense battle was nothing to scoff at. There was a certain sense of excitement that came with each sound, each sight. Not unlike a video game, she realized. However, the sensation that pulsed through a person's veins during a shootout in a video game was not as real, not as powerful as the near-blinding experience felt when facing real gunfire. Despite all of this, she still had the mind to wonder how it would affect her afterward. Was there a chance for nightmares in her sleep? Would she need to cope by escaping reality? Or would it just pass her over, taken as just another rollercoaster ride adrenaline rush?

All of that was silenced when she finally managed to nod off to sleep. It was on accident, but it wasn't done in the heat of battle. McGill and Skipper's team had halted their bombardment for the time being; they waited and watched to see how Leavenworth would react. They had been at this for several hours now, but the soldiers from the Fort had refused to give in even in the slightest. This was expected, though. Something had told them long before they attacked that Leavenworth would not be an easy steal. They would have to be patient. They needed to slowly crush the opposition into their own little hole.

Yet there was a sense of urgency amongst them. They knew the faster they defeated Leavenworth, the better. It frustrated them to know that there was nothing they could do. They had little choice but to whittle away at Leavenworth. When McGill told them to pullback so they could better analyze the situation, she could feel their groans of disagreement shake the Earth. By the time the groups had rejoined and finally had the chance to relax, they were actually thankful for the brief lull. So much so, that Riane and others finally closed their eyes.

As they sat back from the Fort by several miles, their only view was through digital binoculars and satellite images. They were thankful that the military had yet to scramble their feed, but most were unaware just which satellite they were using. They were forced to do some scrambling of their own; with drones patrolling overhead for thermal signs of life, they had to rely on a computer program designed to camouflage their locations. It was considered to be a type of stealth against modern radar. It had been used often in battle against other countries, but never against America. Regardless, they were forced to rely on it, as well as their own eyes against any movement nearby. They may have pulled back, but they were still on the edge.

The troops at Leavenworth appeared to breathe a sigh of relief when the mortar hits lessened to nil. There were no sudden movements or knee-jerk reactions from them. This helped McGill's troops relax a bit more. Her squad and Skipper's had essentially merged into one group. She gave orders that all were supposed to follow, but Skipper's squad only reacted to them after he confirmed them. If it frustrated McGill, she didn't let it show.

Roddy watched through his binoculars as another drone took off from the base. He grunted; the noise caught Roo's attention, who asked, "What is it?"

"Another drone," Roddy answered. "Wondering if they'll ever run out of 'em. Man, what the hell! Get off of me!"

Roo had thrown his arm around Roddy's shoulders in an attempt to follow his line of sight. Roddy had long ago noticed Roo's neo-Nazi tattoos and didn't take kindly to them. The result was a very tense atmosphere whenever Roo and Roddy met. Fortunately, it had yet to spill out into the battlefield. The noise did manage to wake Riane, however. Groggily, she wiped the sleep away from her eyes. Well, attempted to. When her hand grazed over the right side of her face, she winced and whimpered. The sound caught the attention of those around her.

The first to greet her was Soto. "Hey, sleeping beauty," he greeted with a big smile. "You alright?"

"Yeah," she said, although barely above a whisper. In truth, the pain from her eye wound caused her entire head to ache. It was hard to stay focused.

"Reinforcements will be here soon," McGill announced. Since she looked at Leavenworth, her face pressed against binoculars, Riane wasn't sure who McGill was talking to. "When they arrive, I will be sending a few troops back. Maybe you should go home with them."

"No, I'm alright," Riane assured her. McGill responded only with a grunt. For some reason, it aggravated Riane that everyone babied her. She asked, "So, when Jordan goes with you guys, are you always watching out for him, too?"

"I'm not concerned with your safety," McGill said. "I'm concerned about my men. A female is a distraction to them, and if you're weak or tired, you're more likely to draw their attention. Trust me. I know this pretty damned well."

Once McGill finished speaking, Riane snapped a quick photo of her. McGill seemed unfazed. It was a telltale sign of the Corporal's personality. She was flush with the ground; a stern look on her face, which was covered with dirt, paint, and sweat; her hands held in place the binoculars she once peered through, still pointed toward Leavenworth; behind her knelt Skipper, whose eyes were transfixed on the enemy fortress. Riane decided it was a keeper. Shots of women in combat were still somewhat rare, despite the dramatic shift that had taken place over the last few years.

"It's not as though I don't care, Miss McDermott," McGill continued. "It just is priorities are different on the battlefield. The outcome of this mission will not be decided based on your life or death. However, the life and death of each soldier under my command is of the utmost importance. I hope you understand."

"I do," Riane said.

"You sure did talk a lot without answering her question," Soto said. McGill ignored his rudeness. "Jordan, he's a good guy, you know? We trust him with our lives. I'd say we watch out for him."

Riane seemed surprised at this. She turned to McGill for confirmation. The Corporal turned her attention back to Leavenworth but still answered. "He's a good man. He'd do anything for the people of this Company. He'd even die, if it meant to protect us. I know that he often gives off the impression of a complete idiot, but I think he's much a more sensible man than he's given credit for."

"She just says that because she wants his dick," one of her men dared to comment.

"Nah, bro, she's already been there, done that!"

Riane was a bit intrigued over the harsh ribbing McGill's men gave her, yet somehow the female soldier brushed it off as though it was nothing. Riane assumed McGill was probably more than used to it by that point in time. Her attention was diverted from the Corporal when Soto said, "Well, what about you? I mean, you seem pretty cozy with him. I think that's why the Major doesn't mind you hanging around."

"Oh, is that the reason?" Riane said. "I was curious as to why he put up with me always being in his face."

"Yeah, he's kind of anti-social," McGill quipped.

"I've noticed," Riane agreed. She answered Soto's question when she said, "Me and Jordan are pretty close. I've known him for a while now, probably five or six years. I was married to his brother."

"The federal attorney guy?" Soto asked.

"The Solicitor General, man. Don't you know shit?" Roddy corrected. Soto could only shrug.

"Yeah, that's the one. But, it just wasn't right, you know?" Riane said. It slipped out effortlessly, as though any past relationship with William was nothing more than a small scratch on her hand. Time had already healed any wound that had formed.

Whatever else was to be said was silenced when the sound of a gunfight near Leavenworth grabbed their attention. Everyone turned their eyes to the base. The sight of a battle being waged on the western side greeted them. McGill looked around and asked, "We're all accounted for, correct?" Everyone nodded. It was none of her men or Skipper's that were attacking. "Can you get a fix on what's happening down there?"

"Not a damned thing," Roddy answered.

She turned her radio on for the first time in at least an hour. "Mister Chevalier, have you arrived ahead of scheduled?" she asked.

"No, Corporal," Wallace answered. "We're still a good fifteen minutes out from reaching location."

"Corporal, are you alright?" Percy's voice inquired. He sounded as though he had just been woken from a deep sleep.

"Major, there's activity at the Fort," she said.

He responded, "Of course there is, it's under siege."

Despite the dry humor being directed at her, McGill still managed to let out a small laugh. "I mean, it's under siege from someone other than us," she clarified.

"Could it be from the inside?" Wallace asked. "Is it the DB?"

The DB was short for the United States Disciplinary Barracks. It housed what were considered to be the most dangerous members of the military that had be subjected to a court-martial. The amount of uprisings from prisoners in the DB could be counted on one hand, so it seemed unlikely. However, Leavenworth had never been under siege before. McGill concluded, "It's highly doubtful. I'm sure it's from the outside."

Percy ordered, "Use it to your advantage, Corporal. Get in there and secure the Lieutenant General and any other key personnel."

"Understood, Major," she said. She turned to Skipper and said, "I hate to do this to you guys, but can you attack from the South? We can slip in on the opposite corner."

Skipper didn't seem upset by the idea. "Be a distraction, you mean? We've done it plenty of times before. We'll draw their fire long enough for you to get in and get the Lieutenant General. That is, if you can do it in twenty minutes."

"I'll do it in fifteen," she told him. He smirked at her confidence. Without waiting for an order, Skipper gathered his men and moved out. McGill did not make any sudden movements to head off to fight. She turned to her squad and ordered, "Roddy, Soto, and Robles, you're with me. The rest of you wait here for further instructions." McGill and her team made motion to leave when Riane attempted to follow. McGill stopped her, "No, you can't come with us. You'll get in the way. Stay here."

"Who said I was following you guys?" was Riane's argument. McGill left it at that and took off sprinting toward their destination. The truth was Riane did plan to follow them. She waited for McGill's team to disappear down the path toward the Northeast corner before she made another move. The rest of McGill's squad didn't seem to care that she took off. She left in a hurry toward the North face. She wasn't even sure exactly where she was soon after. The large landscape of the Fort reminded her that the size of it made it a working town all on its own. They weren't attacking a base, they were attacking a city.

McGill knew that Riane was going to head off on her own, but she didn't let it bother her. The Corporal led her team skillfully through the maze of trees and underbrush. She knew they had long stepped over the underground sensor that gave away their entry, but also knew if they moved quickly enough the troops wouldn't be able to catch them. Stealth wasn't a priority at that moment. She asked, "Robles! Isn't the west side all recreation?"

Robles was their navigator. He answered, "Yes, Corporal. There's nothing of real importance over there."

"Amateurs, then?" Roddy guessed.

Soto said, "No way, man! They were shooting military issued rifles, you could tell by the sound."

McGill suddenly threw her hand up and motioned to the ground; all three men behind her dropped straight to the dirt. She knelt behind a tree and carefully leaned over. A fireteam from Leavenworth was hustling to where her team had crossed the underground sensor. They darted past McGill's team, about ten yards to the left. Patiently her team waited a few extra seconds before they stood up again and continued their mission. If the running hadn't increased their heartbeat, that close encounter had.

Back on the trail, Soto asked, "Who are we going after?"

"Lieutenant General Juan de Rojas," McGill said. "He's an old guy, salt and pepper hair, a tad overweight. He's a hardass and isn't going to turn tail. He'll be there until the Fort is completely burned down."

Soto had more questions, "Any idea where he is going to be? We can't search all thousand buildings."

McGill said through her radio, "Major, can I get a fix on the Lieutenant General's transponder?" She then focused her speech to Soto. "A man with his ranking always keeps his transponder on for security reasons. If we can get access to the tracking system, we'll know exactly where he is."

"What if he takes his dog tags off?"

"Do you ever take your dog tags off?" was her only argument. It was met with silence. "Exactly."

"Thank God for technology," Roddy commented. "Without it, we'd be here for days."

Mackenzie's voice broke their thoughts when it spoke over the radio, "I'll transfer his coordinates to your map now."

Robles had to pull out the small, handheld device while sprinting to watch the information upload. It took a few moments before it finally finished. He announced, "I have a fix. Looks like he's near the airport."

"What's the quickest way there?" McGill asked.

"Take a left!"

McGill took a sharp turn and managed to run about another fifty yards before she had to halt. A clearing appeared before them; the four stayed behind the bushes to survey the area. In front of them was three small warehouses and one guard post. The antsy guardsmen that were present kept themselves calm by stretching and running in place. There were a total of six of them. Although outnumbered, it was only by a mere two men. McGill decided to avoid them; the fewer the gunfights, the better. She motioned for her men to follow her about fifteen yards south. A concrete barrier signaled the end of the small depot. There, she quickly leapt from the brush of the forest. She stayed crouched and hurried alongside the barrier, her men right behind her.

Once the barrier ran out, they stood and sprinted across the empty road. They kept that pace up as they soon ran out of brush and found themselves at a series of train tracks. A brief glance around the area proved that they were safe to cross. On the other side, it was forest again. Another fifty yards east was open area for the Sherman runway. They stopped at the edge of the forestry, just before the road. It was done in the nick of time, as a patrol of several Humvees rushed past them.

McGill took out her binoculars and surveyed the area. A gathering of soldiers near a small group of helicopters grabbed her attention. Amongst the officers and enlisted personnel, stood the old General de Rojas. "I've got a fix on him," she told her team. "Damn, it's going to be hard to get him." The others with him caught her eye. She listed them off, "Major General Wetz, Lieutenant General Aber, Command Sergeant Major Griffon, Command Sergeant Major Naseer, Colonel Wood… and Colonel Walker."

"A single grenade would render the Army a few less leaders," Soto said.

Roddy smacked his arm, "Don't joke, Private."

"Hold on, there's a few civilians," she said, interrupting them. They wore button up shirts and slacks, but were protected by flak vests. "I don't recognize any of them. They're getting on a helicopter, an MH-60L." The first man to approach the helicopter stopped and turned to face LTG de Rojas. This allowed McGill to have a perfect view of his face. She couldn't help but exclaim, "Secretary Leoni!"

"Secretary of Defense!"

"What should we do?"

McGill merely put her hand up to silence her men. They watched as Leoni was escorted by General Wetz onto the aircraft. Several enlisted personal and men in suits joined them. Within thirty seconds it was airborne. Another helicopter nearby took off a second faster. The two ascended into the air while the remaining men on the ground retreated back toward several Humvees that waited for them. She lowered the binoculars and watched as the Secretary of Defense made his escape.

100 feet into the air, the first helicopter was suddenly struck by another object; its tail was severed off and an explosion sent the remaining portion straight into the second helicopter. McGill's team watched in surprised silence at the two helicopters merged into one, single, deadly fireball that rained down on the Leavenworth ground. Three jets roared over at supersonic speed just above them.

"Another attack!"

"Who was it?"

"Shit, there's no way to tell," McGill cursed.

"Freeze!"

The distracted team found themselves turning around at the new voice, annoyed. Four of the six MPs that were guarding the warehouses had snuck up on them. The man closet to them had gotten within three feet. Instead of setting down her rifles and putting her hands up, McGill surprised them by tackling the front most man right in the gut. Her team followed suit by letting loosen a hail of bullets. She managed to block out the chaos and focused on pulling out her knife and shoving into the neck of the MP she had tackled. By the time she pulled the knife back out, the gunfire had stopped.

She turned around to find all of her men shaken up but still alive. She ignored the condition of the MPs and ordered, "Let's pullback!"

"What of General de Rojas?" Soto asked.

"We'll worry about him later. I can't risk hanging out in a Fort that's under attack by a fighter squadron."

Her men didn't need any extra convincing. They turned to retrace their footsteps out of Leavenworth for the time being.