Start

"Urban warfare, the flashiest way to get killed." This is one of the quotes we remembered from when the recruiters had come through the crowded halls of the local schools. Of course, these weren't part of the presentations that were given in each of the classes, they were jokes that the recruiters around our age had made when none of the senior role models had been present.

Funny it became the slogan of the Mobile Armored Infantry Division, which was a heavily trained group of mechanically assisted group of soldiers who were known for being heavily involved in urban combat.

A heavy rumble woke me from my thoughts of how I was going to start my story about my part in the war.

"God damn it,Thatcher, we all know what you're thinking about!" Nekolai said as he slammed his head back against the steel plating of the dropship. Chips of paint slid back and forth across the floor as the flying machine encountered some turbulence.

A spray of spark flew out of an overhead light and all of us jumped as the ship encountered an especially nasty bit of turbulence.

The entire inside of the bay of the dropship was painted a dull gray and black scheme. Each of the benches that lined the walls had dozens of straps and clips hanging under and above them.

"Shut up Nikki or ill spike your morphine tank with a rubbing alcohol" I groaned. Nicks turned around up front, the glow of a dozen screens making his face into a slightly darkened shadow.

"Dude if you don't stop thinking about your autobiography I will make sure you don't make it out of here." He said angrily.

"What, am I supposed to have no future like all of you illiterates?" I asked sarcastically.

"No, you're just supposed to think about the fact that hundreds of shards of steel are being flung at the hull of this ship right now!" Nicks yelled.

"And then you should scare yourself shitless just like Quinn." Nekolai said quietly.

I slapped myself on the forehead

"Idiot, we aren't even over enemy territory. That rumble was probably some artillery going off at the firebase."

Some of the color in Quinn's face returned, while Nicks and Nekolai just stared at me.

"Dude, just look at the screen up there. See the little arrow? That's us. See the big red line? That's the end of the green zone."

They continued staring at me as a few lines of static flew up and then back down the screen hanging above the crawlspace into the cockpit.

"Um, What"

Another rumble shook the dropship as another artillery barrage was fired off. I looked out the window to see a huge panorama of partially destroyed buildings and papers flying around.

"Is it true that this city is the size of a country?" I asked.

I looked back from the window to find the three of them still staring at me.

Quinn broke the triple stare to look out his window.

"Ya, I'm pretty sure it true, otherwise it wouldn't have taken this long to clear it out of the Mercs." He said to the window.

"Damn, it still pisses me off that we have to come in and clear out those guys. If the goddamn government had paid them we wouldn't be here." Nicks said.

"What is the government even doing messing with Mercs? They've got us." Nekolai asked.

"Ya, well Mercs don't cost tens of thousands of dollars to train and gear up." I said.

"ETA five minutes!" Crow called from the bubble cockpit.

We sat in silence for the next five minutes, waiting to see what the HQ would look like, not like we would be staying there for very long.

I swiveled my head back to the scratched, chipped, burned, and dulled to a yellow window.

The rest of the short ride was silent, except for the constant rattle of chains, clips, and metallic paint chips bouncing around.

There was a short scraping noise as the landing skids hit the tarmac. The walls of the dropship flipped down with a quiet buzzing noise and a few forklifts came by to unload our suits and gear. Crow started to have a fit at the sight of the forklifts.

"Don't you dare scratch that goddamn paint! It cost me six-hundred for that job!" He screeched.

"Dude, you're flying a transport, what the hell do you expect?" Nekolai asked.

Crow spun around with a crazy look in his eye.

"She's not just a transport! She's my baby! Don't you dare talk about her that way!" Crow yelled. Nekolai slowly backed away until the rest of us were between him and Crow.

"Sorry man! Oh, hey, is that guy gonna key the cockpit?" Nekolai asked quickly. Crow spun around and sprinted around the front of the dropship. Nekolai took the opportunity to run for the barracks. We also slowly started backing away while Crow was searching furiously for the fake vandal.

We decided to sneak away from Crow as he ran around the ship in desperation. We started to slowly walk across the spider-web cracked tarmac with faded yellow and white lines.

I spotted a corrugated steel sheet metal cylinder with a door on the front of it.

"That's our barracks, over there." I said to them with a point at the cylindrical building. We slowly approached the building. I reached out and pushed the door open. Inside, a half dozen beds were lined up on one wall, and our suits and other gear was lined up on the other wall.

Each suit was marked for your tactical experience. Mine was the standard gray with a small red rectangle over the right breastplate. This showed I was the squad's medical technician, which meant I was in charge of refilling morphine, antibiotics, clotting drugs, and artificial adrenaline canisters. Quinn had a bright yellow rectangle which meant he was the pyrotechnician, he handed out the ammunition and explosives. Nicks had a bright blue rectangle which meant he was the mechanic. Nekolai had a small black rectangle stuck onto his breastplate with long black vines painted around the front and back of the suit. This meant he was the combat expert. Out of all of us he carried the most weapons and had a modified lower abdomen guard that was an extra inch thick. He was the only one that was allowed to paint on his armor. Our handler had specifically told him to make it look as scary as possible.

"Dude, all you need is some flowers and you'll blend right into a flower garden." I said jokingly.

"I will end you and your thoughts." He said in a scary monotonous voice.

"Ya, save it for the Mercs, Nikki." I said.

There was a loud knocking at the door of the sheet metal building. I opened the door.

"Oh, hey Crow, did you catch the guy? I asked.

"No, but I'll find him. Just came to tell you to hit the sack. Were leaving first thing tomorrow."

"Ok, see ya"

I slammed the door and spun around.

"Okay, everybody, time to hit the sack!"

"Let me finish cleaning my suit." Nekolai said.

"Fine, but keep the light off everybody else."

I jumped down onto my cot, which groaned in protest as I nearly broke the thing in half.

"Night" I said, and then I closed my eyes.

Day 2

"Get the hell up, Thatcher!" Crow and Nicks yelled into my face, spraying spit on me in the process. I sprang off the cot and slammed face first into Nicks's breastplate.

"Mother of God, my nose!" I cried.

"Get your suit on, moron! You've missed the food, your gonna have to eat on the run, but right now we gotta go! " He yelled.

I had finally noticed that everyone was already suited up and waiting for me. Even Crow had his pilot suit on which was a less armored version of our combat suits. I sprinted over to my gear locker and jammed my finger on the bioscanner. The door sprung open, inside was my seven-foot tall suit. It had two- foot wide armored shoulder straps that supported the arm rigs and two-inch thick solid steel breast and abdominal plates. I stepped into the tall boot like leg rigs and clipped the power cords up into the lower receiver of the abdominal plate and grabbed my helmet, which looked like a flat plate of glass with a steel band running around the neck. I grabbed my power pack and plugged it into the main input in the lower of my back and sprinted back to the front of the structure.

"Hurry up, damnit!"Quinn called from inside the dropship.

When I got close enough he tossed me an ammo soft bag and my twenty millimeter chaingun. I flipped up the tray and slapped the belt in, slammed it closed and pulled back the charging handle with a solid "Chink". I leapt into my seat and flipped the cage down over myself.

"Where we off to,Crow?" I asked.

"Northeast section of the city. From there your gonna work your way to the southeast section. Simple running and gunning. If you can reach the southeast section then we can fly our airpower further down into the city." He said.

The doors snapped upwards and locked in place. The ship shook as the four engine pods warmed up. After a couple seconds he turned up the throttle and the ship shook off the tarmac with a long rattling sigh.

At about two-hundred feet, Crow hit a blue button on the dashboard and two inches of steel rolled up around the bubble canopy, leaving only a five inch cross of uncovered glass for viewing.

"What, two inches of glass not enough anymore?" Nekolai asked jokingly.

"Ya, when you got jets of liquid metal spraying out of rockets at your window, you get kind of scared." Crow yelled over the engine.

"Whatever" I said under my breath.

The dropship screamed over the crumbling buildings that had been destroyed in some of the first artillery barrages.

"ETA 3 minutes!" Crow screamed.

"Ready up!" I yelled.

After the short wait, the dropship pulled up to about three gees attempting to stop directly over the drop zone.

"Ok, Crow, drop it down to about twenty feet, we'll drop from there."

There was a small sighing noise as numerous small hydraulics opened up the belly hatch of the ship. The doors swung downward and I peeked over the edge.

A tracer streaked over my shoulder and hit the light above we with a shower of sparks and broken plastic.

A steady automatic cracking noise started up under the ship. I pulled my head back as thirty rounds streaked into the bay, chunks of metal spraying from the rounds hitting the steel above the hole.

"Shut the doors, shut the doors!" I yelled as the bullets continued to stream in.

"Crow, get me markers on all of those Mercs, I'll take it from there." Nekolai screamed over the racket.

The bottom hatch opened up a crack against the torrent of lead as Crow hit the release for the bay doors a second time. Nekolai leapt out of his seat and flung the hatch all the way open. Hundreds of rounds from various Mercs flew through the hatch and ricocheted around the cargo space, while a few bounced off of Nekolia's breastplate.

"Ok, targets are marked in red, your clear for the drop." Crow yelled as he flinched as one of the ricochets go a little too close to his hands.

Nekolai flipped his chaingun over his shoulder and jumped down the open hatch.

I flew out of the ship, fell the twenty feet, and landed like a rock in the sandy, dusty concrete. Bullets started pelting my back and legs. I flipped my chaingun back over my shoulder, slammed the butt into my shoulder and returned fire at a chipped concrete barrier that looked like it had a few Mercs behind it.

Their cover quickly disintegrated under the fifty caliber full auto fire, and in a few seconds a large red splash sprayed up against the wall about ten feet behind them. I spun around and searched for a target.

A sand colored three-story-tall building that was only half standing looked to be a prime hiding place. I started spraying rounds at all of the three floors hoping for a kill. Desks splintered, chairs blew apart, and a couple sprays of blood flew up into the air, along with a few screams. I spun once for just in time to see a heavy machine gun being rolled to a window on the fourth story of an apartment building. I dove behind the cover of two destroyed cars just as it opened up. The heavy slugs tore through the car and crushed up against my back plates. I flipped out the bipod and slid to the hood of the car. I propped the gun up over the top and started blind firing back at the floor that I thought the machine gun was at. A huge slug tore the barrel right off my chaingun and tore one of my knuckle plates off. I screamed in shock. Another Merc started creeping from window to window alongside my cover trying to flank me. I turned on my radio

" Hey, Crow , they got me pinned with a heavy plinker over in that three story building, can you take it out, over?

"Ya, sure, what's your estimated distance from target, over?"

"Hundred meters, I'm in cover though, over."

"Got it, cover your ears."

The dropship screamed over head and opened fire with its two forty millimeter rotary cannons. The building exploded into a cloud of flying debris and shrapnel. A large chunk of concrete landed on the trunk of the car, crushing it into a flat plate of metal. I leaped up and over the roof of the car and sprinted for one of the Mercs I had killed earlier. I slid on my side to his assault rifle, picked it up, and snap fired at the Merc that had tried to flank me. I turned my radio up again.

"Okay, all clear, drop the rest in."

The dropship quickly flew back to hover in the only clear area in the street. Each of the team quickly jumped out off and ran over to me.

"Nice job, Nekolai. We only had to destroy one building." Thatcher said.

" Ya, Whatever." I replied.

Quinn tossed me a new chaingun.

"Saw you lose yours" He said.

Thatcher hopped up on a semi intact car.

"Okay everybody, this is going to be a very long walk. We have got about two- hundred miles to cover and we've got no plans set up yet. Let's find an intact building and set up camp".

A few hours later we had settled with a simple two story store a couple miles a way from the drop point.

Thatcher pulled up a table and laid the map out.

"Okay, here's the problem, we have to walk diagonally across half of the city. It would be a two hundred mile walk if we had a straight way to do it. But, we have to follow the streets, which are all in a grid. If there were more of us, we could take the highway, but there isn't enough cover and it would be too noticeable. We have gunships support, but only if we clear the area behind us well enough to mark air roads, which are clear of all double A. If we encounter any armor we mark it for the gunships. If we spot any kind of command post, take out the grunts but capture the officers and request a pickup. If we don't have air safety there, we split up. Majority of us stay put and one or two go back to the nearest possible LZ. Remember, they outnumber us a couple hundred thousand to one, if you can do it quite, do it quite. That's it, you all can now sit back, relax and take a nice long nap."

All of us went up to the second floor while Thatcher kept looking at the map and talked to himself. We gathered up all of the mattresses we could find around and laid down on them.