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MacDonald Reid

The day began with sun and artillery. Goryeven had never seen, heard or experienced anything like it ever before. Shells rained down as though an unworldly thunderstorm was pouring explosives upon his head. Every kilometer along the long line extending to the southeast erupted in clouds of dust and dirt. Every square meter was pockmarked with shrapnel. Every cubic centimeter of ground was lifted, turned upside down and hurled angrily upon his troops.

Then, there was a lull. He expected to see the enemy surge forward towards him. Instead, the birds of war gathered and the bombardment only heightened in its intensity. Small planes darted in, releasing canisters that erupted in fire and concussion. Larger planes flew the length of the lines, spitting out hundreds of canisters, creating canyons of destruction. Slower moving, awesome creatures blasted with cannons of such firepower that tanks were destroyed as easily as a child could crush a plastic toy.

Missiles arose from his lines to meet them. A deadly game of tag ensued between the onrushing war birds and the small arrows flung up at them. Many birds fell in a fiery death, but most raced on, delivering their awful ordnance onto his countrymen.

They departed. He raised his eyes to the horizon and the threatening berms. But, once again, the enemy rained steel and explosives upon them. The cloudburst from hell seemed to reach a crescendo and then doubled and trebled in its intensity. Great dark shapes raced overhead far too high for the tiny missiles to reach them. Smaller aircraft darted in. Many of the tormentors paid the awful price. Russian fighters arrived, and the sky overhead became a chaos of twisting, turning, climbing, diving and dying. The aerial and ground bombardment continued, until he began to wonder how a human could keep his mind in this bedlam.

The winged bombardment subsided, and the familiar crack of high-velocity cannons roared across the short distance between the lines. He peered out of his cupola as gigantic main battle tanks crested the berm in the distance and rolled down the near side towards him. Dozens and then hundreds followed it. Armored personnel carriers and armored fighting vehicles raced after them.

The command "Open fire!" crackled in his headset. Artillery boomed and shook the ground around him. His BTR rocked violently. Explosions large and small ripped the enemy formations. Tanks exploded, APCs vaporized and AFVs became shards of twisted metal careening through the air, ripping apart anything they touched. A tank to his left fired, then the one to his right. Missiles roared out from the lines, blanketing the foreground in white smoke that lingered in the still, cool morning air.

Tanks in large numbers moved up from the rear to face their enemies in one-on-one confrontations, confident that the walls of sand would afford them protection. Cannons cracked, and even more of the enemy armor died in the no-man's land.

Just as it seemed that the stratagem might work, a pestilence arose from behind the enemy barricades. Hundreds of helicopters swarmed forward under an aerial blanket of fighters. Russian choppers and fighters arose to counter this new threat.

Like locusts in a wheat field, the Allied swarm swept away the pitiful few that were thrown against them. Missiles arose from his lines to fend them off, but for each one that reached out towards their enemy ten were returned. With uncanny accuracy, enemy missiles sought out the battle tanks. Fifty-five tonne champions of the battlefield became broken masses of twisted metal in seconds.

Metal monsters raced up the berms before him at tremendous speeds, flying into the air to land with earth-shaking reverberations tens of meters behind the lines of his infantry. Riflemen turned to combat the invulnerable behemoths to no avail. Enemy dragoons battled their way to the crests of his defenses to fire down into the trenches, catching the Russian infantry between themselves and the tanks ravaging them from the rear.

"Ninth Cavalry, Attack!"

He knew it was a worthless gesture. His BDMs and BTRs were no match for main battle tanks, but he couldn't sit idly by and watch the slaughter. His division's 73-mm cannons opened fire at short range. His BTRs loosed their missiles, and his dragoons opened up with everything they had. A breach in the onrushing wall appeared.

"Retreat towards Ninth Cavalry," he ordered over the army command net. Men poured to the rear. Vehicles raced away.

"Fighting withdrawal," he shouted. "Ninth Cavalry, drop back one-hundred, hold and fire." Ninth Cavalry retreated with the speed of a whippet.

"Turn and fire!"

A BDM spun around, its treads spraying dirt in a great semi-circle. Its machine gun blazed away, as its cannon searched for a target. The gun stopped, stabilized and fired. The BDM's treads dug furiously against the yielding sands and slowly accelerated, but not quickly enough. A German Tiger fired only once, and the BDM erupted into a small volcano. A BTR fired a short-range anti-tank missile into the Tiger's side, which suddenly became a larger version of the BDM it had so recently destroyed. Machine gun bullets raked the BTR, but its eight wheels dug into the sand, speeding it to safety.

"Turn and Fire!" he yelled again.

One of his BTR-6s raced down a small slope. Its four dragoons dismounted, then ran back carrying two anti-tank rockets. A monster reared its head above them, exposing its soft underbelly. Their rocket reached out, and the tank cooked off. A German fighting vehicle raced by, firing with its 30-mm machine gun. Three of the four dragoons were pulverized. The fourth sprinted back to the BTR, which raced away firing its machine gun, as it ducked behind another small dune.

The morning became an uncontrolled and uncontrollable hysteria. Turn, fire, run. Turn, fire, run. Each time fewer ran and fewer fired. Then, for no apparent reason, the enemy was no longer at their heels. They ran and turned, but there were no targets. Helicopters and Warthogs raged in the skies, but their numbers were fewer, and missiles seemed to keep them at bay.

A steep hill arose before him. To the east and north, the hill became a ridge. Men and machines struggled toward it, clambered up its shallow slope and dug in like badgers. Artillery roared in their defense, and tanks dropped behind the military crest with their snouts barely visible. Wearily, Ninth Cavalry dove behind the line of troops. Then, it too turned, preparing to defend the higher ground against the awesome wave of allied power.  

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