AN: So, new profile, new story. This came as I was finishing another run through Red Alert 3 a few days ago, and I had to get it out of my head and on paper as it's been too long since I wrote to entertain and I knew it'd bug me to all shit if I didn't. First things first: some of you familiar with the Red Alert series may be a little jarred at the lack of the campy and joyously silly tone that so characterises the franchise. Unfortunately, I am not a naturally funny individual. I am capable of busting guts, but usually, this requires I imbibe a significant amount of liquid confidence as a prelude to any delivery of such comic wit. To that end, I hope you'll bear with me as I take a little more serious a viewpoint on a franchise that sees helicopters shrink entire war machines to the size of a small rodent for friendly vehicles to crush like a soda can. I hope you also bear with me as I make the odd 'adjustment' to the sequences we see in the FMV cutscenes as there really isn't a way to make them work in a literary format with a faceless, voiceless, genderless void that is the Player Entity.
Next is perspective. I'm not familiar with most of what goes on when it comes to this site, so maybe it turns out that I'm doing nothing particularly innovative here, but I figure I should explain as a courtesy to you: the reader. We're going mixed-perspective on this little shindig, primarily through the eyes of the Great Commandy One, as is only natural, but we'll delve into others along the way, particularly when it comes to the actual operations as writing constantly from an overhead RTS perspective on battle progress and how many tanks are churned out inside a minute and where they go and what they blow up is boring and not particularly nice to read.
Lastly is pairings and the rating. Not going to lie, Tanya and Eva are two big reasons I keep coming back to Red Alert 3. So I think I'll try my hand at shades of Tanya/Commander/Eva. With a special ending for each set. Depending on my mood when I get to that stage there may be naughty parts, which I might either make a separate story or tack on at the end of this one, I'm not certain yet and I may even leave it up to readers but hey, something to look forward to(?).
With that little essay finished: On with the story. Despite all my verbal diarrhoea, I do very much hope that you enjoy and stay tuned for the rest of the journey.
This will contain scenes of violence, naughty language and some adult references. Reader discretion is advised and encouraged.
Red Alert: Allied Assault
Chapter One: A Fresh Face
I hear a din like no other. A flash bright as an exploding star blinds me. I awake and find myself on my knees. My every joint aches. My every action sends a thousand sparkling needles of blistering pain through my muscles. It hurts to even breathe. My command centre is in ruins all around me. My staff are dead or horrifically maimed. The foe advances. Like carrion, they draw closer, approaching the burning carcass that was once a staunch and well-defended Allied base. I see them now. Thick, red greatcoats; ugly, hulking suits of powered armour; lumbering, slavering war bears. And more besides…
They want me alive. They want what's inside my head. Can't let them take it. My hand falls to the holster around my hip. The service sidearm is still there. Old Reliable. If I'm quick, maybe I'll take a few of these slack-jawed Commies screaming into Hell with me. I'm not, though. And it wouldn't matter either way with the numbers they have.
No, my little friend has a very different target in mind.
A cry of alarm in Russian. I hear a dozen weapons primed; see them trained on me. I wonder if there'd be anything left of me to bury if they all decide to shoot. It'd probably be a mercy to my family if there wasn't.
I can hear a voice in the back of my mind. I feel I should recognise it. Everything hurts too damn much, though. Vision is starting to swim, and I recognise the early signs of an incoming blackout. Have to be fast.
I swing the little .45 ACP handgun in a broad arc. The conscripts—kids, some barely out of their teens, others scarcely older than I am—flinch. Boo. One of them discharges his weapon. The round flies off into the open sky. I'd laugh if I had the strength. All I have left in me, though, is this one last act.
When this is all over, I wonder which of those will be ascribed to me by the victor. I hope my family will forgive me at the end. And that they'll still be alive to do so.
The old man stared grim-faced at the screen. The video feed showed in gruesomely-high quality the final action of the very last Allied soldier in France as the Soviet war machine finally ground over the garrison. He didn't flinch as the gun went off and the young man's body jerked, fell, and lay twitching for a few, disgusting moments before finally settling, still and unmoving. He felt the weight of the young commander's death as keenly as he felt the deaths of all those who had served under his leadership. The burden was, at times, more than he felt he could bear.
The speaker was unmistakably British, like himself, and taut with fatigue. A second display on the old man's monitor appeared, and a young woman filled the screen. It was not inaccurate by any stretch of the imagination to say that she was breathtakingly beautiful, with striking features, wide and innocent cerulean blue eyes, and silken blonde hair that fell below her shoulders in flagrant disregard for regulations. Times, however, were increasingly extraordinary, and Field Marshal Robert Bingham couldn't drudge up any desire to reprimand the young and exceptionally capable Lieutenant for the fashion statement.
If doing so kept her morale up, Bingham thought, then by all means, let others bark and bleat about her. Once they had racked up a service record like hers he might then pay attention. And then, he would promptly disregard their complaints.
"Yes, Eva?" Bingham asked, hoping he didn't sound as tired as he felt.
"I just wanted to let you know, sir, that the council was safely evacuated. They should be arriving in London within the hour."
"Good," Bingham said with a slow nod. "That's… good. Thank you, Lieutenant."
"I've also drawn up the candidates you requested," Lieutenant Eva added, "I've forwarded their files to you, along with some notes that I think you should find informative. Just…" she paused, biting at her lower lip in a manner that reminded Bingham of his own daughter when she was still a young child. He suppressed a nostalgic chuckle and gestured with an arm for Eva to speak her mind. She had more than earned the right, to the old Field Marshal's mind.
"One of the names, sir," she said, "it's, ah…" she shook her head. "Never mind, sir. I spoke out of turn."
"Please, Lieutenant," Bingham soothed, "I value the sterling work you put in for us—for all of us—here at Allied Command too much for you to stifle your voice. This isn't Moscow, or any of the Soviet Union's satellite states," he said with a wry grin.
Not yet, at any rate.
Pushing the grim little voice in the back of his mind aside, he focused his attentions back on Lieutenant McKenna as she fidgeted in place for a moment. For someone so unquestionably adept at their chosen profession, Bingham mused, she could play the part of the abashed schoolgirl rather well.
"Are you sure about him? I mean—he's certainly qualified, but with what's happened…" she trailed off, biting her lip once again.
Bingham sighed, "I know, Lieutenant. I do. Unfortunately, though, the reality is that we are losing the war in Europe, and these individuals; these future Commanders, may be the Ace up our sleeve that helps us put an end to this thing for good. Hopefully an end that sees us not either dead or under the bootheel of a Communist Dictatorship," he added in a joking manner. Eva smiled, but Bingham knew well that it was a gesture for his benefit rather than down to any good humour she actually felt.
"It may well be that he isn't picked," Bingham said, finally. "In which case, there'll be nothing to worry about."
"Not for him, anyway," Eva murmured.
"We've all lost someone, dear," Bingham said with a heavy heart. "This is just another fresh tragedy to add to the growing list. One I hope very much to make Premier Cherdenko and his infernal cabinet answer for in good time."
"You and me both, sir," she said, sounding a little more chipper at the prospect of visiting justice on the head of the invading Soviet Union.
"There's a good girl," Bingham said, giving her a fond look, "Now don't be up too late again. Lord knows I appreciate your work more than anyone in Allied Command but it would hardly do for you to run yourself into the ground by overworking. Even in these troubled times, one needs their rest."
"Will do, sir," she affirmed, and with a crisp salute, she terminated the link, and Bingham was left alone in his office.
For a moment, he was content to sit back in his chair and ponder—or brood—over the latest in a long, long line of setbacks. Experience and a good head for tactics had seen him unanimously placed in command of the Allied military forces, but with so much going wrong so often, there were whisperings and murmurs that his replacement was not only inevitable, but in the making. Bingham knew differently. Discontent with their state of affairs the Council might be, but he was still the best choice and everyone, even his critics (and they were mounting by the day), knew it.
He sighed and opened up the files that Eva had sent him, reviewing the first candidate and dismissing it within the first ten seconds of reading it. Too many 'safe' successes. No risks taken, sometimes to the detriment of his allied officers. Too brittle. Next. This one too, he put in the 'No' pile. A promising upbringing and her scores from the Academy were nothing less than outstanding, but, inverse to the previous candidate, this one was too prone to taking risks, often with less payoff than the cost was reckoned to be worth.
Bingham frowned as he flitted through a dozen more of these files, checking backgrounds and reading the addendums that Lieutenant McKenna had added for his benefit; agreeing, more often than not, with each one. Finally, he came to the last, and his heart sank with the sun as it dipped beneath the distant horizon.
He hated this war and what it had done.
And what it was about to make him do.
The man wore the blue dress shirt and jacket of an Allied Officer. His peaked cap sat firmly atop his head, and beneath the dark brim, a pair of dull, green eyes stared out, looking at nothing in particular as he made his way to the Field Marshal's office on autopilot. His pathway and his unfamiliarity drew eyes, and twice he was stopped by armed security officers and asked to provide identification. Both times he did so, and uttered not a word throughout both events, responding with either a curt nod or indifferent shrug of the shoulders.
Finally, he made it to his destination, despite the odd heckle from the Allied staff. On a normal day, he'd have found it quietly amusing at the way some of them looked at him as if he were no less a threat than the Red Menace waiting with slavering jaws across the English Channel. Politics, he knew, were sometimes no less deadly than sitting on the frontline, even in a war such as this. The Captain—for his rank pins denoted him as such—did not indulge in this particular thought for long as he finally made it to his destination. He had other things running through his mind and they weighed heavy upon his ever so slightly slumped shoulders.
Captain Elias Stern was miserable. And he had not allowed even an iota of it to show in this nest of parasites and bootlickers and backstabbers. He'd never give any of them the satisfaction. Finally, he drew up to the Field Marshal's office door and gave it a polite but firm three raps on the wooden portal. He then stood back and stood at ease.
"Enter," came the response after a brief pause. Elias opened the door and stepped on through.
His first thought was that the Field Marshall was taller than he remembered; an inch or so taller than himself, in fact. The second, was that despite his advanced age, the man appeared no less sharp than a man who had lived half of his years.
The third thought was that Field Marshal Bingham's office was huge. It was also rather lavishly decorated, which Elias supposed at that sort of rank, was earned. An old over-under hunting shotgun hung on the wall just behind where the Marshall would have been seated had he not been standing up to watch a newscast reel on the dismal tide that the war in Europe was turning on a television monitor on the offside wall. A dark-skinned Allied officer stepped past, giving Elias a respectful nod, which he returned, as he closed a plastic file holder and exited the room, leaving him and the head of Allied military operations alone together.
The Captain watched as Bingham sighed, before picking up the remote to the television and switching it off, setting the remote back down in its place. He took a few steps around the back of his desk, resting a hand on the back of his chair before finally turning to face him. Elias snapped off a crisp salute, to which Bingham waved away.
"Captain," he greeted, "I'm Field Marshal Robert Bingham, Chief of the Allied Military Command." Elias said nothing, silently unsure as to why the man was telling him information he was already aware of, but knew well enough to keep his mouth shut while a superior officer was rattling off. "I've been informed that you're a very capable officer; well, let's hope this assessment holds true, as all of our senior commanders are now fighting in Europe, leaving the defence of Great Britain entirely in your hands."
Bingham paused, presumably to let all of that settle in.
"I beg your pardon, sir?" Elias asked, his voice still hoarse and raw, and now entirely disbelieving.
"I'm afraid you didn't mishear, Commander. Our retreat from France has left most of our military assets in Northern Europe, of all those currently active officers here in Britain, I believe you to be the most suited to leading our defence efforts."
And just like that, the world had tilted on its axis for Captain—or Commander—Elias Stern. For one keening moment, the youthful British officer thought the ground might give way beneath his feet and he'd be swallowed up whole. Such an outcome would almost have been appreciated as opposed to… whatever this was.
Bingham, to his credit, clearly saw what was going through the young officer's head and he stepped around his desk to place a comforting hand on Elias' shoulder, "Easy now, lad. Breathe. In through the nose; out through the mouth. With me, now. In," he inhaled through the nose, "and out," he exhaled.
Elias did as the wise old officer suggested and found that he had to do it a few more times before he felt sufficiently confident enough to speak again.
"I know that this is an awful responsibility to shoulder, especially so soon after what happened in France," Bingham told him softly, a heavy, leaden expression on his solemn, wizened features, "I can only imagine what I'd be going through if it had been my own… ah, well…" he trailed off. "Unfortunately, my boy, men and women like us are ill-afforded even the luxury of time to grieve for our loved ones. The Soviets are coming, and if we allow them to march in unopposed, I can tell you now that you will not be the only one who feels pain as you now do, whether it is their father; mother; son; daughter… or sibling."
"I…" Elias murmured, dazed.
A squeeze. Bingham was smiling at him, though there was no humour in it, merely weariness. "And I cannot ever imagine what that must have been like for you. But right now, Elias, Allied Command needs you. Your homeland needs you. You wanted to serve; to do right by your country; to be better," Elias' eyes widened and his gaze shot up to stare in shock at the Field Marshal, who nodded patiently, "Yes, I read your file. It's a brave, and perhaps not entirely clever thing to admit to a recruiter that you aren't the model recruit. Your last comment, though: 'I want to be better'" Bingham quoted, and this time, the smile was genuine. "If we had a regiment of soldiers led by men and women with that kind of mentality, well I daresay this war would be going a lot differently."
He paused and removed his hand from Elias' shoulder, who had started to shake. A tear formed in the corner of his left eye.
"I know, lad," Bingham said again, "it's not fair. But it is what it is, and time marches and grows short for us all. So, I need to hear your answer, and I need to hear it now: Are you with us, Commander?"
For one moment, Elias wasn't sure what he was going to say. So much of him wanted to turn away from the Field Marshal, march out of that office and never look back.
As always, it was his brother who brought him back. At a much later date, he would admit in private that his brother would be pushing him forward from beyond the grave for the remainder of his days. It would be another of the many reasons his loss was so keenly felt.
"Standing ready and awaiting your orders, sir," Elias said with a shaky voice, clearing his throat as he finished and standing to attention.
Bingham seemed to lose a whole five years when he offered a bright, beaming smile, "Good to have you onboard, Commander Stern. I know you'll make us proud," he said, clasping Elias' hand and giving it a firm pump before releasing him and stepping back, "Now, to business," he picked up the remote and switched on the monitor on his desk, swivelling it around to face Elias as a figure appeared.
"I'd like you to meet Lieutenant Eva," he said. The woman was startlingly pretty, and Elias would be lying through his teeth if he said the sight of her didn't steal his breath away. Swiftly, he recovered and swallowed to try and clear his throat.
"Lieutenant," he greeted with a respectful nod, "I'm—"
"Commander Stern, I know," she said with a bright smile that seemed… almost a little too bright for a moment, but… no, it had to have been his imagination.
"Lieutenant Eva will be your intel officer and communications liaison, she will provide you with all the intelligence you need in the field in order to respond to developing situations appropriately," Bingham explained. Eva offered another preppy smile, this one a little more genuine.
"Glad to have you onboard, sir," she chirped, before turning to Bingham, "Field Marshal, the President is ready for you," Eva added before returning her gaze to Elias, who couldn't help but get the feeling that the young woman was sizing him up, though for what, exactly, he couldn't guess. He had no time to ponder on it, however, as in moments, another display opened up on the same monitor and soon Elias found himself face-to-virtual-face with a figure no one but the most politically-illiterate would fail to recognise:
The President of the United States of America, Howard T. Ackerman.
As notorious as he was beloved for his brash and straightforward attitude towards politics and… well, apparently everything. Ackerman had won a landslide victory in the recent US elections with his staunch anti-Communist approach. Elias didn't agree with everything the man had said, but in these dark times, he doubted that anyone could find a firmer ally against the Soviet threat on the planet. The thought that the Americans were finally throwing their whole lot in with the Allies was a sharp relief, and he instantly felt some of the weight pressing down on him lift a fraction.
"Mr President," Bingham greeted, adjusting his black tie, "I'd like you to meet our new Commander on the ground, Elias Stern."
President Ackerman was taking a healthy sip from a sizeable coffee mug and finished just as Bingham made the introductions. The American leader turned his gaze from Bingham to Elias, who suddenly felt the size of a gnat before the gaze of the man who led the most powerful nation in the world. He expected the scrutiny to last longer. Instead, Ackerman inclined his head and spoke.
"Greetings, Commander. You ready to send those Commies running back to their mommies?"
Elias blinked, unsure if the man was serious or making a joke, and eventually decided the best course of action would be just to nod firmly.
"I sure hope so," the President continued, "because if you don't stop 'em over there, the only thing standing between those Godless Reds and the U.S. of A is going to be one little ocean."
Fortunately, Elias didn't have to trust himself to formulate a response, as Bingham intervened, "I absolutely agree, Mr President," he said, in a way that suggested he too was more than happy to see the Americans join them in the fight, "We cannot let them establish a foothold in Great Britain. The fate of the free world depends upon it."
And just like that, Elias Stern's induction as an Allied Battle Commander was over. No sooner was communication with the American President cut than Elias was put onto a Century Bomber/Transporter and flown down to Brighton to take charge of a fresh Task Force formed from the amalgamated remnants of several battle companies that had been decimated in France. Task Force Four-Two was now his to lead into victory.
Private James Clarke had visited Brighton only once before in his time with the Allied Military and hadn't thought much of the place then when the world had been at peace. To see it looking so… ravaged and war-torn, well, it was hardly much of an improvement. The Soviet paratroopers had done a real number on the place, and the remnants of the garrison were hanging on by the slimmest of threads by the time the newly-minted Task Force Four-Two rolled into town.
"Ready for payback, guys?" Clarke heard one of his squadmates, a dark-skinned, shotgun-toting Peacekeeper who hailed from Chicago that everyone knew as 'Oats' on account of his absurdly well-muscled profile, boomed as the Riptide ACV hovercraft threw itself into another turn. Oats, along with most of the others in Task Force Four-Two had seen rough fighting in France and was one of only a handful of Peacekeepers who had escaped the ill-fated siege of Verdun. A chorus of affirmatives from the rest of the squad answered him and his helmeted visage nodded in satisfaction.
"We'll send 'em 'ome packin'!" the squad's other Peacekeeper—a tall, blonde woman from the south of London by the name of Effie Hawkins—crowed as she cradled her own shotgun, "Ain't none've 'um gonna get one bleedin' foot past 'is 'ere foot'old."
"Whatever it was she said," an Italian rifleman by the name of Arturo said demurely, checking over his weapon one last time before they got the green light to disembark.
The only other individual in the squad was a sour-faced Frenchman they knew only as Claude who sniffed but made no other response. Oats shrugged in his direction and racked the slide on his weapon, "Sour-puss," he muttered.
"Froggie ain't right in the 'ead an' no mistake," Effie nodded in agreement. 'Froggie' shot her a sour look which the Brit ignored in typical fashion as she started to fidget with her own weapon and check that her riot shield was in place.
"Heard anything about the new boss?" Clarke asked no one in particular as the revving engine started to slow down. He could already her the muted pop-pop-pop of Russian AK's, which likely meant they were reaching their deployment area soon.
"Just that he was picked by his lordship the Fieldmarshal himself," Oats responded with a half-grin, "We'll see how that works out."
"Supposedly he's one of yours," Arturo chimed to Effie, who cocked her head in curiosity before shaking her head.
"'less 'e came from the subs'o Croyden, ain't nuffin' we'd 'ave in common," she sniffed, dismissive. Arturo rolled his eyes and gave Clarke a look of amusement, which he returned. He was about to remark on that little tidbit of info but all of a sudden the Riptide came to a lurching halt and a green light shone just above the portal to the exit ramp.
"'Ere we go! 'Ere we go! 'Ere we go!" Effie bellowed in a sing-song manner as the ramp threw itself open, and with a rap of Clarke's own weapon, Fireteam Echo-Three, Alpha Company, sallied forth into the besieged city.
Elias watched the defence of the shoreline unfold from the unpacked Mobile Command Vehicle in the midst of the city, the integrated nano-assemblers allowing for exceptionally-rapid if not quite instantaneous transformation from an extremely well-armoured, if unarmed wagon into a fully-functioning command and control centre from which to relay orders and intelligence data. To complement all this, it came with an expansive fleet of small, hard to detect electronic drones which would fly overhead and transmit all visual data straight to the gigantic command console which Elias found himself stood before.
"Sir, Fireteam Charlie-Eight reports dug-in Russian elements in the east corner of the city. They have no way of flushing them out," one of his staff—his staff, God, he wondered if he'd ever get used to that—reported sharply. A quick sweep of nearby assets confirmed that there were two other squads, Echo-Three and Gamma-One close to hand who could assist.
"Send these two fireteams to assist," he ordered, indicating with the remarkably-intuitive interactive Command tool, "They can hit them from the rear of that hotel building and flush the rats out. Meanwhile," he said, focusing on a residential area, "those war-bears that Zulu-Nine spotted in this area are going to give us all a headache if they're not dealt with and I don't want there to be any nasty surprises when the Soviets finally launch their assault. Get at least three other teams and their Riptides on the hunt and run them down. We want Brighton to be a Soviet-free zone before the Reds wise up and decide to coordinate."
The officer nodded and set about relaying the commands. Elias shook his head and released the breath he wasn't aware that he'd been holding.
"All right, chum?" came a voice through the Allied shared comms-network. The face of one Giles Price filled a display monitor. Elias felt the corner of his lip tug in a vague approximation of a grin. Even having been formerly Army Air Corps, Elias Stern knew well of Giles Price, the once legendary RAF ace who had distinguished himself several times over first as a fighter pilot and then as a commanding officer. Allegedly, only the famed Soviet officer Zhana Agonskaya could match him in terms of skill, though the world would likely never find out which was the finer flyer as both had long since turned in their wings.
"These damned dug-in Reds," Elias groused, "Can't ever accuse them of being smart but they fight bloody hard all the same."
"Quite," Giles agreed, "I'm afraid my bunch are having similar issues on the other end of town. We're wearing them down, though so, hopefully, we'll be able to link up and coordinate properly in time to show the Red Navy how we treat uninvited guests, hm?"
"I'd like that," Elias nodded, "Keep up the good fight."
"Same to you, friend," Giles returned with a nod, "I'll let you know as soon as my mob have secured a route through to you and yours. Until then, cheerio."
And with that, the link was severed. Elias mused on the brief chat with his fellow commander, and on their current happenstances. He felt less than amused—but ultimately thankful—to discover that the defence of Britain's shores was not a responsibility thrust solely upon his shoulders. From his limited encounters so far, it was already apparent that there was more to the man than the less than flattering rumours about Giles Price would suggest. There was a form of cockiness in him, yes, but it was born of confidence in not only his own abilities as a commander, but also in those that he led.
In the end, though, whether it was confidence or arrogance mattered little. Whatever his thoughts on the man—good or bad—might be, the man appeared to have his back and, by all accounts, was making good speed in his own quarter of Brighton. Ideally, that would mean they'd be able to coordinate within the hour and focus on setting up for the inevitable waves of Red Naval vessels and landing craft. While Elias didn't believe that Britain was quite so crucial to the functioning of the Allied military as Bingham appeared to make out, it woulfdn't do much for morale anywhere to know that Fortress Britain had fallen.
"Sir!" another of his staff called to him, drawing his attention away from his musing and back into reality. He shook his head. Bingham had given him a responsibility—a chance to make a difference. With all that was going on, he—
Elias paused, reviewing the information passed on to him, before cocking an eyebrow up at the officer who had handed it to him.
"…say that again, guv?"
"There is a battery of coastal artillery dotted along the coastline in concealed positions. It was built in event of just such a situation as the one we're facing now," Commander Stern briefed the squad as they huddled down in the shot-up interior of the hotel they had just helped clear out. It had been quick and nasty and entirely in their favour. The luckless Reds hadn't even had time to set up to retaliate before they were all dead. Oats had piled up the corpses for easy disposal in the lobby.
"Yeah, I get that, boss," Effie replied, "but wot's it got t'do wiv' us?"
"We're sending a cadre of combat engineers in your direction as you're closest to the western set of batteries. All you need to do is escort them there and keep them defended as they get to work and they'll do the heavy lifting."
"Ah, gotcher. We'll give it a good go, boss man, sure as sure."
"…glad to hear that, I look forward to hearing of your success. Oakheart-One-Actual out."
"Y'know, this new boss of ours actually does seem like a nice bloke," Effie murmured as the link was terminated, "He don't half go on, though, don't he?"
"Hell, he's given us a place to get to and the opportunity to help give the Commie fleet one hell of a pasting," Oats said with a wide grin beneath his heavy Peacekeeper helmet. "I say we get a move on."
"Hell yeah," Clarke chimed, keeping an eye out of a cracked window, rifle shouldered in the event that Ivan got any clever ideas on their new pock-marked crib. The fighting sounded like it was starting to wind down but, down at ground level without all the fancy gizmos like those in the MCV that their vaunted new Commander had access to, it was difficult to tell for certain.
"Well, let's get a move on, then," Claude grumbled, reloading his rifle, "bring the guns online; take the Soviets offline."
There were a few stares, which he returned with his usual scowl.
"What?" he asked, defensive.
"That was a joke of some kind," Oats murmured.
"Sure as sure," Effie nodded in assent.
"Strange times abound," Arturo added.
"Definitely weird," Clarke finished.
Claude's only response was to intensify his already impressive scowl.
"All jokes aside, the man ain't wrong," Oats said, feeding a shell into his shotgun whilst leaning against his hulking riot shield, "We really should be getting a move on if we're going to secure those guns. Can only imagine the kind of damage they'll do when they're online."
"Give 'em a bleedin' drubbin', I'll bet," Effie said with a cackle, clearly liking the idea.
"Sweet," Clarke paused, and then added, "So, we have a rally point, I guess?"
"Getting it…" Oats affirmed, "nnnow. Half a klick west of here. Then we make for the beach."
"Sound," Effie grinned, racking the slide on her weapon, "Let's go do a bit'o wreckin', eh?"
Lieutenant Eva McKenna watched her new boss work through the largest of the various monitors lining the wall of her office. He appeared to be getting to grips with his new role fairly well, which was… good. The Soviet presence in the city had dipped to an estimated 20%, and even now, Commander Stern was coordinating with Commander Price to mop up the last remnants of the Soviet paratrooper regiment that had landed in advance of the invasion fleet. They had even managed to get a good chunk of the coastal artillery up and running, and only a handful more were left before the unmanned defences were one-hundred percent operational. By all accounts, then, things were going exceedingly well.
So what, then, was this niggling doubt in the back of her mind as she watched the young Commander work?
She dismissed the question as soon as it arose. Eva knew exactly what her trepidation towards Elias Stern stemmed from. Scarcely a day beforehand, Elias Stern had been a Captain with a spotless but otherwise quiet and unassuming service record: some minor action against Communist activists before full blown war had broken out in Eastern Europe was the only highlight of his commissioned service. He graduated with comfortable marks from Allied Officer Training Academy Sandhurst in the upper-middle of his peers. Records from his instructors noted that the man possessed an almost preternatural talent for sniffing out ambushes, coupled with the occasional flash of tactical brilliance that saw him shoot to Captain when his previous Company Commander was killed in Belarus.
From there, he had more or less faded into the background, being posted to help secure various supply bases, which to his credit, he had done with marked efficiency. Then the Russian assault had driven them all back and he had taken shrapnel in the upper shoulder, which led to him being medevacked back home.
It wasn't his limited service record, however, that she had an issue with. No, her worries regarding Commander Stern were seated in another field. Specifically, a name. One whose end had signalled the death knell for the Allied Forces in France and precluded this attempted landing by the Soviets.
The man had risen through the ranks at a meteoric rate, graduating as a Second Lieutenant and blasting through to full Colonel within the span of a handful of years, making him one of the youngest senior officers in the Allied military. He was everything an officer could aspire to be: handsome, sharp, insightful, clever, and as well-liked by his staff as he was by the common soldiery. His dogged and layered rearguard actions during the retreat through Europe had saved the lives of thousands of Allied soldiers.
So, when the Soviets overran his position in France, and he took a gun to his head rather than risk the Soviets prying any information from his brain through their insidious torture methods, it came as a staggering shock to the rest of Allied High Command.
After all, if Elliot 'Ironman' Stern could bite the bullet…
Any shock they may have felt, however, surely paled in comparison to what roiling emotion was likely even now coursing throughout his brother.
His twin brother.
She continued to watch Elias with a critical eye. He seemed like a good man, and a distinctly unprofessional little thought in the back of her mind told the young officer that she certainly found him pleasant to look at. More than, even. Hell, even if one was going by his current performance, Bingham may even have been correct to single him out for command duties.
All the same, another, darker voice wondered at how long it might be, or what sequence of events might unfold that caused the dam that Elias Stern had built to suppress the grief and rage that surely bubbled within to burst.
And damn the Allies with it…