The Crash Site.
Staff Sergeant Otto Gruber awoke, his head throbbing. The Galbadian pilot groaned, and looked through the shattered glass at the sky above. Then the dull pain made itself known to him from his back and his leg. He looked around, and saw his co-pilot beside him, chalk white with blood on his face from a head wound. He remembered what had happened.
The missile had struck the rear of the helicopter, where the cargo bay's rear gently sloped up to the tail. The damage from the blast had thrown the helicopter out of control, and Gruber and his co-pilot, Sergeant Jurgen Meyer, had fought to keep it airborne. He couldn't recall what had happened to the crew chiefs manning the two miniguns, but the tail had snapped off. After that, the helicopter became not an aircraft, but a falling mass of metal. Unknown to Gruber, only he had survived when his helicopter had slammed into the street, the rotors shattering upon impact with the ground. The impact had stunned him, and his helicopter then flipped over and slammed onto the roof of a small house. It caved in, and his cockpit wound up resting on the rubble, the nose pointing to the sky. Along the way, it had sprayed burning fuel along the way, and the panicked civilians were already fleeing the area when the shooting had begun
He tried to move his hand towards the radio, and screamed as a sharp pain told him his arm was broken. He wasn't sure if he heard more distant explosions or if his ears were popping, but he knew that he was probably going to be meeting hostiles before too long. He raised his other arm gingerly to try and grab the submachine gun strapped into the roof above him. And he found it had flown loose in the crash. It in fact lay back in the street, a full thirty round magazine in it and no round chambered. Luckily, he could still reach Meyer's. The only trouble was, he'd have to use his broken arm.
Zell quickly grabbed weapons and equipment before jumping onto a Galbadian helicopter, a GATH-85 almost identical to the one shot down over the Democratic Brigade held area of the city. Two SeeD platoons filled eight helicopters, and the Galbadians themselves were sending the Special Forces and two platoons of their own. The road convoys had come under attack, and were trying to fight free. But the entire city was mobilizing to fight, the sound of fighting shattering the peace the Galbadian presence had previously held.
Irvine and Selphie had managed to find space in Zell's helicopter as the Galbadian pilots took off.
'The helicopter has crashed in an area of the city called Illiah. It's a mostly residential area in the middle of the Democratic Brigade zone. Two squads of SeeD are to drop in and cover the crash site along with four Galbadian teams. They're tasking the rest of us to go and hold the airport and docks,' Kelly shouted over the din of the rotors.
'What about the embassy?' Irvine shouted.
'They say they'll have another team ready to assist within half an hour, but for now, they're out of helicopters,' the Sergeant replied.
'If we have any spare, we could have brought our own,' Zell commented.
'Shame they're all in fuckin' Krastovia then,' Selphie muttered.
One of the convoys, consisting of three four by four trucks, had come under intense attack just south of the crash site. The gunners had been shot dead by concentrated rifle fire first, before rockets had struck the lead vehicle. No one could have lived inside the twisted and mangled wreckage The eight surviving, or at least mobile, members of the convoy had ran from their vehicles and took cover in a nearby house, causing the terrified occupants to flee into the street they had just ran in from. Three crouched by the front windows, firing their weapons at any target that presented itself. Four took the rear of the house.
'Guardian Base, Guardian Base, this is patrol zero-three, Feldwebel Becker, we are pinned down in sector four-Charlie. Request immediate assistance,' the senior survivor, a sergeant or Feldwebel said into the only working radio set they had recovered from the vehicles
'Patrol zero-three,' a female communications operator responded. 'What is your current status?'
'We have four men trapped in a destroyed vehicle, status on them unknown but probably dead,' the Feldwebel replied. The comms operator began to speak, only for a detonation to interrupt and drown her out.
'What the fuck was that?' someone from the rear yelled in half-angered surprise. The Feldwebel ran to the windows.
'They're hitting the vehicles with rockets, Feldwebel. They're making sure we're not getting out of here alone,' a Gefreiter said. The sergeant confirmed what the private had told him with a quick glance out the window, seeing the rear of the two remaining vehicles now ablaze at the engine block. Another rocket slammed into it, warping the rear roof and setting the rear fuel tank ablaze.
'When you have contact, shout me,' he said, and returned to the radio. The comms officer was faintly audible in the headset the sergeant had dropped.
'-ou there, zero three?'
'This is zero-three,' he said.
'Feldwebel, help is en-route, please have your men give us as clear a picture as possible what's there.'
'There are at least three AT rockets to the front of our building. We have two of our vehicles ablaze, the third is,' he said, pausing from another explosion. 'Probably now on fire.'
A shout from the front confirmed this. The sergeant ignored what the woman at the airbase replied with.
'Unteroffizier Wagner, you talk with her, I'm going to watch the front,' he shouted. A corporal ran from the rear of the building, and grabbed the headset.
'Where are they, Control?' Wedge said into his own radio.
'They're in four-Charlie, Hauptmann Wedge. We have Bravo-Three and Four on the way,'
'Those are ground units, control, we can get in there and get them out before they'll even be halfway.'
The comms officer handling the captain waved a Major over and explained the situation.
'Hauptmann, this is Major Caspar. You have a plan here, I presume, so take your Special Forces to the site. We'll re-route the Bravo units to the crash site.'
'That was basically my plan, Major. We won't let you down,' Wedge replied.
'See the black smoke?' Irvine shouted.
'Yeah. Burning tyres?' Zell yelled back.
'Got it in one. Simple semaphore. They can't afford radios, the phone lines are shit, so how do they get the message out that it's time to rock and roll?'
'Start fires,' Kelly muttered. No one heard him over the roar of the rotors.
'Three minutes until landing!' the co-pilot yelled. Zell grabbed a headset to use the intercom system with the pilot's own headsets.
'With respect, sergeant, a few of us can rope down.'
'That will slow us down,' the pilot protested, naturally unwilling to keep his bird exposed to any further fire.
'Not if you're landing at the same time.'
'Captain, I have a better plan to get out fast,' Selphie shouted
'What might that be?'
She handed over a small vial for the Junction Armbands. It was float magic.
'That's so crazy, it might work,' Zell shouted approvingly.
Selphie and Zell cast the magic upon the soldiers as they moved to the doors of the helicopter. Each SeeD leapt out of the helicopter a second after the spell affected them. They dropped normally, but as they neared the ground the anti-gravity effect of the spell kicked in. They quickly cast dispel upon themselves, and cleared the ground for the next soldier jumping down, a task that had to be done fast, as the helicopter's rotors were throwing up a huge cloud of dust that both concealed the deployment and obscured the vision of the team deploying.
What would have taken a fast rope team about thirty seconds took the SeeD team ten. The entire squad was clear, and the helicopter zoomed off.
'And command were certain that better magic wasn't going to really help in the field,' the co-pilot commented, laughing.
'They certainly have ingenuity,' the pilot admitted.
The other SeeD team deployed by more conventional means, their heli landing and dropping them off, before ascending back into the sky. Random rocket fire chased them out, but these were unguided and not one helicopter was hit. The four Galbadian teams roped in, all the soldiers present on those helicopters members of the paratrooper ranger corps.
Major Caspar, in the command centre at the base, watched a satellite image of the six teams moving in
'Ranger teams Bravo to Delta and the second SeeD team hold the inner perimeter, first SeeD team and Alpha team take the crash site itself. Other ten teams hold the roads in.'
He watched fourteen shapes move just northeast of where the helicopter had came down.
'Get me the SeeD captain,' the Major said.
'This is Dincht,' Zell said.
'Captain, this is Major Caspar, Galbadian Hundred and Twelfth Airborne. You're currently highest ranking on the ground by the crash, so you just got yourself temporary command of forty eight of my men. But the deal is, you listen to me.'
'Yes sir,' the SeeD officer responded.
'I've heard a little about you from General Caraway through Oberst Golmann. From what I hear, you're about the standard we expect from our guys your rank. That's why I'm trusting you to keep that crash site secure until we can get people in and get any survivors or bodies clear. We're like you guys that way. We leave no man behind if we can help it. Especially not in places where they parade the bodies in the streets.'
'I've got respect for that sir, but where is Oberst Golmann?'
'That's why you have command. He's stuck at the embassy and I am for now in overall control of the city. You need anything, radio it in and we'll see what we can give you.'
'Very well sir. We're almost at the heli. Do you have sat cover?'
'Yes, Captain, I do. I can't see anything hostile out in the open from here, but keep your eyes peeled and give me an update on the situation in the helicopter.'
Zell rounded the corner, rifle raised. He could see down the abandoned street, and what he saw, was the last remains of burning fuel smouldering amongst some rubble and twisted metal. The top half of a body lay by the mangled remains of what appeared to be a minigun cradle from the helicopter.
'Major, we have at least one casualty, a crew chief. Nearing crash itself.'
Getting closer, it was confirmed the unfortunate helicopter crewman had been torn in half by the crash. An arm stuck out of the rubble, but when a SeeD tried to check a pulse, it emerged the arm was on its own.
'Check a name on the KIA,' Zell told Kelly, moving from the rear of the helicopter. The nose was pointing skyward, and he could see the arm of the co-pilot hanging from the right hand side. A quick glance towards the minigun cradle that had not been torn off through the gaping hole in the side of the aircraft revealed a shard of metal had driven through the other minigunners head.
'Second KIA, the other crew chief. Moving towards cockpit.'
'The KIAs are Leon Schumacher and Simon Merkel. The pilot is Otto Gruber. The Co-Pilot is Jurgen Meyer,' the Major informed him, reading from a manifest of the patrols conducted this morning.
A squad of Galbadians appeared on the opposite side of the ruined building. A sergeant was waved over and began to gingerly climb up the pile of smashed bricks and stone. A yell of pain came from the cockpit. Zell quickly but carefully moved to the top of the pile whilst the Galbadian tried to speed himself up, and looked down at the pilot's cockpit. Terrified eyes stared back from a dust covered face in the pilot's seat.
Gruber screamed in pain as he tried once more in vain to release the submachine gun from the roof. The first clip holding it on had taken three agonising attempts, and he hadn't even managed to reach the other yet. His vision blurred as the pain shot through his nervous system and his lungs ached as he breathed heavily.
He froze. He heard the rubble shift behind him, and voices. Was it a rescue team? Militia?
The dazed pilot's face turned even paler under the dust upon the sight of camouflage he recognised as desert SeeDpat and an SR3 rifle through the shattered cockpit window. The pilot immediately began to give name rank and number, clearly thinking he was about to be captured, or already had been.
'Otto Gruber, Oberfeldwebel, eins acht sieben drei neun sechs zwei-'
'Hey, relax, we're on your side today,' the SeeD officer interrupted him in Galbadian
The pilot's expression changed to confusion as Wüstetarnmuster joined the SeeD at the window.
'For once, my friend, you can trust the mercenaries,' the Galbadian infantryman said.
The same soldier checked the co-pilot for a pulse. He shouted down to his squad for a medic.
'Is... Is he alive?' Gruber asked, stuttering.
'Yes, Oberfeldwebel. He has a pulse, but he needs to get out of here very soon. So do you.'
'Major, the pilot and co pilot are alive, repeat, the pilot and co-pilot alive,' Zell radioed in.
'What about Leon and Simon?' the pilot asked. The Galbadian soldier looked at Zell, and a shake of the head gave him the reply.
Gruber fell silent for a moment.
'Do you need any water?' The Galbadian asked. Gruber stayed silent. Zell reached into the cockpit and undid the clip holding the submachine gun in place. He handed it to the pilot, who stared in surprise at the Balambian.
'The sergeant asked if you want some water, Staff Sergeant,' Zell said,
'...Yes. Please, that would be nice,' the stunned pilot whispered.
'Keep awake, Herr Gruber,' Zell said, climbing down the rubble
'Sergeant Kelly! Take one man plus Qwanz and Mellia, cover the northeast. Sergeant Kinneas, go with Corporals Kelly and Tilmitt plus one other man, cover the southeast corner of this block,' they nodded, and Zell turned around to the Galbadian Sergeant. 'Can you put four men on each corner?'
'Yes, Hauptmann. Fire Teams 2 and 3, cover north and southwest corners.'
'Major, we've set up our perimeter. We have yet to make any hostile contact,' Zell reported.
'This could have been worse,' the Galbadian sergeant commented.
'It's probably going to get worse though,' a SeeD replied to him.
'Probably, so everyone be ready,' Zell said.