Eighteen: Ends of the Earth

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Report: Quinn
The interior of a dropship.
Six thousand feet above sea level.
International airspace.

The Battle of Zolotoy had been the catalyst for the Iron War, the first blow between the superpowers of the US and Russia. It was also the first time the TCC had made money from someone else's war. That's a lot of how the TCC made their money. By abusing people's sense of righteousness and twisting it for their gains.

Little was known about the Transamerican Combat Corporation pre-war, except that it had been a small conglomerate of wealthy businessmen from around the Americas.

The outcome of the Battle of Zolotoy was infamous. When the Americans blockaded the bridges into the much-contested mining district a Russian strike team sealed off the dam's access gates, blocking the river and allowing Russian forces to traverse the riverbed.

I was told my father had been cut down in that final daring attack. Another victim of the Iron War.

The Russians repelled the Americans that day. Although the Iron War continued elsewhere in the country, Zolotoy and its dried riverbed had been treated with an air of sacredness and mutual respect. Until now.

Daewi shook himself out of his shock and pressed down the comm button.

"Acknowledged, Martin," he said, "I'll alert my squad now. We'll be on our way in a moment."

"Go get 'em, Daewi," Martin replied," "we'll send reinforcements the moment the exchange is complete. Commander Telbus out."

Daewi turned to Lucas with a nervous smile.

"Put me on comms with the rest of the squad."

Lucas nodded and pressed a button. Daewi learned into the miniature microphone that was embedded in the console.

"Alright folks," he said, voice stern, "it looks like you're going to get some action after all. The TCC just retook Zolotoy. Why? We don't know. What we do know is that we're the closest to the battlefield. Commander Telbus will take his squad to finish the run to Italy. That leaves us to secure Zolotoy, or at least hold off the blasted TCC until reinforcements arrive."

Daewi leaned forward. He was shaking. I couldn't blame him, this wasn't the type of fight we were prepared for.

"We don't know what we're heading into," Daewi continued. "You could be facing mechs from Russia, Germany or even Korea, but you most definitely will encounter American mechs. We want this battle to end with Russian control over Zolotoy, so that means we need to capture as much of the territory as we can and hold the TCC off until reinforcements arrive."

Daewi took a shaky breath. I flashed him a thumbs-up.

"The Russians are our allies for this fight," Daewi said, his voice gaining strength, "but don't be afraid to blow cover if one of them gets suspicious and starts shooting. We're on every nation's wanted list for breaking the rules of war. Even enemies of the TCC will inflict punishment on us if they get the chance. To them, we're still the bad guys."

Daewi leaned back from the comm with a smile.

"Lock and load, ladies and gents. Let's show these TCC grunts that we'll chase them to the ends of the Earth!"

Ten minutes later our dropship and the two transports in our squadron were cruising over Zolotoy. A massive, concrete dam dominated the horizon, watching over the riverside district below like a silent guardian. The once-pristine Lena River was a dirty trench in the ground, dividing the landscape in half.

One one bank of the river sat a farm, and old agricultural center abandoned years ago. A field of various crops swayed in the breeze, now too overgrown and irradiated to be remotely safe to eat. A small farmhouse sat abandoned next to a ring of metal grain silos.

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