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The Cornhuskers


PresidentDavid
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The unpleasant slurps of coffee echoed throughout the underground Kansas National Guard Command Center  just outside of Wichita. Colonel Sanders was typically only at command four out of the seven days of the week, but he decided to show up on Friday so that he could have a good excuse to miss work a few extra days next week to spend time with his family and take a vacation down to Louisiana. 

 

​The continuous slurping of the colonel was abruptly interrupted by an airman speaking into his microphone, "Unidentified aircraft this is the Kansas Air National Guard, you are approaching a closed airspace: Sector Concordia. If you are a Plains Federation aircraft identify now." "...." No response. "Unidentified aircraft, you are approaching Plains Federation airspace. Identify or alter your course now." "...." No response. The airman turned to Colonel Sanders who was excited just to hear the voice of another human being. Someone moved the radar of North Kansas on the screen. It showed the one small blip in the color yellow, signifying it was unidentified and possibly foreign. 

 

"No response from the aircraft Colonel. Orders?" the airman said. Sanders was nearly done with his coffee but continued to savor the caffeine it was providing him at five in the morning. "Scramble two 22s from Topeka and have them go intercept. Give the aircraft another warning, the coms might be down." The airman did so again but once again heard nothing in response. A second blip suddenly showed up on the screen, splitting from the original. It must have been two aircraft flying close together. "Unidentified aircraft, this is the Kansas Air National Guard. I repeat again, you are encroaching on Kansas airspace. Direct your course immediately or you will be shot down." 

 

It took about twenty minutes for the F-22s to meet the unidentified aircraft right off the Kansas/Nebraska border. By then they had already entered Plains Federation air space. The Federation jets roared in the sky as they approached the two bogies. What was thought to be two civilian aircraft were two fully armed and equipped fighter jets with no national insignia on them. "Unidentified aircraft, this is Captain Marx of the Kansas Air National Guard. Divert your course thirty degrees, we will escort you to an airfield to land in where you will be detained for invading Plains Federation airspace. You have 60 seconds to comply or you will be shot down." 

 

Once again, no reply. A large warning message on the massive screen in control popped up reading that there was an interference in radar, it was possibly being scrambled. "Switch over to the Air Force's radar, they're usually more reliable than ours." A green loading bar took about twenty seconds. A sea of yellow blips filled the screen at the Nebraska/Kansas border. Sanders dropped his coffee mug, allowing it to shatter on the ground. The command room came to life as airmen began making calls to Kansas Air National Guard airfields. "Get those two boys out of there! They don't stand a damn chance against whatever the hell that is." 

 

A crippling transmission filled with static came in, "Mayday mayda- EJECT EJECT," followed by silence. The two blue blips on the command screen, which represented Plains Federation aircraft, turned black. Many of the airmen turned to the colonel as the yellow swept into Kansas airspace like a swarm of honeybees. "Get everything in Topeka, Salina, and Wichita in the air. Call Air Force command and make sure they are alert, then call the governor. I'm going to call the one man I know can help us out here." 

 

"This is Colonel Sanders, Kansas Air National Guard. Patch me into Brigadier General Simpson, we have a problem." 

 

 

---

 

 

"Private, go get me a Coke. This is going to be a long morning I can just feel it. I bet it's going to rain." Air Captain Leonard checked his watch and noticed it wasn't even past 5:15 in the morning and he already wanted to go back to bed. One of the junior airmen brought the captain a Coke which he hastily opened and consumed. The captain and a few of his closer comrades were relaxing in his office, waiting for their 6:00 AM duty to begin. Suddenly a young man barged in the captain's office holding a letter in his hand. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" The private fell to his knees while he tried to catch his breath but handed the letter to the captain. 

 

 

KANSAS AIR NATIONAL GUARD COMMAND

 

NOTICE: MASSIVE AIR INVASION FROM NEBRASKA REGION. ATTACK IMMANENT. BATTLE STATIONS, NOT A DRILL.

 

Before the captain could finished the first sentence the base's air raid sirens roared to life. "Now hear this: Airmen, man your planes. Airmen, man your planes. Command confirms we are under attack, this is not a drill." They all looked at one another and bolted for the door. Once outside they saw a mass of Federation airmen running outside, zipping up their uniforms while they ran to the jets that were already fueled. Other airmen were bolting out the door with rifles while others were heading towards the ammunition-depot to pick up javelins and other anti-air weaponry. "Now hear this: Paratroopers to be considered hostile. Paratroopers to be considered hostile." 

 

The captain and his men were among the first to enter their planes and get in the air. Dozens my Kansas Air National Guardsmen were in the air within minutes, though the small State only had so much firepower. At this point they were just evading the inevitable unless the Federal government came into help. Intelligence officials from the Kansas State Government brought word to the Federated government that they believed it was Nebraskan Nationalists with either the help of a foreign power or a group of very powerful and wealthy organizations. Their motives were unclear, but it was apparent that they did not like the fact that the Federation was in Kansas. 

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"Kansas Air National Guard Command this is Zulu-Heavy travelling with TNG Squad 1, authorization alpha, four, whiskey, zulu, zulu, three, charlie, bravo. Do you copy, over?" The pilot of the high flying C-130 looked over to his co-pilot who was nearly as tired as him. It was three in the morning and neither of them had slept for 27 hours. "Roger Zulu-Heavy, what's your status, over?" The pilot checked his bearings while their navigator double checked their position, "Command we are t-minus two minutes from launch. Just wanted to make sure we're still a go for Operation Little Lady, over?" Command responded swiftly, "Roger Zulu-Heavy. Mission is a go, command out." The Texas National Guardsmen sitting in the back of the aircraft waited patiently. Some of them had never had never jumped out of an aircraft before aside from exercises at much lower altitudes and from helicopters. But a C-130, at three in the morning, and so high in the air? It was an entirely different ballgame. 

 

Command had intel that in Ellsworth, Kansas a high ranking member of the invaders who were being dubbed "Cornhuskers" was already placed there for the upcoming strike so that he could command from the field. Also, a high valued "VIP" was said to be held up in the American Legion post in the middle of town. Intel said that they were eighty-three percent sure that the Cornhusker was a valuable target and could provide much needed information on the ghosts who seemed to just walk out of the cornfields from Nebraska. The Texas Air National Guard had been flying over 20,000 troops in the past three days, so command Texas's finest (the first squad, of the first battalion, of the first regiment) who had more special training than your normal Guardsmen could handle the job. Command obviously wanted the man alive, but seeing who ruthless the Cornhuskers would be when it came to bombing civilian targets or striking like cowards; no one was sure if they'd let one of their own be taken alive. 

 

Sergeant Wallace felt somewhat betrayed that he and his men were just being handed over to the Kansas National Guard command structure. They had, after all, gotten their State invaded on top of letting one-third of it get taken over and secured by the enemy. And at this point, from what he knew, it had been more bloody for the Federation than it had been for the Cornhuskers - that may have been the worst part, knowing that your enemy was winning. Although borders were not shifting at this very moment, the enemy had the upper hand. It was only a matter of time before they would advance further unless the Federation military and the National Guards in Kansas decided to push forward. 

 

The large door at the end of the aircraft began to open. The ten men inside knew that meant the time to jump was nearing. None of them spoke. For the next few hours it would be crucial that they only spoke when necessary, if at all. Maintaining the element of surprise was vital since they were going behind enemy lines and would not have reinforcements for at least six more hours. They were promised air support, but Sergeant Wallace felt that promise was hollow because of the dozens of aircraft that had already been shot down on both sides. The Federation couldn't keep taking losses like this and he knew they were not exactly the most important group of men at the moment. 

 

Wallace was standing in the front, his other nine men were in a single-file line behind him. He held his breath and closed his eyes. Within a few moments the soldier behind him patted him on the back. He opened his eyes, saw the line was green, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. They all soured like eagles, swiftly slicing through the air at such high speeds their bodies could barely handle it. Only at the last few moments did they deploy their parashoots so that the chance of the enemy seeing them was minimal. Once on the ground they bunched their camouflaged parashoots together and hid them under some tall grass. After that they equipped their night vision goggles which could also show infrared imaging. 

 

They viewed Ellsworth from the north, having landed not to far between highway 156 and highway 14. They were close to the municipal airport but it had been closed, and it's radar dismantalled, long before the Cornhuskers had gotten their.The squad's biggest concern right now was getting across highway 140 and into town. They were currently in a field but soon they would be making their way through town streets, trying not to be spotted in enemy held territory. The only advantages they had was that there were only ten of them and they were not expected. Other than that, the odds were stacked against their favor. They all knew this of course, but the call of duty usually meant ignoring odds and doing what one was ordered, and what one thought was right. 

 

"Let's move out." Sergeant Wallace pointed at the town. Nearly all of the civilian lights were off, including most of the streetlights in the town. While the Cornhuskers were taking north Kansas they made the mistake of bombing a few industrial sights, one including a regional power station. They had to haul generators to the town just to keep some of the lights on, which presented a unique opportunity and challenge to stay hidden in the dark until they reached their destination. 

 

They all swiftly crossed the darkest and most remote part of highway 140 that they could find within local distance. No one spotted them. There had been a couple guard towers set up around the city, but they were almost useless without the power that was only afforded to a few buildings such as city hall, the town museum, or the church. If the Cornhusker leader was anywhere, he would be in one of those three buildings, not a cold guard tower with no electricity. Instead of going straight through town for the first five blocks they traveled behind the high school. Most of the five block stretch behind it was forested land that the school had for room to expand and develop, but the small Kansas school surely did not need it. 

 

Wallace gripped his rifle once they made it to the first town street, 10th Street. They were getting close to the American Legion post. God knows if  they guy was still there anymore. If the Cornhuskers hadn't checked all of the commercial buildings and raided them for supplies in such a small town then maybe they weren't worth their salt after all. "Get back here you idiot!" Someone shouted. It was not any of Wallace's men. They kept low and laid down right next to the street. A young man in a camouflaged uniform was running as hard as he could, but a buffer and older man behind him caught up and tackled him to the ground. 

 

"Where the hell do you think you're going, huh?" The younger soldier punched the older one and tried running again but this only angered the older guy even more. He grabbed the young Cornhusker soldier by his collar and punched him in the neck. He dropped to the ground, holding his throat. The man kicked him in the mouth once with his steel toed boots and then stomped his head for good measure. The young man stopped moving. "We don't tolerate deserters, private." The man wiped his bloody fingers on pants and looked around the permiter to make sure no one saw him. Without warning a few of the streetlights on the block came on. Conveniently, one of them was directly above Wallace and his men. The Cornhusker was looking right at them. It was like the devil switched the lights on at just the right moment.

 

They were camouflaged, but  with so much light and all ten of them together it was obvious that they were not grass along the side of the road. "Who the hell are you?" he shouted. Pft pft pft. The soldier fell to the ground with three bullet wounds in him, two in the chest and one in the neck. He bled out next to his murdered comrade who had received justice just a little too late. "Good work private," whispered Wallace to Private Samantha Jones. She was the only woman in the first squad which was an achievement itself, but having gotten there by age 22 was even more impressive. All of them were happy their weapons were silenced. Three of the men and also Jones advanced to the road to grab the bodies. The remaining seven provided cover in case anyone else saw them. They drug the bodies into the ditch and covered them with mud and grass. 

 

They would not be hidden forever, but patrols would not find them at least until noon that day when they started to stink. Anyone with a normal pair of eyes would be able to find the bodies in broad daylight but the first squad planned to be on their way home just past lunch. Private Jones took out the streetlight so that no one could see the blood on the street. Then they proceeded forward. Corporal Quinn was the navigator. He pointed and they went. They all memorized what streets needed to be taken and what the location of the American Legion was, but Quinn had the studied every square foot of the town the past few days and knew it by heart now. If their plan was changed or if they needed to find a different landmark, he was their man. 

 

"Sergeant, the legion is just around the street. Proceed with cation, there's a t-bone in the street and some of the lights might be on." They advanced forward. Quinn was right, three streetlights were on. The Legion post was at the end of the t-bone where one of the streets ended. None of the lights were on inside. The entire commercial district seemed dark. It was likely that the Cornhuskers didn't want civilians moving around while they tried to conduct their military operations, especially when they had one of their military leaders in town. Still, it was worth it to check if anyone was inside. 

 

Private First Class Loui King picked the lock to the doors of the legion while the others provided cover. A lone gunman was soon spotted by all of them. He was walking down the street, smoking a cigarette with a rifle slouched over his chest and a radio on his belt. He was on patrol, and not doing a very good job it seemed. The squad kept their weapons aimed at the man. Then PFC King got the door unlocked. A squeaked and cracked  softly, but it was loud enough to be heard at four in the morning. The guard readied his rifle and pointed it in their general direction. "Anyone there? Hello?" The man was nervous but he still had a gun. He reached for his radio and brought it up to his face. Sergeant Wallace shot once and thought he had hit the man but he didn't. He sure as hell let the Cornhusker know that he wasn't alone though. 

 

"Suspicious activity at-" Wallace shot him again and this time hit his target. It would not be long before more men were out looking for their comrade. They had to hurry. The squad rushed inside and shut the door behind them. "Don't you move," growled an ancient voice. The squad turned around from the door. It was dark inside but they still could see with their night vision. Thirty men and a few women were inside. All armed, holdings an assortment of guns from the AR15 to a Henry repeating rifle.  "Hold your fire!" A younger man, well built stepped forward. "They aren't from Nebraska guys." Someone in the back turned on a small light so that they could see the soldiers better. 

 

Sergeant raised his hands while his fellow soldiers kept their weapons trained on the civilians. "I'm Sergeant Wallace, Texas National Guard, 1st Squad. We're here to rescue a VIP from the Legion here and take out a target in town that is believed to be Cornhusker leadership. Who are... all of you?" The well-built young man who had the civilians stand down lowered his gun. "I'm James, James McArthur. Sergeant, United States Army Rangers. Two tours to Afghanistan and a few spec ops I can't mention. Most of these guys and gals here are veterans. That's pop," he pointed over to an ancient looking man who gripped his M1 Grand like it was his wife. "He went through D-Day. That over there is Megs, retired United States Army. We were planning on trying to overrun the men they have here and try to take back the town this morning. Can you get us air support?" 

 

The Sergeant thought about it and nodded, "Yes sir, but first I need to complete my missions. Do you have any idea who the VIP might be here in the Legion?" McArthur pointed to a few guys in the back of the room. They opened a back door and went into the bar in the back of the Legion and brought out a man in his mid-thirties. "Who are you sir?" The man was somewhat bruised and his suit was torn in a few places, but he looked to be generally okay. "I'm Luis Daniels. I was elected Federation Senator from Kansas a couple days ago." 

Edited by PresidentDavid
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"Senator I'm Sergeant Wallace of the Texas National Guard. My squad and I are here to bring you safely to Wichita where a flight will be waiting to take you to Oklahoma City and meet with the Congress. But there is a second objective in our mission that we need to complete before we go home." Wallace looked around at the crowd of armed veterans and decided none of them were traitors or informants. "Federation intelligence has confirmed to us that a high ranking member of the Cornhuskers is here in Ellsworth, his last name is Simmons. Does anyone have any idea where this Simmons is?" The room fell quiet. The older minds began grinding the rusty gears in their heads, trying to think of any special soldier or military unit that stood out among the others. Wallace was about to say they were rolling out before a man in farmer's clothes spoke. 

 

"Hey wait! Did anybody see the bell tower at the church?" Another man spoke up and raised his gun, "Yeah I saw that on the way here last night! They had put some type of glass windows at the top of the belltower instead of the wooden shingles that had been there before." The other man closed his eyes like he was having a vision. "Yeah yeah, remember seeing that man in there with the funny hat? Remember... Damn what's his name, Jeffery Wilmington! Remember Jeffery said he saw a guy with a funny hat and some fancy tassels in there?" The other guy nodded, "I sure as hell do. Could that be the boy you're looking for Sergeant Wallace?" 

 

Corporal Quinn looked at a small piece of paper which he had written notes on for certain landmarks. "Is it the church down North Lincoln Avenue?" The two men nodded. Quinn turned to his superior and looked over his notes one last time. "It would make sense that they make the church their command center. It's in the middle of the town and it's the tallest building for miles. I bet he isn't the only important guy in there." Wallace nodded, "Alright. Intel told us they had a garrison of about one-hundred men here in your town. How many do you have here?" The veterans looked among themselves and then they looked to who had become their ringleader, retired United States Army Rangers Sergeant James McArthur. He stepped out back into the bar and looked around before stepping back into the large gathering room which they were all in. 

 

"I'd say we have about seventy-five vets here. Most of them can fight. I don't know about pops though," everyone looked over to the old man who still had his loaded Henry repeating rifle in his hands. "I'll kick your skinny #@& any day young man. If I could make it up the beaches at Normandy I think I can take out a few corn-humpers." No one was about to challenge Pops. Wallace knew that this couldn't be done quietly. It was only a matter of time before they would be compromised and it would be better to have a lot of fire power behind them to get things done. "The Marines are going to be here at 11PM to stomp out whatever enemy forces are left here. They're on their way from Oklahoma. We're a bit tied up on the front but they could space two hundred men to come assist. We suspect that this man is not going to be taken alive if he can help it, so it's important we get him before the Marines get here. Is anyone here willing to help?" 

 

Everyone in the room stepped forward, it was like a scene out of a movie. Even Pops got up out of his chair and locked his repeating rifle, "Let's go kick some $@*." The soldiers made sure everyone had ammo and weapons, and wasn't drunk, before making a plan to take the church. "I hereby commission you all into the Texas National Guard. We're going to have four teams. My squad will be A team. Sargent McArthur will lead B team, Quinn you will lead C team, and Sam you got D team. A team is going to scout out to the church first. We'll take out any stationary guards and make sure there's a clear path there. B team you're going to provide us cover and then go around to the back of the church when we get close. C team you are going to guard our flanks for when they start trying to send reinforcements. D team, get with Quinn and find the tallest building near the church. Set up a few sniping positions and give them hell once things go hot. Let's move out in five minutes!" 

 

The newly consecrated Guardsmen got into their groups and loaded up with their home owned weapons. They left the American Legion building quietly and split off into their different groups. Wallace took the lead of the soldiers in his original squad that weren't leading other groups. They headed straight for the church with the directions that Quinn gave them and watched carefully for any guards. They were making their way down North Lincoln Avenue when they suddenly heard a loud BANG. Thinking it was gunfire they all sprung into defensive positions. It wasn't until they heard some angry yelling that they found out it was something to play in their favor. The few streetlights that were on, on N Lincoln Ave suddenly shut off. "Damn it Charlie! What the hell! You can't even keep a damn generator working?" What perfect timing. 

 

"I think it got over loaded," said a rather defenseless voice. "Thanks for the damn insight you idiot! Commander Simmons is going to be pissed off in the morning if he finds out we couldn't keep most of the lights on. Help me try to fix this." That confirmed it, the commander was there. Their target was just waiting to be harvested from the infested nest of what was the church on North Lincoln Avenue. The soldiers equipped their night infrared goggles and got within feat of the Cornhuskers before taking both of them out with knives. A team left their warm bodies fall onto the ground, blood still soaking the ground while they were walking away. 

 

The church finally started to come into view. The top of the belltower did have glass windows hastily installed. The glass wasn't totally transparent from their side and had a unique glare to it. This told Wallace that it was probably bullet proof. No one was inside though. Everyone important was most likely sleeping. Wallace got out his coms to break radio silence. He spoke softly, "Is everybody in place?" 

 

"B team good to go." "C team roger roger." "D team is a go sergeant."  

"D team, I want you to find as many targets as we can. In one minute we are going hot. When you hear an explosion you fire at will. Go that?" "Roger that."

"B team, do you have any explosives?" Wallace said. 

"McArthur here, yeah we have a couple packs of C4. What were you thinking?" 

"See if you can get some on the side of the church. Blow open a hole and rush in. We'll come reinforce once we handle the outside. Remember Simmons must be taken alive." 

"Copy that." 

 

They went back to radio silence. Nothing...... Northing....... Nothing....... "BOOOOOOOOOOM" the church listed to one side as a ploom of dust rose into the air. Gunfire erupted within seconds. Snipers took guards around the perimeter while Wallace and his men rushed towards the church to go reinforce McArthur. The gunfire was almost excruciating. Merciless screams could be heard from both sides as soldiers were gunned down. The well dressed commander wasn't anywhere to be seen on the church floor itself. He was probably somewhere in the bell tower. Man of the Cornhuskers had been sleeping in the pews or on the floor. Most of them had been taken out before they could even reach for their guns, but some of the Federation side had been hurt too. Pops, ironically, was perfectly fine and seemed to have taken two lives all on his own with his rifle. 

 

Wallace headed to the belltower door and opened it up, revealing a spiraling staircase. He threw two flashbangs up as far as he could and waited for them to go off. "Move!" The soldiers started rushing up the stairs with Wallace in the lead. In the middle of the belltower was a small study most likely for the pastor. It had been converted into a bedroom for the commander. He was on the floor with his hands covering his face screaming obscenities. The flash bangs seemed to have worked. "Someone bag this guy so we can get the hell out of here!" Wallace pulled his satellite phone out of his pack and set it up near the bullet proof window. 

 

"Kansas Command, this is Lone Star do you copy!?" A staticky voice returned, "Kansas National Guard, we copy you Lone Star go ahead." 

"We've completed our mission but had to go hot. We need air support now!" He gave their longitude and latitude and waited for a response. 

"Roger that Lone Star, we have three gunships on the way. ETA is ten minutes. Over and out." 

 

"$&*@! They were suppose to be on standby!" Wallace collected himself and got back on coms for his soldiers. "Do we have any guests showing up?"

"Reinforcements are coming from the high school. This is D team, permission to open fire?"

"Wipe them out, permission granted." 

 

D team was on a nearby roof. Mortars soared into the early morning sky and exploded a few hundred feet away. Military vehicles a couple blocks down swerved into each other and crashed while more fire caused some of them to explode. There were also troops on the ground moving towards the church. C team was providing cover for the flanks. When they noticed what direction they were coming from they opened fire and created a hornet's nest down one of the blocks. "Sergeant there's too many of them! We can keep them back for a bit but we don't have the ammo to keep this up much longer!" Wallace put his hand in his face and thought. 

 

"Fall back into the church! Fortify yourselves inside and face towards the hole B team blew in the side of it. D team you are clear to fire mortars anywhere outside of the church in the next thirty seconds. C team, get the hell out of there unless you want danger close. A few gunships are going to show up in... 8 minutes. We just have to hold them off until then."

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The fast, black shape streaked through the air just fifty feet off the ground, save when it needed to dodge a high-rearing tree on the plains of Kansas.  The turboprops mounted on swivels at the end of its wings roared with power, forcing the mid-sized troop transport through the air at upwards of three hundred miles an hour at that low altitude. Inside, twenty black-suited forms sat strapped into the plane’s webbing, cleaning and loading weapons and checking equipment while they waited for the plane to reach the embattled group of National Guardsmen under attack by the Cornhuskers in Ellsworth.

 

They hadn’t originally been tasked with this mission, but the Octagon thought that there was a high priority leader in charge of the attack here, and so they were diverted from their first task. Instead of a supply dump raid, the first mission they would undertake as a unit would instead be the rescue of the Guardsmen and the capture of the rebel leader.

 

“Coming up on drop zone in five minutes. We’ve got reports of mortar and rocket fire in the AO, so be prepared to bail; we’ll be coming in hot.” Said the only standing figure, taller than all the rest even if they had been standing as well. 

 

One seated soldier spoke up, voice high and struggling to be heard over the roar of the props. “Chief! What’s our new objective, again?”

 

“Price, we’ll be dropping you into Ellsworth for your first combat application. There’s supposedly a man named Simmons in charge of this area’s Cornhuskers, and the brass wants him brought back alive for questioning.  There’s also a group of Guardsmen under attack – we’ll be hitting the Cornhuskers encircling them from the rear to buy them time for the cavalry to arrive.” Chief replied. The suited figure nodded and returned to cleaning her gun.

 

Meanwhile, in the cockpit…

 

The radio operator keyed his mike. “Kansas National Guard in Ellsworth, this is Black Flag. We are incoming with a team of SF; ETA approximately three minutes. How copy?”

Edited by Mara Lithaen
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"Black flag this is Lone Star, Sergeant Wallace TNG, we are under heavy fire. We have about 75 armed civilians, former United States veterans we found in the American Legion post fighting on our side. We are outnumbered three to one. We are held up in a church in the middle of town, we have a team on a nearby roof firing mortars at the enemy who is coming inbound. We-...." Gunfire was heard in the background by a few curses. "We need backup immediately, where the hell are my gunships? We can't hold out forever like this, they are sending reinforcements from the municipal airport... I have the precious cargo here, both of them... Where the hell are my gunships??" 

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"Lone Star, Apaches from the 553rd inbound, ETA seven mikes. You'll get your gunships." the radio operator replied, even as the town finally loomed in front of the hybrid plane/helicopter's cockpit. The pilot could see muzzle flashes and explosions from his seat. "Lone Star, we have visual. Supporting fire ready to go - just mark something with smoke." With that, the radio operator left his seat, sliding into the weapons control station, a twin-barreled 25mm turret revealing itself, protruding from the specially built craft's heavily modified nose.

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Wallace got on his coms and called D team. "Sam! Fire some damn red smoke at those forces. We have gunships here to take out the enemy. Fire some damn smoke now!" Sam did as she was told and fired red smoke where the men were trying to make it in. "Fired the smoke sergeant!" 

 

"Black Flag! Lone Star here, bomb the red smoke. Green smoke is where Team D is. Do not bomb the green smoke." They popped green smoke outside of the church and at the top of the building where they were sniping from. They stopped the mortar fire so the choppers would be safe in the air but continued their rifle fire. 

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"Target acquired. Take cover." The radioman called, and he thumbed the activation switch on the twin 25s, sending inch-wide shells thundering across the marked position at a prodigious fire rate, high-explosives tearing away cover just as efficiently as it dissolved the Cornhuskers taking cover in and around the building. The AV-22 Osprey swept in behind the chatter of its guns as both of its side gunners opened up with their M134 miniguns. Every second round was an incendiary tracer, so the resultant stream of fire looked like nothing so much as a red-hot laser beam scything through anything stupid enough to be on the other end of the hose of fire dragging along the ground. The VTOL's rear hatch lowered, and the special forces team left at their best speed, occasionally stopping to engage a hostile who had decided to poke his or her head out. Once it had disgorged its payload, the Osprey lifted away, guns still chattering madly.

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Over one-hundred Cornhuskers were annihilated by the M134s. Walls were stained with misted blood while some bodies lay dismembered and dead, bringing to mind the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Sergeant Wallace rushed out of the church with a few members of his team who provided cover in case any enemies would still dare to disturb them. He met the special forces team halfway to the chopper and pointed to the two men they were protecting. One of them was in a military uniform and in handcuffs and the other was a younger man in a tattered suit and tie. "That man is a Federation Senator, Luis Daniels from Kansas. You need to get him to Oklahoma, he has information for congress involving something about a WMD." He pointed to the other man, "You know who that is. Get him back to command to be interrogated. The enemy is almost eradicated here! The Marines should be here soon to back us up, just do us a favor on the way out. There is a municipal airport one klick north of here. It's the enemy command for this town - annihilate it." 

 

Once the helicopter lifted off Wallace and his men went back into the church, making plans on how they would weed out the remaining Cornhuskers in the town. He got into contact with command, and finally was able to confirm that 500 Marines were on there way and would be para trooping just north of them. The battle was won there, but now there was a war to fight. 

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Chief took the Senator by the arm and led him up the aircraft's loading ramp, keying his mike while he did so. "Gamma, go and clear the airport for the Guard. I'll escort the Senator and the General back to headquarters." The chorus of clicks that responded to him told him that they had understood and acknowledged the order, and he and his charges swept past the quartermaster, who closed the ramp and doors, before the AV-22 swept into the air and streaked away, heading for a more secure location.

 

Back on the ground, the twenty troopers of Gamma Team loped off towards the north at a ground eating pace, barely taking two minutes to close on their target. They paused in the bombed out ruin of a building nearby, two of them posting to what was left of the upper floors to keep an eye out while the others prepared their attack.

 

Hayley Price checked her gun, putting a bit of gun oil into the bolt to make sure it wouldn’t malfunction at an inopportune moment. The big 7.62 NATO AR platform  was three quarters as tall as she was and weighed in at nine pounds, three pounds heavier than the standard variant due to the specialist scope and bipod, but she was more than capable of using it with ease. She clicked the comm key on her glove – one of four different ways she could activate her radio – and spoke into it. “Comms check, all comms good?” she asked of her team.  All of her teammates who she could see gave their various gestures of acknowledgement and repeated the process, the two on the upper stories radioing in their affirmatives.

 

The plan was to split into two groups of ten – the first would create a distraction near the airfield to draw the enemy’s attention, while being serious enough of an attack that the enemy wouldn’t recognize it for what it was, if they were lucky. The second group, Hayley’s group, would come up through a relatively deep ditch that the lookouts had spotted.  The second group’s task was the more dangerous of the two – such a confined initial entry point could lead to a massacre of the team assigned to take it. But the ditch ran under the fence, and the reinforced grille that kept most things out of it would prove to be relatively useless against a charge of C4. Once they were inside, they would hit the airfield’s defenses from within.

 

“And once you’ve got the defenses knocked down, you take down their leader and wait for the Airborne to come finish off the bastards. Don’t try to be heroes.” Chief told them, keeping tabs on his rookies as best he could from afar. He would have far preferred to be there in person, but the rookies needed to learn that they could do things themselves, without him having to be involved. He figured that it was almost like raising children – as much as you want to teach them everything and show them how yourself, some things just had to be learned the old fashioned way, by doing. “Are we clear?”

“Crystal, Chief!” the gathered troops chorused, and he signed off. Sighing, he settled in to wait.

 

 

Back at the building, the members of Gamma Team finished their preparations, and split into their two groups, making their way towards their objectives. Hayley lead her group – and, she thought with a little shivering thrill, it really is mine – carefully down to the ditch, where she and nine other black-suited figures climbed down inside and made their way to the grille. Tim Chang, her demo expert, slid into place with his charges, the rest of the team falling into breaching position as best they could. Hayley had to contain a shiver when Lilith di Paolo slid in behind her as rear guard. She had nothing against the dark haired, sandalwood-skinned scion of the di Paolo bloodline, but knowing what the girl was capable of sent reflexive shivers of fear down her own spine. Luckily, the object of her attention was paying her no mind, and she mentally shook herself, bringing her weapon to shoulder. She clicked her comm switch three times, Chang nodded, and he stood back, detonating the charge on the grille. “Move, MOVE!” Hayley ordered, and her team rushed in, guns ready, ready to blow away the unknown…

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"I need a direct line to the President now! There is going to be another attack soon and I think it's going to get bloody fast unless we stop it!" Senator Daniels yelled above the roar of the helicopter's engine and swirling blades. With a bit of engineering and convincing from the good bureaucratic folks in Oklahoma City, the Senator was able to get a call through to the commander-in-chief a few minutes before they would land at command. "Mister President, this is Senator Daniels from Kansas! I have intel on the Cornhuskers! There is going to be another attack to terrorize the populace somewhere in the heartland of the country!" His voice was getting horse from yelling but he endured a few more minutes. "It has something to do with the old Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1! We need to get some boys up there Mister President, it's life or death!" 

 

 

TWELVE HOURS LATER

PLAINS FEDERATION, STATE OF TEXAS, HOUSTON SHIP CHANNEL, SMITH POINT

 

 

"And now we go to Terry Smith at Smith Point in the ship channel where NASA has unexpectedly moved a launch which was scheduled three months from now to today, something NASA really never does. Terry do you have more information on the matter for us?" The veteran news reporter smiled and pointed to the large rocket behind him which had a module on top. "Hey Ryan, well the Director of NASA, Mister Douglas Jericho, said in a press conference this morning that Octagon actually put in a request to move the mission ahead which he obliged. The mission is going to include the first three astronauts the Federation has ever sent into space. According to Director Jericho, their mission is to enter a fixed orbit and return at a undisclosed time. The astronauts going into space include Air Force Captain Stephen Phelps, Airman Marcus McCarthy, and Airman Timothy Leblanc.  One can only wonder why the Federation is so desperate to get men into the final frontier at a time like this." 

 

​"Renegade this is Houston, do you copy, over?" Captain Phelps fixed strapped the belts across his chest to hold him in place and gave a thumbs up to his fellow crew members. They were all told the mission was going to be very dangerous but they couldn't imagine what NASA had in store for them. "Roger Houston. Renegade reads you loud and clear. Are we a go for launch?" 

"Standby for go renegade." 

"Roger." 

 

Director Jericho paced back and forth in mission control while dozens of men half his age frantically shared papers and checked gauges. Flight Director Noah Bishop inhaled the smoke of his cigar and exhaled slowly. He put his cup of coffee down and spoke into his microphone. "Renegade Flight Controllers heads up. I want a go, no-go for launch. Booster." 

"Go."

"RETRO."

"Go."

"FIDO."

"FIDO go."

"Guidance." 

"Go Flight."

"Surgeon."

"We're a go." 

"EECOM."

"Go Flight." 

"GNC."

"Go." 

"TELMU." 

"Go Flight."

"Control."

"Control go." 

"Procedures."

"We are a go Flight."

"INCO." 

"Go."

"FAO."

"Go."

"Network."

"Go flight."

"Recovery." 

"Go." 

"CAPCOM."

"CAPMCOM go, Flight." 

 

Noah switched his coms to flight control which was at Smith Point. "Launch Control this is Houston, we are a go for launch." 

"Roger that Houston, T-minus ten minutes to launch. We'll keep you updated." 

 

The Octagon sent an official from the Air Force to swear everyone to secrecy and take away phones and other non-essential electronic devices. All of the engineers and flight controllers in Mission Control knew what the true mission was but it wouldn't be revealed to the astronauts until they were in space. The Federation had not sent anything more than a few satellites into orbit until now. The last thing they wanted was their only trained astronauts having a panic attack on top of enduring several Gs on their way into space. It was a recipe for a heart attack. Enough risk was already being taken, but Noah still didn't like keeping things from the astronauts. He knew that if he was in space he would want to know all of the bad news before he knew any of the good news, especially if it was going to involve the possibility of combat. 

 

"Renegade this is Houston, we are a go for launch. Turning you over to launch control, over." 

"Roger Houston. See you up there."

One minute later Flight Control continued dialogue. "Renegade this is Flight Control. How are our coms? Over."

"Flight Control we read you loud and clear, over." 

"Roger Renegade. Flight Control is a go for launch. Go, no-go?"

"We are a go Flight Control. Counting down the minutes here."

"Roger."

 

Thousands of people gathered at Bolivar Peninsula to watch the first manned-space launch NASA had conducted since 2011. A massive clock near the crowd counted down the minutes and seconds to launch. It all crept closer and closer, minute by minute but each one felt like days of agony; especially for the families of the astronauts. "Final countdown. Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, tweleve, eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, ignition sequence, three, two, one, ignition." Fire erupted from below the spacecraft as the engines annihilated thousands of gallons of fuel. The supports that connected the mammoth rocket to the tower started disconnecting one by one until finally Renegade started gaining altitude foot by foot, quicker and quicker. 

 

"Houston, we have cleared the tower. Preparing to pitch on the mark." 

"Roger." 

 

It wasn't long until Renegade was out of view. They had pitched and were technically in space but also still technically in the atmosphere but there wasn't much of anything from the astronauts perspective. They completed stage one and broke off the main rockets and fuel tanks which put them into the next stage that would bring them into a stable orbit. From there, they entered their third stage which consisted of the capsule and a small rocket. Now they were in a stable orbit. 

 

"Houston, we've reached stable orbit, over."

"Roger, standby renegade." 

"Roger Houston." 

 

Noah looked over to Director Jericho who began reading materials from the envelope marked "classified" under his chair. It was a sign to Noah that it was time to let the astronauts do the same. "Renegade, we have some information that needs to be shared with you. Check under your seats. There should be a small silver package with a few pieces of paper inside. Proceed to reading them, over."

"Roger Houston." 

 

Stephen, who was captain, opened his first. The ominous word "CLASSIFIED" written in read on the front of the package was intimidating. The package itself resembled a silver pop-tart rapper however a delicious treat was unlikely to be inside unless Mission Control had a dark sense of humor. The message was personalized for each astronaut, but the core message was the same. It read as follows:

 

 

 

 

CLASSIFIED

OPERATION RED DAWN

 

CAPTAIN STEPHEN PHELPS, PLAINS FEDERATION AIR FORCE

 

 

BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PLAINS FEDERATION, YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF OPERATION RED DAWN. 

 

INTEL: SOURCES CONFIRM ENEMY VIP, WMD, OR VITAL INTEL IS ON BOARD OF THE CHINESE SPACE STATION TIANGONG-1. THERE IS NO INTEL AS TO WHETHER THE STATION IS MANNED OR NOT, BUT BE PREPARED FOR COMBAT. 

 

SUPPLIES: THREE STANDARD ISSUE MA-1 MACHETES, PAPER, PENCILS, ADDITIONAL RESERVE OXYGEN TANKS.

 

​MISSION: NEUTRALIZE ANY ON BOARD ENEMIES. SEARCH THE STATION FOR ANY INFORMATION ON WMD OR SPECIAL WEAPONS. THE INTEL WILL BE IN ENGLISH, IGNORE CHINESE DOCUMENTS. RETURN TO RENEGADE. PULL THE ABORT PLUG AND RETURN HOME. 

 

ADDITIONAL INFO: THE PACIFIC IS CLEAR FOR REENTRY. MILITARY ASSETS ARE ALREADY AT PEARL HARBOR TO RETRIEVE RENEGADE. 

 

 

 

"Jesus Christ, Steve is this a Joke?" Marcus unbuckled himself and bounced over to the tiny storage "closet" near the back wall. After a bit of struggling he opened it and saw the sleek black machetes. "Why they hell did they give us machetes? What is this?" Marcus said. Stephen met him at the closet and shut the doors. "Gunfire is a no-no in a spaceship Marcus, you should know that. I don't know why the hell the Cornhuskers would have something in the Chinese Space Station but it has to be something big if they moved our damn mission up this much. Tim are you okay?" Timothy was still strapped. He examined the message over and over again and even smelled the Octagon Seal at the bottom right of the classified document. 

 

"It's real..." he said. It definitely was not the greatest practical joke ever played. "I'm going to tell Houston that we are a go," Stephen said. He only got a silent agreement from his crew members. 

 

"Houston, we are go for Operation Red Dawn. How long until we meet up with the station, over." 

"Fifteen minutes until you reach the station Renegade. You'll have to attach like in the simulator. Sorry we couldn't tell you about this earlier, over." Noah felt an apology was needed. 

"Roger that, just doing your job Houston." The astronauts appreciated that. Not to far in the distance they could see a shinny gray speck that only got larger with each passing second.

 

"Space Station in sight Houston, over."

Edited by PresidentDavid
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The team flooded through the grille into the drainage pipe beyond, emerging ten feet and a snipped mesh grille later on the other side of the ditch, inside the airport’s perimeter.  Hayley snapped her rifle to her shoulder as one of her team cracked off a silenced burst of 5.56mm rounds into an insurgent’s head and neck, painting the wall next to him with a spray of gore. Her heart racing, she swept the area in front of her with her eyes.

 

Fifteen feet above, braced against a sandbag wall on the roof of a one story office, she spotted a man in woodland camouflage with a SIG 552 propped on the sandbags, just beginning to turn towards her group. Fighting her heart back into a steadier rhythm as she brought her weapon to bear, Hayley laid her sights across the man’s head and her finger stroked her rifle’s match-grade trigger. The man’s head snapped back, and a part of her brain registered that she’d just killed another human for the first time. Next to her, she saw Chang punch three rounds into another insurgent’s chest, and suddenly there were no more targets nearby.

 

Trotting over to the building’s wall, Hayley keyed her mike. “I’ll take overwatch on the roof. Mackenzie, give me a lift.” She said, speaking quietly. Even though her helmet was sealed, she didn’t want to take the chance of being heard. A hulking figure answered her summons, coming in at a towering six foot five, kneeling down to make a step out of his hands. Putting her heel in his hands as she faced the building, she slung her rifle over her shoulder and gave him the signal. With a whoosh of speed, he flung her skyward, and she jumped from his hands, catching the edge of the roof, hauling herself up.

 

Taking up the position of the man she’d killed, she carefully pushed his body off the building, where it landed with a dull thud on the ground below. She made herself not pay attention to the gore streaking her position, and swept the area between her team and the airstrip’s small terminal where the enemy commander would have to be hiding, the “tower” being nothing more than a small outbuilding, and already a flaming heap courtesy of a mortar strike from the diversionary team, at that.

 

She counted the foemen she could see. “One… two…three… four… eight…” she said softly aloud, marking them in her head. “Good Lord. Twenty…” she said, and shook her head, keying her mic. “Looks like twenty-five plus hostiles between us and Mr. Middle Honcho Terrorist, and those are just the ones I can see.”

 

Off on the other side of the airfield, about two kilometers away, Hayley saw two tubes of incandescent tracer fire churning through an insurgent blocking position, and she could hear the ripping, tearing roar of the Vulcans that were doing the job.

 

“Listen up, I want everyone to move out on my mark. Chang, Diaz, Williams, Dees, I want you guys formed up on the building to my two o’clock, thirty meters. Mackenzie, Daugherty, Lin, Romanov, take the backside of the building to my eleven. Di Angelo, you’re with me… go.”

 

As the team advanced near silently, Hayley set up her rifle’s bipod to make the most use of her current, entrenched position. Beside her, di Angelo did the same with her carbine, resting it between two sandbags to make up for her lack of attached support.  When the rest of the team was in position, Hayley commed in again.

 

“Everyone, move up two hundred meters to the buildings nearest the terminal. That should put both fireteams within twenty meters of the terminal proper. Di Angelo and I will provide cover fire. Acknowledge.” Eight clicks over her radio and a thumbs up from di Angelo told her that her message had gotten through and was understood. “Alright, everyone,” Hayley said, nerves suddenly clamping her throat shut momentarily, and for another moment she fought to clear it. Then: “Go.”

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Once inside the space station the crew came to the realization that the Cornhuskers were not just militants or rebels, they were serious people trying to take over part of the Federation. There wasn't anyone else in the station but there were dozens of books strapped down to some of the walls and a couple maps of North America with Oklahoma City circled. "Stephen, get over here," said Timothy. "There's a timer on this thing." A small screen was counting down. It had twenty minutes left. "What the hell do you think that's counting down?" Stephen looked around the small containment room they were in. He noticed a device which was feeding out data in Chinese. Whatever it was saying, the output was smaller and smaller. 

 

"Houston, uh. We found some type of timer up here. T-minus nineteen minutes. If you think they're using this thing for evil then I would assume it's some type of bomb. Over."

"Roger that Renegade. We're going to patch that intel over to the President and the Air Force. You boys need to get back into your spacecraft."

"Roger Houston. Uh I think we might have a destination for the payload. A lot of maps here point to Oklahoma City. The countdown seems to be fixed but Timothy thinks he can change where it's going to land. We're aiming for the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe get the boys in Tikal to shoot it down, otherwise I suggest you evacuate the southern coast."

 

---

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

CAPITOL BUILDING

THREE MINUTES LATER

 

Deputy Secretary of State Samuel Ireland scrambled to the hard line that went straight to Tikal's government. 

 

 

To Prince Chak Tok Ich'aak of The Principality of Tikal

From Samuel Ireland, Deputy Secretary of State of The Plains Federation

 

Your Highness,

 

 

The Federation space agency, NASA, has confirmed that there is a nuclear weapon on the former Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1. The nuclear device is aimed at Oklahoma City. We are not sure what the size of this weapon is however geigercounters and evidence on the space station confirm that there is a nuclear device on board. As of now, it will drop in thirteen minutes. The President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, and the Congress are being evacuated to secure locations as we speak, but I am staying here to get this message to you. 

 

Our astronauts are working on moving the final destination of the weapon to the center of the Gulf of Mexico where the loss of life is expected to be minimal. We have anti-missile and anti-air weaponry and are going to use it however I fear that we do not have the technology to take out this warhead. I have permission from the president to ask that your military do anything and everything you can to shoot down this warhead once it leaves the space station. 

 

As I write this, I have just gotten confirmation that the astronauts have gotten the final destination of the warhead changed. It will be in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me know what you can do. Our Air Force will be using its conventional weaponry if your military is not able to assist. 

 

God Speed,

 

Samuel Ireland

Deputy Secretary of State of The Plains Federation

 

 

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA

CAPITOL BUILDING

THREE MINUTES LATER

 

Deputy Secretary of State Samuel Ireland scrambled to the hard line that went straight to Tikal's government. 

 

To Prince Chak Tok Ich'aak of The Principality of Tikal

From Samuel Ireland, Deputy Secretary of State of The Plains Federation

 

Your Highness,

 

 

The Federation space agency, NASA, has confirmed that there is a nuclear weapon on the former Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1. The nuclear device is aimed at Oklahoma City. We are not sure what the size of this weapon is however geigercounters and evidence on the space station confirm that there is a nuclear device on board. As of now, it will drop in thirteen minutes. The President, Vice President, and Secretary of State, and the Congress are being evacuated to secure locations as we speak, but I am staying here to get this message to you. 

 

Our astronauts are working on moving the final destination of the weapon to the center of the Gulf of Mexico where the loss of life is expected to be minimal. We have anti-missile and anti-air weaponry and are going to use it however I fear that we do not have the technology to take out this warhead. I have permission from the president to ask that your military do anything and everything you can to shoot down this warhead once it leaves the space station. 

 

As I write this, I have just gotten confirmation that the astronauts have gotten the final destination of the warhead changed. It will be in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me know what you can do. Our Air Force will be using its conventional weaponry if your military is not able to assist. 

 

God Speed,

 

Samuel Ireland

Deputy Secretary of State of The Plains Federation

 

The answer would be short.

 

"Get your astronauts off the station and whatever the warhead is attached to."

 

The SDI systems of Tamaulipas and Yucatán were brought to full alert in case the redirection overshot. At the same time, a squadron of the fastest available combat planes (F-22) was scrambled to try and intercept the nuclear weapon in case the long-range SDI systems were unable to do so.

 

Two missiles were launched each from the northern tip of Yucatán and the east coast of Tamaulipas. These were 'MKV's, Tikal's weapon of choice to intercept ballistic missiles of all kinds. It had passed all necessary tests in regards to manoeuvring with pin-point accuracy at high speeds in a three-dimensional space. This capability comes from being what can be boiled down to a large bundle of rockets pointing into every possible direction that fire with immense force whenever a turn is required.

 

In order to do its purpose and track and shoot down ICBMs and the like, it made full use of the national SDI's detection and tracking capabilities, in addition to having its own seeker system mounted on it. Once a target was verified, a cargo of small missile was released in order to destroy all possible countermeasures that the target might employ before firing the actual missiles that were to destroy an ICBM, preferably before it could unleash its MIRV load, if it was equipped appropriately.

 

In summation, an MKV was a number of small missiles, strapped to a group of larger missiles which in turn are attached to a giant 'master' missile - with what amounts to an 'all-seeing eye' mounted on it.

 

And four of these projectiles that screamed [i]overkill[/i] from every atom were en route to blast the nuke and whatever it was attached to into smithereens. They were fired one minute after the message was received, at roughly T-minus 12 minutes. The flight path would take them high into the atmosphere, but to intercept ICBMs, they were capable of this by design. The total flight time by the missiles from Tamaulipas would be only eight minutes. Another two minutes later, the missiles from Yucatán would reach the station and its payload.

With luck, the astronauts were off the station by then, for there was little change of anything larger than a tennis ball surviving a collision with this sort of firepower.

 

Still, the fighter planes were on standby to fire their own missiles to try and intercept the nuke. Appropriate tracking equipment was active, luckily.

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