Last of the Brave (Intro++)

"Move! Move! Move!"

Bullets cracked and snapped around her, burying themselves in the ice walls, gold and white muzzle flash betraying the approach of soldiers from the new world regime bearing down on them. Behind her, a SEAL responded with a burst of fire from his saw, pinning the advance down in the narrow corridor approaching the hangar.

In her hands, a bleeding MP. She had him just beneath the shoulders, her rifle bouncing against her hip as she did her best to drag him behind their rapidly retreating line. His plate had been penetrated, she knew that for certain, and he was fading, the normal, vibrant color she saw in the living faded to almost nothing for him. His rifle skipped across the ground beside him, the strength to hold it and return fire lost.

"Sharon! Down!" a SEAL behind her yelled.

She fell backwards, just in time to watch a rocket race overhead and collide with the ceiling between the two forces with heavy thumps, bringing down the ice on top of the soldiers. She got back on her feet, and dragged the MP into an adjacent room. Two SEALs, including the machine gunner, ducked in behind her.

"How're we doin' Mila?" one asked, stacked on the doorway with his rifle aimed up the hall. "He goin' to make it or what?"

She unclasped his plate carrier and tossed it aside. With the ceramic penetrated, it was dead weight. "I need a hand!" Looking down it was worse than she thought. Three massive wounds dug deep into the MP, two likely puncturing the right lung, the third higher on his chest and appeared to go all the way through, having missed the plate.

The rifleman traded spots with the gunner, and dropped to her side. "Whatcha need?"

"Hold him down! I need to dig out two bullets!"

He straddled the MP and pinned his arms to the steel plated floor. She stripped his IFAK off him and went to work, squeezing herself between her partner and her patient. The MP screamed, and the color of his emotions came flaring back to life in the pain as she dug through his internals. She found the first, but the second had shattered a rib and fragmented into the lung. The best that could be done was remove the few large shards to be found and slap a chest seal over it. She had no idea what was worse, being shot to death, or drowning in yourself.

"Yo guys," the gunner called out, "We gotta go. They're melting the damn ice."

She and the rifleman traded looks. He wasn't apart of her team, and until then she had forgotten his name. Baker.

"Right, get him up Mila! We're moving!" Baker said, jumping off the un-moving, but still alive, MP to take a position at the door.

She lifted him up into a better carrying position and centered herself in the door.

"Pawly, take rear, I'll take point," he turned to her and the MP, "stay close, stay down. We're almost out."

He waited for them both to acknowledge before continuing. "Okay. Ready... move!"

They entered the hall, and moved at breakneck speed away from the collapsed ice, now red with heat melting through it. They slowed only to enter the junction connected several other corridors, which echoed with the sounds of violence.

When they reached the airlock to the hangar, they found it shut. Of course it was shut, they were under attack. This was the worst imaginable situation, and they were losing hard.

Baker slammed a first into the door comm, "Petty Officer Lewis Baker! Open the door! We've got wounded and need evac!"

Behind them in the distance, the ice melted, and through the red haze the first wave of soldiers emerged, firing on them and the door.

She and the MP fell off to the left, Baker fell to the right, his hand still on the button as he called for help again. Pawly had already set up prone, and was peppering the corridor with suppressive fire. She checked herself and the MP for more injuries, and thanked the only God that mattered when she failed to find any. Bullets whipped and cracked around and overhead, burying themselves in the ice or bouncing off the steel floor the ricochet wildly against the door. She grabbed the MP by the shirt, rolled him over her away from the door, and brought her rifle to bear.

"Cover! Cover! Cover!" Pawly cried as his belt ran out, ejecting the last few casings into a small sheet of brass.

Her and Baker cracked away at each side of the corridor. Less than a hundred meters away more soldiers were appearing, these armed with shields to cover their columns, rifle barrels poking out from behind them. She dropped her aim and forced the column to slow, but they were running out of options here. As Pawly slapped down his tray and returned to firing, she had to drop her mag and load one that had been half empty from before. Baker slapped a fresh one in, but how long would that last? Long enough to get through the door, or just long enough to leave a mountain of bodies leading to their own?

He slammed on the comm again. "Dammit open this door! Open it!" He was getting desperate, and she watched as the flared lines of color shifted from stress to rage and, finally, panic. A trio of bullets arced over his head, and they both shared the same look. This was it.

This was the day they died.

"Gawd dammit!" he raged, kicking the door before turning to the oncoming soldiers. While Pawly suppressed, he picked his shots, shouting curses and vows of violence at the opposition. With nothing left, Sharon did the same.

With Luthor's soldiers, the armor had always been extra tough compared to theirs. They could afford the extra plating, the full seal helmets. The only weak points were the joints, around the neck, in the groin, and just beneath the arms if one could make that shot. The face plate took a few shots, but would also break under fire, and was really the only reason they even could suppress the approach.

She could see the emotions of them too, a mix of violent hate and disciplined fervor. Under different circumstances, she may have even been able to determine which were Luthor's original soldiers, which were his indoctrinated, and which were the ones who long ago would have fought beside her, and maybe even did, before surrendering to his onslaught. Now though, they all were caught in the breadth of her sights, as her rifle slammed home small clusters in the face plate or just under the chin.

Her and Baker both ran out about the same time, and dropped their mags to the floor. He had a fresh replacement, she didn't.

"Baker! Ammo!"

He stopped firing, searched his vest, and gave her a look of despair. It was his last.

"Pawly! Any mags!" she shouted over his bursts. When he didn't respond, she shouted at him again, and almost took a bullet in the face, the round slapping against the sealed door.

"Hang on," he replied. He fired a few more bursts then cried, "Cover! Cover! Cover!"

Baker let loose with his rifle, Pawly scrambled on all fours back behind the only cover available, dragging the saw with him and being himself dragged back by Sharon. She fished a new magazine out of his vest, slapped it home and racked the bolt, then slid a second over to Baker, who had just burnt through his.

"Reloading, don't go dry."

Sharon and Baker both resumed firing, picking their marks and pinning the offense down, but they were gaining speed. With Pawly in action, the advance had stopped at about fifty meters. Now they were closing down to thirty and twenty five, bounding down the hall as professionals did with the shield columns pounding down the center.

Twenty meters, and behind them a red glow continued its slow march. It was like Hell itself was caught in their wake.

Fifteen meters and Pawly put down again to hold the tide, Sharon having stripped him of all his magazines. Three for her, three for Baker.

She felt a tug on her plate, like someone was grabbing her, then dragging her. Turning around, she was met with another SEAL from a different team again, and two more holding the door open, struggling against its weight and mechanism.

A fourth person, an MP, ran through to grab Baker and scream in his ear. She however didn't need to be told. She lifted her patient and ran through the doorway. Her back plate caught a round, and she was slammed forward, losing her grip and sprawling to the ground. She scrambled, threw herself over the downed MP, and waited till the door had closed and her fellow SEALs were shaking her off him.

"Mila! We need to go, come on!" The new voice she recognized, but the name was lost to her, just the distant memory that it was one she trained with, one that had spent off days in the lounge joking about the end of the world and the conspiracy of the new world order come true.

When she looked down, all she saw was the MP's empty face, devoid of light. Devoid of life. And when she looked around, she saw that Pawly was gone too.

"Mila!" The familiar voice shook her. "Sharon! We need to move! Come on!"

She stripped the MP of his rifle, took his mags, and followed after them.

The hangar was still secure, as was expected in the event of invasion. At the back of the base and buried under a mile of ice, it had always been the practiced last position they fell to. Aircraft had to be taxied in and out, traversing about a mile more of ice before reaching the exit, a normally sealed vertical channel that put them out over the arctic ice. Six Ospreys were already spun up and on the move, with other Navy personnel racing across the hangar to reach them before they reached the exit. Those that weren't running had turned the unused crates and taxi carts into cover, with two final Ospreys waiting nearby, their door gunners trained on the far wall.

She stacked up on the first available line of cover, along with a handful of MP and SEALs still holding the line. They were scared, they all were.

"Any wounded?" she asked, not seeing any immediately. The looks she got in return, even without seeing their current state of mind, was heartbreaking. No wounded, just dead and living.

She dropped the topic and reviewed her new rifle. It was smaller, an AR platform, probably from a manufacturer that no longer existed. Not quite an M4, not quite an M16. Certainly nothing compared to the rifles used by Luthor's soldiers, and lacking the punch of hers, a Mk 17. It wouldn't penetrate the plates, that's for sure.

Ahead of them, the door they sealed began to hiss and glow, while others down the wall showed use of cutting torches. Apparently, Hell did have it out for her. She could feel its rage even before the door melted, and smoke began to fill the space between them.

When the first line of soldiers broke through, spaced every few meters, the bullets began to fly once more. Her rifle slapped round after round into her targets, dropping one, then two, then a third before having to reload. Someone made the call, the other birds had escaped, and they were leaving. The last of the SEALs fell back under fire, the door gunners ripping into the newer lines, more tightly packed than before. Behind it all, the red haze loomed, the gate to Hell itself burning behind the soldiers and smoke.

A rocket flew from the ranks further down the wall, and enveloped the second Osprey in fire.

Inside theirs', a cluster of bullets dropped another SEAL. Baker jumped to his side, to drag him to safety, and met the same fate before the doors finally shut. The Osprey rocked and stuttered as it drove across the hangar, gunfire snapping against the body of steel protecting them. A door gunner fell from his weapon, lost to the hangar falling behind them, replaced by an MP.

The last Osprey pulled away, bullets ringing off the steel body like hard hail. The aircraft shuddered, lifting away from the hangar. The buzzsaw of the guns fell silent, and the hail pattered off, the end of a violent storm. The arctic ice lay bare before them as the rush, the stress, the swirl of emotion that was combat fell away too, replaced with cold, empty despair. They had lost. This was the end of the old resistance.

Five days later, an Osprey was shot down no more than ten miles outside of Gotham City. Soldiers deployed, finding the pilots and four bodies in the wreckage, which they took and wrapped for transport.

Atop a nearby hill, Sharon watched as the last of the aircraft disappeared into the waning sun. She slid down from her vantage point, and began the long night into the heart of Gotham.

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