Ashen Dawn


It All Started In A Basement...

Posted on Wed Jul 14th, 2021 @ 7:07am by Captain Cassandra McMillan & Sergeant First Class Calandra “Cally” Wada & Captain Ethan Coulson

Mission: 1 - It's The End (And I Feel Fine)
Location: Church 5mi SW of Kalisz, Poland
Timeline: 0530 Local, 4/15/2000

Morning had not yet dawned outside, the stars and moon obscured by the clouds gathering overhead. Only time would tell if they would break up or lead to rain. Outside was also a twisted landscape over an ancient land. Fires still burned, the dying reminders of the last spasm of the established orders in World War Three. Inside this simple church, rebuilt only recently, it was dark, lit only by lanterns and candles. The basement had been part of the old church, a cellar of old and then a bomb shelter. The decision was to keep it for the latter purpose with war coming so soon after Poland had claimed it's independence from Moscow.

Now it was filled with soldiers, their uniform did not matter, and civilians. The nuns and some helpful civilians tried to help patch injuries where they could and provide comfort in the final hours of those they could not help. This was yet another reminder of the result of the battle that had raged outside for several days. More death, more destruction, and to what end?

Cassie McMillan had been lucky. How, she had no idea, the last thing the Ranger remembered was a Soviet artillery barrage coming down all around her and her team. Someone had figured their hiding place out, where she had been calling down mortars on the entrenched positions. First a flare had gone up over them, and then the distant thunder of Soviet 122mm and 152mm field guns rumbled. Screaming, explosions and

Bandages had been wrapped around her head, her left arm and right leg, but the didn't feel too bad as she got up. Cuts and bruises, disorientation that came with a concussion. Better than many here. The war had come and gone once again and left misery and pain in its wake. As she started to walk with a slight limp, she looked around, hoping to find a familiar face. One thing she did notice though was so far, no one seemed to have a weapon. Not a single AK, M16, pistol or even a knife or bayonet. Not that many would have much use for long for one, but someone clearly had thought it out.

Ethan Coulson woke up on the riverbank after being unconscious for about for an hour. This was due to his riverboat, the "Montana" scraping against an unused mine from the war. It had punctured his boat, and caused it to beach on the shore. Needless to say, that there would be scars to be added to his skin, along side the ones he gained from the war.

He slowly sat up and looked at the wreckage. "Shit"

He rose from sitting to standing. Soon after, he began to search the wreckage. A few minutes later, he came up with a small knife for hunting and skinning fish, and a small, but compact M9 pistol, that he had since he was stranded 3 years ago. That gun was indestructible. He managed to find the clothing he took with, but there wasn't a whole lot, since most of his clothing with him was destroyed in the accident. Everything else was damp. However, these were all minor problems, compared to the situation he was in right now. Because the Montana was now beached, he was stranded 30 miles inland from the "shack" he had taken shelter in for 3 years. He turned to look for anything else. Not finding anything else of use, he faced away from the river, noticing a church in the distance. He ultimately decided to go to the church, since there could be people who needed assistance, which was also something he needed as well. Well, that, and potentially a new boat.

A nun greeted Ethan when he arrived, and made it clear in both Polish and very broken English that he was to leave his gun with her. The war stayed out there, this was a house of God.

While he didn't like being defenseless, he wanted to respect her wishes. So, he nodded, and left his gun with her, despite being hesitant to do so. After that, he proceeded farther into the Church. He glanced around, noticing the many different civilians and military personnel who were wounded, and possibly stranded, like he once was 3 years ago. Being a fisherman and courier meant that he witnessed many of the effects of Operation Reset. Some of them, more dire situations than others. He sighed, and started to find a place where he could assist as needed.

Cally walked up to Cassie, hands slightly outstretched to ensure the person who didn't seem steady on her feet didn't fall. "Ma'am, I do not believe you should be on her feet at the moment." She gently got next to the Captain to ensure she would not fall. "I do believe you banged up your head once already, we don't need a repeat," The corpsman stated.

Cassie turned to the other woman, shaking her head as slightly as her concussion would allow. "I...I'm better than most right now. Just need to see if any of my men made it here."

She looked around, recognizing none of the Americans she could see here. Maybe they'd gotten out, maybe she was the only survivor.

"Ma'am, I'll happily record your unit and compare it against the records. However you do your soldiers no good not resting at the moment," Cally replied, attempting to guide her back to her bed. Cally knew the truth it was slim to none the Captain would find anyone here, especially here being such a small refuge.

"Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers. We were..." Cassie took a breath, but didn't go towards the bed she rose out of. Her Texas drawl was starting to become more readily apparent. That only added to the layers of stubbornness now, "...we were assigned to 5th Infantry as artillery observers and forward scouts."

She looked to the new arrival, her hopes up for just a brief moment before realizing she did not recognize this man, and so they sank once more.

"Look, I'll be fine...God knows it ain't the first concussion I've had." She looked around again, "...this the aid station while we moved onto Lodz?"

Cassie referred to the objective assigned to 5th Infantry - the city of Lodz. Kalisz was 40 miles-ish east of Lodz. But it was a sign she was holding out hope that the attack had succeeded, that they'd broken through.

She looked at the new arrival, "You in charge here?" She asked. Her mind was racing about as fast as it was spinning. Too many questions, too much to process.

Ethan walked up. "No, I'm not. At least I don't think I am. Given the status of the world, it has been unclear who is really in charge anywhere anymore. Though given my former Naval rank, I'm sure that I am outranked by at least some of the personnel here."

"Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Rangers," Cally responded. "I'll look at the records." She took another step closer to the patient, imposing herself now. "I'm in charge for the moment, so I'll have you sit back down on your bed. We can go from there after."

Cassie started to protest but two more sets of footsteps came down into the basement behind Ethan. The first was a priest, awkwardly carrying an AKMS assault rifle in his arms, like he was holding onto a particularly volatile cat. Behind him was a Soviet soldier. The man wore fatigues of the same pattern as Soviet "Category A" soldiers, camo fatigues of splotches of greens and browns, though the cut was different. He also had no helmet on, instead wearing a khaki colored headwrap. Middle aged, but in great shape, his black mustache and goatee seemed to only add to the rugged image. He kept his hands crossed to his front, looking around.

He was Spetsnaz, no doubt about it. A cool and calm professional, trademarks of the elite troops of the war. And just like Green Berets or SAS, the mythos held up for Soviet Special Forces too - you only saw one when they wanted to be seen.

"I am Colonel Romanov. I have come under a flag of truce to speak to you. Who is in charge here?" The man asked in accented English.

Cally turned and sighed. "Last I checked God ran this place, so unless you have medical supplies and time to assist with medical aide, I'm not sure what you're going to get from here," She responded sharply, "Sir," She added at the end, realizing how sharp her tongue was and instantly regretting it, losing some of the strong posture she had just a moment ago.

"At ease." Cassie said quietly, and took two steps forward, standing up as straight as she could manage. "Captain McMillan, US Army. Since I seem to be the senior most officer upright, you can talk to me, Colonel."

Romanov nodded once, "Very well, Captain. As you are aware, last night was a horrible battle. Your unit was routed by elements of a Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. My men and I have been looking for survivors and trying to warn them, but this is the only group we have found."

"Warn us of what, Colonel?" Cassie asked.

"That you and everyone one here, American, Polish, Soviet, and others, are in grave danger. I am supposed to report survivors to be found and executed by this Motor Rifle Brigade. They are led by a Colonel, he sees this all as just revenge for his family perishing in some NATO bombing raid or another." Romanov shook his head, "Captain, I am a soldier, there are rules in war. When we ignore them, when we do not respect one another...well...our political masters demonstrated clearly what that result is."

"I cannot stay, my men and I must move on, warn others if we can. Time is not on your side, and they will search this place first. Standing and fighting is not possible, you are too few and they will simply lock you in and burn this building to the ground. I do not think all the vehicles left here were destroyed, in the chaos, it appears at a glance they may have been abandoned by their crews. After that, where you go is your concern." Romanov said. "Good luck."

Romanov turned and walked towards the stairs, the priest following alongside with the Colonel's rifle.

Cassie looked at the medic and the other new arrival, relaxing slightly if only because her head was starting to spin, and not just from the concussion anymore.

"So. Y'all got anything to add to the Colonel's idea? Because if a Spetsnaz Colonel says bug out, I'm thinkin' buggin' out is what we do." Cassie said.

"Doubt we can move fast in our conditions," Cally responded looking around. "So I wouldn't argue with a quick bug out. I can have my supply bags and gear ready in fifteen."

"If my riverboat hadn't of been severely damaged by a mine in the river, I would have suggested to use that to evacuate everyone from here. However, we should be cautious, especially if what Colonel Romanov is saying, is true. That being said, I don't have much to carry, so I am pretty much prepared to bug out as well." Ethan replied.

Cassie nodded, "Yeah, but we need to get the rest of the wounded, not to mention the Father and the nuns, out of here. So, either of y'all mechanically inclined? Otherwise, I'm thinkin' we look around, if it looks like it obviously works, we get someone here to drive that can drive. Figure a couple trucks or APCs if we're lucky."

Ethan looked towards the others, "Back home I worked on cars in my garage during the times I had shore leave while I was in the Navy. However, the last time I was back home was before I was stranded three years ago. That being said, I have tools in my bag that Io salvaged from my boat's wreckage, as well as some tools I leave at my shack, however that is located more than 30 miles away."

"Mechanical isn't my thing. I can start organizing the wounded with the church staff though," Cally responded.

Cassie looked between them before nodding again.

"Doc, I'd rather leave that to the others. Even if you're not a mechanic, extra eyes are better." Cassie said, "Alright, sounds like we got a plan."

"So, what do y'all go by? I'm, like I said, Captain Cassie McMillan, Rangers."

"Lieutenant Ethan Coulson, Former Acting Commanding Officer of the USS Seattle." Ethan thought for a moment. "And I guess I am now the former Captain of the Riverboat Montana as well."

"Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Cally Wada, most call me Doc though," Cally responded, waiting for the other officer to speak first.

"The hell's the Navy doing this far inland..." Cassie blinked and then shook her head, "Okay. I'd really appreciate it if y'all arm yourselves too, it wasn't much fun out there. And Geneva Convention don't sound like it matters to the ones coming our way."

The priest clearly spoke English because after some hushed commands to the nuns, the sisters returned with an assortment of American gear taken off of the wounded or possibly even the dead. Vests, helmets, webbing, ammo, and weapons were laid out. Ethan's sidearm was returned to him. The other weapons were normal affair, M16A2s, a few M4s and older CAR-15s, a couple M9s and M1911A1s. Cassie picked through the pile to locate the gear she'd had before being knocked out, finding most of it surprisingly.

"Okay, keep fingers off triggers, eyes open. We'll make this easy - if it looks busted, move on. If it looks okay, check under the hood next and check the tires or tracks. We'll mark the good ones..." Cassie trailed off but the priest once again was on it, and handed over chalk to each person, "That'll work, thank you, sir."

"We'll see about findin' you a tool kit while we're out there but we ain't got much time it sounds like." Cassie said.

"I will send others to help find supplies, get vehicles here." The priest finally said, "God protect you and may He provide you what we need."

"We'll need to work out a plan of where to go, but we can talk that over while we're out there. All good?" Cassie asked.

“Dumb enough to get assigned to the Marines,” Cally responded, picking through the weapons. “I’ll get my supplies ready within five.”

Ethan picked up an M9 and put it in a holster on his opposite side to his other M9. He picked up an M4 and a few rounds of ammunition. He stored some of his ammo in his bag, which was still wet, and he stored the magazines for the M4 in compartments of his utility belt, which was still intact from his accident. He also picked up a vest for just in case. "I think I should be set."

With that, the group headed out onto the remains of the battlefield, the remains of something NATO called "Operation RESET".