Ashen Dawn



Posted on Tue Aug 24th, 2021 @ 8:05am by Captain Cassandra McMillan & Corporal Sascha Lorenz & Sergeant First Class Calandra “Cally” Wada & Captain Ethan Coulson

Mission: 1 - It's The End (And I Feel Fine)
Location: Kalisz Battlegrounds
Timeline: 0600 Local, 4/15/2000

The sun was slowly creeping up over the eastern horizon, though much of its arrival was muted by the overcast sky. As the trio left the safety of the church for their task, the extent of the battle was clear. The Americans had run smack into prepared positions set up by the Soviets and paid for it. But perplexingly, the Soviets were not still manning what positions could be seen here, and it was clear that the remains of 5th Infantry had routed and the Soviets had pursued them with abandon.

Cassie's heart sank into her stomach. Her assessment had been all wrong - the assault had been broken in her absence. Whatever was left was probably halfway to Germany and they were probably the closest NATO troops to Lodz. They were well and truly on their own.

"...didn't think it'd gone that bad." Cassie murmured to herself as her M4 swept the area.

Taking the rear of the group, Cally's eyes moved from spot to spot. The muzzle of her rifle lower, like a animal ready to pounce. She felt oddly comfortable again, enjoying the initial feel of her equipment surrounding her. A certain homeliness, or a comfortable blanket before it started to get heavy and hot. "Not seeing much promising. Not seeing much of.... anything."

"Let's start with the closest bunch. Watch for unexploded stuff too. RPGs tend to do some crazy things, likely all unintentional too." Cassie said, taking the lead towards a collection of vehicles. It looked like a couple of trucks in the early morning twilight. Maybe a large flatbed. It was hard to tell.

Coulson didn't have any of his weapons drawn at the moment. However, he could easily unholster his M9s at any moment if needed. As he looked around, he noted how dire the situation actually was. Even though he had witnessed many conflicts of the war during his time as a courier, and even before that in the Navy, he didn't realize how bad Operation Reset had failed.

Cally's eyes shifted quickly, the muzzle following a millisecond later. However it was just a rodent. Or a rabbit? She promptly moved on, taking in a sigh of relief. Nothing about the area made her comfortable. As they neared the vehicles her eyes glanced more and more at them. "Don't judge a book by its cover?" She offered hopefully. They weren't in the best of shape.

There was a pickup truck, one of Japanese make that had begun to enter Poland during it's brief time outside the Iron Curtain, a Soviet UAZ Jeep, and an American M35 flatbed cargo truck. The UAZ was riddled with bullet holes, with a body slumped over the steering wheel, and puddles under it to suggest the fluids that were normally in an engine were now on the ground. The M35's engine bay looked like it had taken a direct hit from some kind of anti-tank weapon. But the pickup truck looked banged up but otherwise no worse for wear.

"Okay. Coulson, check out the pickup, the jeep and the deuce and a half look like they're done. Cally, poke around the jeep and the deuce and a half, see if we can find anything useful left behind. I'll cover." Cassie said.

"Aye." He replied. He walked over to the pickup after picking up a tool kit that was found between the M35 and the UAZ. It looked like banged up, and would need some basic repairs, but nothing that couldn't be done without the tool kit. At least that's what it looked like on the outside. Ethan unholstered his M9 with his right hand and pointed it at the door, in case anyone, or anything tried to jump out at him. He used his left hand to try the driver side handle. He carefully opened the door to reveal no enemies. With a sigh of relief, he began to search the inside of the truck, and he would eventually examine the bed and exterior more closely in a few moments.

Cally moved quickly towards her ordered goal, mumbling about sexist instructions. Letting her rifle down on the sling, she began scouring the contents. “Mags, holster with pistol, couple boxes of ammo,” She said to herself, counting the contents before reporting back. She shuffled through personal bags, it was obvious to her that whoever owned this left or died quick.

"Rodeo!" A woman's voice called out from somewhere behind the group. Sascha had been completely floored by the realization that the Ranger she'd spotted leaving the church was in fact her commanding officer. But where was the rest of the squad? Who were these people with her now? And what had happened with that group of Russians back at the church? So many questions. Rather than pop out into the open and risk getting shot at, Sascha felt it best to simply call out the challenge word her unit had been using for Reset.

Cally dove behind the Jeep, her rifle coming back to her hands and up to shoulder level after ensuring some level of cover. “Contact?” She yelled, slightly confused by the word.

Hearing the woman's voice, and Cally yelling that there was possible contact, Ethan dove into the cab of the truck for cover, quickly pointing his unholstered M9 towards the woman's direction, while keeping a hand on his other handgun just in case.

Cassie's rifle almost came up but she held up a closed fist instead, "Clown!" She shouted back, before turning to Cally, "No. One of ours. We're good."

Cally relaxed, slinging her rifle and going back to shuffling through items in the back of the jeep, mumbling to herself nothing that could be considered coherent. She continued to pile the useful things on a front seat while tossing the useless out of the jeep to declutter what was there.

Quickly realizing that the woman was a friendly, Ethan holstered his M9 again and stepped out of the cab, letting our a sigh of relief.

She turned to face the origin of the sound, waving, "Come on up." Cassie called back.

Sascha didn't keep the captain waiting. She emerged from behind some foliage and trotted up to join the group. By all appearances she'd been faring well enough on her own, as she still had her weapons, helmet and other combat gear, as well as her backpack and at least some of her field kit. She appeared to be uninjured, but had clearly been roughing it the last few days... not that that set her apart from anyone else around really.

"Captain McMillan." Sascha said simply, by way of acknowledgement as she came to a stop a few steps away. She had a pretty good American accent, but names especially was really where her native-German was more pronounced. She could practice everyday words until she got the pronunciation just right, but names were far more unpredictable, and she hadn't been under McMillan's command long.

"Corporal Lorenz. We'll catch up along the way, but here's the SITREP," Cassie said quietly, "5th Infantry fled the scene, we got Soviet troops with a bloodlust comin' our way. The church back there has a ton of wounded on either side and civies too. We gotta get them moved..."

She looked around at the others, "We ain't talked about where, but I've got an idea. III Corps HQ is in Wroclaw, but more importantly, so is the MASH. It's a good enough place to fall back to. It's about...little under a hundred and twenty klicks southwest."

Cassie let out a sigh, "It's not great, but it's the closest option we got."

Ethan nodded in agreement. "The truck shouldn't be too hard to fix. We should be able get it up and running soon. Luckily I found a set of keys still in the ignition, so hopefully we can get underway soon." Coulson added as he popped the hood of the pickup open and setting the tool kit on the ground. "That is, if there isn't any hidden damage."

"Good news, I found some ammo and some equipment that could be useful. Bad news, very little. Most of the crap in these things are broke or garbage," Cally reported, motioning off to the pile of good equipment in the Jeep, somewhat organized, and the strewn garbage around the vehicles.

Sascha couldn't help but scowl a bit. Of course she'd known that linking up with at least some of her unit wouldn't fix all of her problems, but she'd been hoping for more in the way of... well, less bad news. The idea of a hundred kilometer retreat was a bit tough to swallow. That was almost halfway back to Germany... what was left of it. This was not the first time she'd been forced to withdraw from a shattered front line, and it wasn't even the worst. But it was the first time she'd had to do with the Soviets so close on their heels... and possibly already ahead of them. The back and forth tactical nukes in previous battles bad been bad enough, but at least the lines had more or less held, with neither side able to exploit the others weaknesses. But at least the situation didn't seem as bad as the horror stores her grandfather had told her about his time in the Wehrmacht on the eastern front.

McMillan had said that there would be time to catch up later, so Sascha kept her mouth shut for now. But she did reach into one of the pockets on her BDU coat and pulled out a small handful of dog tags. She handed them to Cassie. "I can confirm Arcand and Guerrero were killed. I don't know about Shearer, all I found was her tags and kevlar." Sascha said, referring to her helmet." Shearer's dogtag was somewhat mangled, suggesting an unpleasant fate, but her helmet had been relatively untouched.

Cassie accepted them with a sigh, tucking them into a pocket. They were her Rangers...gone. Gone from this stupid war that did nothing but end the world. Spared whatever fate had awaited the rest of the Rangers in Norway...just to die for nothing but the end of the world. "Thanks for grabbing what you could." She said.

"Alright, let's load up anything of use here into the pickup. We're gonna need everything we can get our hands on." Cally said. She opened the UAZ's door and looked inside. She relieved the soldier of the magazines in his webbing, only a couple, as well as a couple of grenades. The latter she held onto, but the orange Bakelite magazines, distinctive of the Soviet AK-74, went into the cab of the pickup.

"Coulson, if you think it's good, mark it and let's get a move on." Cassie said, "No telling how close those Soviet troops are or which way they're comin'. Hopefully it's a rear guard and not the leading elements of their force."

Coulson quickly checked over the truck again to make sure there wasn't any hidden damage. "Agreed." Ethan replied while tagging the truck.

Sascha simply nodded in response to the Captain's thanks. After that she decided to find a way to make herself useful. Unfortunately she didn't know much about cars, or automobiles in general. Before joining the military, she'd only ridden in a handful of cars in her life. Her family in Germany hadn't owned one, and there had been little point in trying to get one during her time in America, as the boarding school she attended didn't allow students to have them on campus. She'd ridden in quite a few military vehicles since being deployed, but driving and automotive repair were pretty far outside of her MOS, so she'd never received training in either. Which was ironic, as she'd spent a lot of time in the field as a runner.

"That water tower over there would be a good vantage point to keep an eye on the road, I should be able to get up or down in around ninety seconds once I get there." Sascha suggested to Cassie, after estimating its height. It was about fifty meters off the road though, and she had no idea how direct or easy the route to it would be. And it was a little far for hand signals without optics.

"Not yet. Still pretty quiet, if they know they're hunting wounded and lost, they won't be fixin' to be quiet." Cassie replied, "And I'd rather keep together right now."

"Alright, let's hustle. We're gonna need more than an old pickup. Ideally, we should find something that still has an MG on it. A fifty would be nice, but I'll settle for somethin' with a -240 or -60 on it." Cassie said, gesturing further into the battlefield.

Cally nodded. "Anything to get moving. I don't like this area," She responded, looking at the many angles of attack they could face.

Sascha said nothing as McMillan rejected her suggestion. It was probably true that they would hear the Soviets well before being able to see them, and maybe it was wise not to split up. Still... she kind of wanted to know for sure. But she would stay put. She started looking around the vehicles for another way to help out, not quite sure how, when something the captain said caught her attention.

"I know where there's a 240... an abandoned crossroads checkpoint no more than two clicks that way." She said, pointing north. It wasn't mounted on a vehicle, but it did have a bipod and there was at least one box of ammo near it. Maybe more. "I wouldn't want to go back that way though, not unless we already had one." Sascha then decided to shut up, realizing she wasn't being very helpful. But still, she had been trained to offer information, and let her superiors decide if it was worth the risk. In her mind it wasn't. I might not even still be there... given the amount of time she'd spent surveilling the church.