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[GZG] [GZG Fiction] The Battle of Ballachulish

From: <Beth.Fulton@c...>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2011 23:42:03 +1100
Subject: [GZG] [GZG Fiction] The Battle of Ballachulish

The Battle of Ballachulish

What I saw after as Operation Heavy Hand played out proved to me how
difficult ground operations were in this state of all out war. The
mobile forces involved meant the action was fluid and plans needed to
flow with the shifts. We were also operating over such a broad front
that we were effectively on our own; a string of separated, if
quasi-coordinated, attacks. Then there was the ever-present spectre of
logistics and the effects of the hellish terrain. Nothing was solid,
everything was as irresolute as the sandy ground underfoot. No wonder
people said war is an art form.

I still had my seat crammed into one of the big Phalanx “sand
beetle” APCs. My cramped seat meant I was privy to more than just what
came over general comms, catching a snippets from the forward ops crew.

It was mid afternoon when we got the news that Colonel Roy Nguyễn had
assumed command of the attack. Brigadier Henninger had been mortally
wounded a couple of hours earlier when his command vehicle was hit by a
missile. He had survived the initial strike and had suffered only minor
burns, thanks to the quick thinking of his driver who doused with flame
retardant him before they bailed out. Unfortunately, he had also taken a
5cm wide razor sharp splinter from the chassis through his abdomen and
there was little the medics could do under such challenging conditions
and with no available air support.

Colonel Bakir, commander of the brigade the 2/34 sat under, had been
disabled when the APC he was travelling in was struck and rolled during
the initial push on the bridges. He’d refused to leave the field, but
due to his injuries had been retasked in a support role. This meant that
Iron George would command the armoured brigade that covered the key
point of the OU’s forward shock group. We were to play a principal
combat role in the battle. I was proud, excited and terrified in equal
measure. Front line cover is what every war correspondent hopes for, but
I also knew what Kra’Vak were capable of. I tried not to dwell on that
lest the chill down my spine spread wide enough to freeze me solid.

I also tried not to dwell on the fact that our 3000 troops would be the
pointy end that was used to strike at the Kra’Vak forces that had
halted their withdrawal along the far side of the plain. Even if half of
the contacts showing on the tac-map were true we were easily facing
seven or eight times our number. Yes we had support, but we also knew
that Nguyễn was conservative. On top of that it was a poorly kept
secret that General Troughton had wanted the west to go slow enough to
distract and encumber the Kra’Vak while the main NAC force pushed
through in the east. If we crumpled too early then we’d have failed.
Nguyễn was sure to hold back significant reserves. In my mind at least
that meant we were it.

The offensive opened fairly well. One of Henninger’s final acts had
been to send a fast grav force on a wide outflanking sweep through the
thin strip of desert that ran between the ridges and the sea. The force
was made up of all the grav available - a squadron of Cockroach heavy
grav MBTs from the 1st armoured regiment, the 3/4 cav regiment and 2/1
light horse. There weren’t many grav vehicles amongst the OU forces on
Mars, the logistics train was too taxing, but what we did have had a
reputation for being fast and furious. Their crew had a reputation as
large and lively as their vehicles. They added to the reputation by
making exceptionally good time through the tricky terrain, striking the
Krak at about 17:10. The pass back onto the plain was not particularly
easy however and the decent soon saw them become disjointed. The defile
they’d found to re-enter the plain was in behind the first line of
Krak vehicle units. Not particularly close to our frontline and it was
quite difficult for us to offer much immediate assistance; although our
field guns tried with all their might to soften up the Krak’s
hindquarters for them.

The Krak were able to win many of the small fragmentary engagements as
the OU vehicles came down the slope, throwing many of the flanking units
back, which clogged the decent and caused even more delay. What had
started so well now didn’t look so promising; the Krak grav was a
match to ours and was rapidly turning to face the new attackers. Iron
George wasn’t content to sit and watch however.

Cathy elbowed me with excitement as she pointed out the Paladins
shifting from marked as “holding” to “attacking” on the tac-map.

“He’s sending in the super-bugs!” Everything in the military gets
a nickname and the Paladin tank was no exception. It was affectionately
known as “super-bug” thanks to some wag tying its heroic monicker to
its many-legged appearance.

Our super-bugs were soon charging into the side of the distracted
Kra’Vak. Many of the lead Krak MBTs had made the mistake of turning
their noses, overly keen to be in on any skirmish. There were a few of
their lighter tanks and heavy strike vehicles left facing our positions,
but not many and the Paladins steamrolled through them and ran full tilt
into the sides of the much bigger heavy grav MBTs.

Like everything else the Krak tanks had been given nicknames by the wits
in our forces. The smaller tanks were known as Mangosteens, because they
had a hard shell, but when cracked open were squishy inside. The strike
vehicles, with their twin guns, looked (at least to some demented mind)
like a squat fat man with his arms spread out so they were known as CTP
or “Come To Papa”.	The big MBTs however had earnt a whole new
league of respect. They were known as Killjoys or simply as BFGs. Big
fuckin’ guns. Though Iron George referred to them as fat heads. I was
pretty sure this wasn’t out of a complete disregard for them, but more
to try and break any mystique they held.

Humorous names or not they still fought damn hard. The footprint of the
grav plate gave an odd shimmer to the ground under the Krak tanks as
they swung about on the sandy ground; kicking up sprays of small stones
when the plates clipped an outcrop of scree patch. In minutes everything
was clouded by dust and smoke as the battle dissolved into a whirling
melee of tanks and armoured vehicles. Even with the tac-map feeds to
help me decipher what was going on it looked like some mad dance or
orchestrated chaos, with lines shifting to and fro, repeated turns of
fortune and momentary successes and defeats.

Riley wiggled up beside me, chomping on a nutri-bar, he was positively
babbling with excitement, though with a wistful touch of frustration at
not being in the midst of it all.

“Freakin’ amazing! Wish I had made the cav, like my brother. Did you
see those super-bugs smash through the little mangosteens and the

He shook his head once in gleeful admiration.

The back and forth went on for hours. It was as if the Krak were some
sort of spring. Every time we ran them down and pushed on for Severns,
we’d find ourselves suddenly sliding back across the plain, as this or
that flank miss-stepped or tired. This phase of the battle didn’t so
much end as peter out. We were roughly two thirds of the way across the
plain, with the front line straddling a series of shallow gullies that
provided both sides with sufficient cover to break the imperative for
ceaseless direct engagement. The fire had ebbed to dribs and drabs. As
if two prize fighters had run down to exhaustion and were just standing
there, watching each other, arms dangling in lassitude. With no clear
reason for this I was supremely disconcerted.

The weather was also taking a slight turn for the worse, with what rated
as a stiff breeze on Mars whipping the smoke away and clearing the air.
The external cameras showed the white disk of the sun dropping below the
ridge between us and the frigid waters of Kolyma More; the sky shading
from oriental blue to a mix of midnight blues and a colour I couldn’t
identify as anything other than black currant. Sunsets here were so
different to Earth even when not in the midst of a tank battle.

Soon after dark I noticed a small chain of new vehicles snacking their
way into the rear of our forces on the tac-map. A small convoy of
reinforcements had arrived. Colonel Nguyễn may have wanted them in
reserve, but Iron George saw it as an opportunity to build on the
earlier gains. He ordered the tank-killers and artillery onto the high
ground, while the rest of us prepared on the lee slopes of the gullies.
A quick inventory showed that many of the tanks were running low on fuel
and some were in pretty precarious states from the previous fighting.
They weren’t really up to further prolonged mobile ops, but hopefully
one solid push and we’d be through. Between this and the fact we had
to cover a pretty wide area there was no scope for reserves. The
reinforcements were enough to fill the gaps, but there was no excess.

We were notified that close-in artillery patterns had been planned,
given the proximity of the Krak line. The super-bugs would lead the
attack, as they had the greatest chance in a slugging match against the
Killjoys. The other armour was effective against the smaller Krak tanks,
but against the Killjoys could only harass at most. To tighten the left
flank, Iron George had a hasty minefield laid. It wasn’t the more
thorough job possible by VR fighter sweeps, but one of the haphazard
fields laid from orbit and inevitably it wasn’t exactly on the mark.
It was fairly close but deviated a little near to our lines for my
liking, actually overlapping our rear units and hampering movements back

I must have dozed off. One minute I was chewing on a nutribar and next I
could hear the dull thuds of gunfire in the near distance. It was just
after midnight and the tac-map showed the southeast of the plain lit up
with criss-crossing fire. Our lines were holding down there, but the
Krak on the other wing were mobilising now too. This was going to be

Iron George wasn’t waiting for the Krak to penetrate however. Instead
he ordered the body of the 2/34 forward. We cleared the first few
gullies with relative ease. The uneven ground caused the tanks to bounce
around, straining our harnesses. Enemy fire was light so far. As we
crested the lip of the fourth gully we ran into heavy fire, a chain of
units of killjoys tenaciously defending a series of shallow defiles. At
first I was perplexed as to why they would pick there. The other gullies
provided better cover, but it quickly became apparent that these defiles
were perfect firing positions for them. Broad enough to allow the big
tanks to manoeuvre and deep enough to provide cover to these low-slung
behemoths without impeding fire. They could roll forward, let loose a
barrage and slide back down.

With the help of heavy artillery fire and Valderik bombing runs we
managed to punch through. Three RNACAF planes ran the length of the
gullies, carpet-bombing the killjoys. The bomb drops looked like
flashing light bulbs on the tac-map. Big strings like phosphorescent
streams that winked out as the planes banked and climbed away. The
external camera feeds showed the sky lighting up, with arching direct
fire flares, dangling pinpoints from hover globes and the pyrotechnics
of shell strikes and bombs exploding, the explosive debris augmented by
rock fragments. A growing number of Krak tanks and other vehicles were
aflame. Anything that took a direct hit, even the killjoys, flew up in
the air unfolding in a thousand pieces of military grade confetti. Some
of the eagle eyed starting to call out sightings of burned out tanks or
crews bailing. With each new call spirits rose. I was jangling, the
excitement catching me up and mixing with my already bubbling fear and

Despite our good spirits and what seemed like solid progress in the dark
of night daybreak provided an alternative impression. In reality we had
only crept forward, making at most 5 kilometres. Iron George’s
intention, to push his motorized units forward as hard and fast as
possible, had not succeeded. It was clear to all though that we
couldn’t break contact. This battle was going to be fought to the
bitter end.


About 1100 hours it became clear that the Krak weren’t as committed to
this battle as we were. A few killjoys had penetrated our minefields in
the east, but in the main we had gained more ground and we could see
some of their lighter units withdrawing back in to Severns. Not long
after an intense sandstorm brewed up. I was afraid that the Krak might
try to use it as cover to counter attack, but Iron George had other
plans, using it as a an opportunity to refuel and rearm.

As the day wore on, and the storm thinned, the tac-map renewed its
steady updates. The purple edged marks indicating enemy tanks and
positions continued to drain away to the south. What was initially a
handful of lighter vehicles became 90 or more tanks and many more
mechanized transports and guns. This was a serious retreat. Ultimately
though it was postponing the inevitable for us. We were committed to
pushing into Severns and riding Mars of the Kra’Vak once and for all.

In the early afternoon I was beginning to feel very hemmed in, watching
the enemy dribble away on the tac-map, waiting for the refuelling and
rearming to be done. It seemed an excruciatingly slow process and I
caught myself nodding off. At about 1530 hours I woke to excited reports
that two squadrons of killjoys had broken away from their defensive
positions and were heading our way. Switching to an extern mount camera
I was cheered to see that the storm had thinned enough that I could pick
out the enemy tanks coming straight toward us. They were zig-zagging
their way along the gullies apparently aiming for the front of our
position. Their lead tanks, were laying sporadic fire down on our
lighter vehicles, mainly form machine guns and small auxiliary weapons
not their main guns. All I could guess is that they were trying to
distract us long enough to let the body of their forces slip away.

Despite their limited numbers, they were still and impressive site.

 “Strike One this is Alpha two. Eight kilo-juliet approaching. Range
one through one point four clicks. Following gully that runs past our

“Alpha Two this is Strike One Actual. We copy. We have them painted
and do not want them crossing ridge at
Supply implications. Eagles live, but likely on call to mother bear.
Hold fire until under point nina clicks, then brass up for maximum
effect. Your job is to see those fuckers tango uniform. ”

“Five by five actual. Over”

“Ok be ready to take down those Krak when they hit line alpha on your
tac-map. You squeezers in the back better be ready to debus pronto, this
could get hairy.”

Cathy was all over this. Reinforcing who had to do what and making sure
everyone was ready to go. I watched the little icons slide across the
tac-map. I was tensing as they approach the critical line, though a
little nervous we would be purposefully leaving a solid defensive
position. As the Krak hit the line on the map I looked up at Cathy. She
was starring intently at the tac-map, only lifting her eyes to snap a
look at the outside feeds. Her hand was raised ready to signal go, but
she had paused.

“Hold. Hold. They’ve stopped short. Shit.”

Turning to the external feed myself the image is filled with a mammoth
killjoy Krak tank. Its great long barrel apparently pointing right at
me, but its stopped dead still. Oddly it brought to mind the image of a
snake, coiling and rocking ready to strike.

“Break break this is Strike One. Krak birds inbound. Estimate contact
in 3 minutes.”

“Fuck it if I’m gonna wait for that!” Cathy cried. “Ok all Alpha
teams are go go go. Get in amongst them. If they’re gonna hit us,
they’re gonna hit them too.”

I could feel the driver gunning it. Madly driving straight at the Krak
tanks. It seemed like the craziest idea I’d ever heard, but I guessed
Cathy and Iron George thought it was better than waiting to be picked
off by Krak air support without doing anything. Later on I had a chance
to ask Iron George why he chose such a potentially immoderate course of
action. He told me that when threatened with imminent annihilation you
use what ever weapon comes to hand, even if apparently suicidal. If
you’re likely to be destroyed either way then it hardly matters
whether the actions taken are conventional or not, so long as the enemy
perishes with you.

“Besides Jock, some times the good lord is so shocked at your balls he
grants your cheeky arse a reprieve.”

The dust and sand kicked up by the sprinting vehicles soon turned the
external feed into useless haze. On the tac-map, icons from both sides
were slewing past each other, a maelstrom of markers forming a
kaleidoscope of obstacle and mine warnings, unit identifiers,
casualties, kills and shell arcs.

Cathy spurred the driver and gunners on. Getting them to make hasty
manoeuvres to make us harder to hit; urging them vehicle one as it
laboured through pits of loose sand. The bigger tanks had congregated in
patches, exchanging slugging blows. The smaller vehicles flitted through
in a mechanical frenzy, rolling across the plain in the mechanical
equivalent of a knife fight. The smaller tanks were trying to get angles
on weaker armour, but we were aiming for the far edge of the plain. Our
troops were most effective if we could punch in to Severns.

I stopped bothering to flick my eyes over the external feeds; visibility
was zero. We dodgemed up one slope, bouncing from rocks and vehicle
collisions and the clangs of glancing weapon hits, before sliding and
fish tailing down the next. Everyone was getting buffeted inside,
getting bruises from where harnesses bit or limbs contacted equipment
mounts, storage bins or the edges of seats.

Looking over the gunner Daniel Chapman (Chappy’s) shoulder I could see
we staring down a CPT. Our laser turrets paired off versus its mass
drivers. Both Chappy and the Krak seemed to take an uncannily long time
to respond, though when I checked the playback later it had actually
been done in seconds. I jumped when the moment was finally broken, by
autocannon fire ricocheting harmlessly off the forward hatch rather that
the deadly strike I had been expecting. Rurik wasn’t waiting for
anything larger spinning the APC past the slower moving CPT.

Cresting another of the rocky corrugations we came face to face with one
of our tanks sitting stuck in the sand, its midline axle see-sawing on a
rock outcrop.

“Charlie three this is Alpha two, what is your status?”

“Alpha two this is Charlie three. We can’t get any traction and the
engine’s redlining.”

“Copy Charlie three…”

Keoni tapped Cathy on the shoulder, “We could pull them out boss.
I’ll take over the umbilical.”

“It’s a wall of bullets out there..”

“They’re dead if I don’t.”

Cathy’s voice was tense and I could see a frown through her faceplate.
She still said “Ok, go.”

“Charlie three this is Alpha two. Hey Spud, if you can get your
umbilical out we can try and yank you off.” Cathy replied. She nodded
at Keoni who pushed open the top hatch and heaved himself up out into
the dust and noise of the battle. I should have been able to hear his
boots clanging on the roof, but the din drowned it out and Riley yanked
the hatch down again quickly, to prevent the cabin filling with the
choking sand. Switching to the feed from my combat recorder I could see
the ghostly silhouette of Keoni jump down from our beetle and run to a
body coming from the tank. They quickly had the umbilicals linked and
then Rurik through us into reverse, causing our engines to whine. There
were a few tense moments as shells hit dangerously close as our beetle
struggled to pull the super bug free, but with a lurch it was finally
done. Then Keoni was pounding on the hatch to come back in. I was amazed
and very relieved that he’d made it through out there unscathed. The
entire area was laced with fire of all calibres. His prompt and
unquestioning action had helped save the crew of Charlie three from
quite an untenable position.

A lumped formed in my throat as I realised we were being pursued by a
Krak tank. It was only a Mangosteen, not a mammoth killjoy, but it was
enough to crack us open if it got a clear shot. Rurik was jigging about
enough to mean it hadn’t gotten a direct hit yet, but I could feel the
beat in my temples.

Rurik jumped the APC off a small rock face, the landing cushioned by
sand and raced up the next small rise. As we cleared the top Rurik and
Chappy both gasped. Even as he did so Rurik slammed his hand down on the
grav thrusters and we shot straight up in the air, shakings us still
further and causing a round of profanity. The thrusters were standard on
many of the larger vehicles, but they guzzled energy and were typically
only used to help if the vehicle was bogged or lame. What’s more they
tended to make passengers quite bilious.

“What the f…”

“Clear front, break lef..”

“B`lyad'! Zat vas clos..”

BOOM. A wall of noise flattened our dazed senses. My first thought was
that we were hit, but Chappy’s reaction seemed all out of place.

“YES! Xeno fuckin’ take-down! That’ll teach you to ride our arse
motherf... Shit! Rurik, you crazy Euri son of a bitch!!”

Fighting confusion and the spreading ache of stress in my forehead, I
hit replay on my feed from the combat recorder. A fine mesh ghost-like
representation of our immediate position and surrounds sketched itself
on the left eye of my specs. We’d cleared the hill into the sights of
a killjoy, who’s gunner and Rurik must have reacted simultaneously.
The killjoy spewing out what seemed an enormous rod-like shell and Rurik
firing us vertically. Rurik had leapt us over the shell, which had
smashed into the Krak tank behind us instead - obliterating it. Rather
than risk our already fast depleting fuel reserves with a prolonged
thrusters assisted glide, Rurik had audaciously brought us down on the
killjoy and then scooted off its back. Thank heavens the Krak didn’t
seem to use reactive armour!

I flicked through some of the diagnostics before dropping the recorder
into its background passive mode. We were low on fuel, our left armour
had been weakened though wasn’t cracked as yet and the sandstorm had
picked up again. We couldn’t tell it apart from the brimstone of the
melee, but we were actually enfurled in a raging sandstorm.

Rurik continued to careen across the plain, caroming off geological
features and the remains of Krak positions alike. Meanwhile I strained
to concentrate on the tac-map, the effort required further intensifying
the pounding across my eyebrows. The Krak were clearly pulling out. We
were effectively racing with them off the battlefield. Iron George was
pushing us all forward, not giving the Krak a moments pause from the
brutal pyrotechnics bathing the desert around us. Behind us Nguyễn had
slowed the main advance, though he did keep the artillery employed.
Their harassment never ceased and I was in awe of the skill of the
gunners who managed to successfully creep it ahead of our mad charge –
striking the retreating Krak columns without smacking our nose, though
it got awful close at times!

I called up the combat feed and zoomed in on the retreat. The rock
pavement of the local mine roads was strewn with abandoned vehicles.
Amongst the fiercely burning remains of vacated CPTs and wrecked and
derelict Mangosteens scorched Krak crew could be seen trying to get back
to safety. Streams of our autocannon and machine gun fire, marked out in
luridly bright streams on the false colour image, cutting most down
before they made much headway.

We received the order to debus and dig in as we reached the escarpment
and switchbacks that lead down into the approach to Severns. We had made
more progress than the armies to the south, but now needed to
consolidate as the body of our troop was out of fuel. Nguyễn felt that
holding these passes would prove advantageous in the advent of any Krak
counter attacks. Pressing on over the lip of the crater would create
serious offensive and logistical problems. As much as it pained any of
us to agree with Nguyễn, he was right.


We settled into a slit trench that Chappy cut into the rock on the
eastern side of the entry into Ellsworth pass, the most seaward of the
passes down into northern Severns. We weren’t sure the fuel would hold
out long enough to finish blasting out the gouge, but thankfully the
battery didn’t hit the low-end buffer until Chappy was tidying up. I
didn’t relish joining the long list of grunts through history who’d
had to dig their own defensive accommodation.

We had to stay clear for a few hours to let the edges cool enough that
we wouldn’t cook in our power armour, but there were plenty of chores
to do. Rurik, Chappy, Ase and I were tasked with resupply. We trundled
back in our beetle to the supply point, as drew closer it looked like
the entrance to a human hive, rivers of bustling humanity flowing in and
out of the staging area.

Ase and I stocked up on ammo, rations and other kit, while Chappy
grabbed parts and Rurik sorted out the fuel. On the way back we wove our
way through the echelons moving back to refuel and passed scores of
troops moving in streams, both to and from the front, just off the edge
of the track. In amongst them we spotted HQ’s signalman Phil Lappin
jogging along the side of the main track in full kit. Rurik slowed down
and Chappy stick his head out the forward hatch.

“Hey chook, want a lift?”

“Too right!” He cried eagerly swinging up onto the back of the

“What’s an a-grade bucket like you doin’ leggin’ it?” Chappy
asked, making room for Phil to drop into the APC as Rurik continued on.

“Well that was a level one charlie foxtrot.” Phil said with a role
of his eyes, stowing his pack in the rear before walking back up front,
bracing his hands on the roof to steady himself as he went. He dropped
into a seat by me. “The brass is demanding that any Krak shiny we find
has to be hand delivered to the boffins. Don’t know what the fuck for,
not like we’ve ever got anythin’ useful from it. Keeps ‘em
occupied I guess. Anyways, so after we’d cleared some tech from the
kilo-mikes we get the word that Nguyễn is sending his boot boy
Forsythe to personally drive me over. He goes for a shit or something so
I have a bit of a fossick through the bits box to see if I can find some
spares. You know, replace that rooted aerial on Macca’s beetle and fix
up that dodgy link on the boss’ ride. Anyway, next thing I know the
bastards done a bunk and I’m lookin at a long walk home. Piss-weak

“So what’s the word on how it shook out?”

“Dunno, missed the boss’ sitrep because of Forsythe. Betcha is a
cracker though as I’m fuckin’ knocked up. Could sleep for a week I

“Don’t know about a kip, but I’ve got some of that special brew

“The Jupiter Beans?”


“Magic. Count me in!”

The talk soon slipped to music that could be shared, the latest finds in
the care packages and news from home. In a surprisingly short time we
were back at our position. We arrived just as Riley came strolling up, a
grin plastered across his face and a Krak scalp in one hand. Holding it
up he brandished it enthusiastically.

“Look at the fangs on this one!” he exclaimed excitedly. “Plenty
more where they came from too. There’s heaps of nicely cooked up Krak
back there. Come see?” half turning his body and motioning with his
head back out on to the plain.

“No thanks Riley. Got to get some shit sorted here thanks mate.” I
really liked the crews I rode with. They were brave and tough and
generous, but there were a few things I still couldn’t quite get used
to. The Krak gut the dead and dying, theirs and ours alike and some of
the younger grunts took a less than guilty pleasure in mimicking it,
tearing open the torsos of dead or dying Krak. I didn’t know whether
the ritual was an honour or desecration to the Kra’Vak, but I
couldn’t bring myself to participate. For one the stench as their
abdominal cavity was punctured was overpowering. Just the thought made
me nearly wretch.

Thankfully Cathy came in then, back from a briefing with Iron George.
The losses on our side had been extraordinarily high, starting with the
initial show down, but really accumulating once we’d gotten into the
final melee. Altogether in the western sector of the attack we’d lost
over 500 dead, nearly 2000 wounded and 250 vehicles lost. They’d
faired even worse in the east, but we’d done our job and across the
entire NAC line there had been significant breakthroughs. It’d been
costly though and we could only hope that reinforcements arrived rapidly
enough to sure up the odds for the final push on Severns.

The cheering news was the initial counts of the Krak dead suggested that
they had faired much worse. They had lost thousands of troops and
hundreds of vehicles. Many times what we had. It also looked like Keoni
would get a gong for saving Charlie three.

Sitting round the fire Ase had started the fatigue suddenly hit me hard.
Fighting to keep my leaden eyelids open I realised I wasn’t alone.
Everyone looked dusty and tired. Grace was stretched out in complete
body armour, helmet still in place, fast asleep in the dirt. It had been
a tough couple of days.

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