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Better safe than sorry Hell was a location that Sergeant Kyle Brown was wholly unfamiliar with.

Fanged monsters with jaws that could swallow his entire skull were concepts that he felt difficult to accept. Enormous spiders that could burn entire tank divisions down were impossibilities. He was the sort of man who put his trust in the cold power of a well oiled machine. Another tank rolled by, drowning out all other noise. The loud diesel engine was more than enough to overpower the voices of any of Kyles squad mates. Thats a lot of armour for one battle, Private Singh said. Kyle looked back at his dark skinned companion, and nodded in agreement. What the private said was true, three full armoured divisions had been deployed for a single engagement. Brass must be expecting something big. We better hope weve got some mobile anti-air though, otherwise well get torn apart, Corporal Boudewyn added pessimistically. He leaned back against the ammunition crates that they had been stacking before taking a break to watch the column roll by. Almost in reply to the privates statement, a trio of Wolverine surface to air rocket launchers drove past. They were big machines, maybe half the size of a grizzly, but still enormous. Half tracks, designed to function in almost any environment. They sported a tan yellow decal, the marking of the 31st armoured division. Kyle looked back at his friend with a sly smile. See, Ryan. Command does care about us. Ryan rolled his eyes, Whatever. Are we gunna have air support on this one? Private Singh asked. No idea, Ridge, Kyle responded, looking to the skies. They were peculiarly empty. Normally most armoured divisions were accompanied by aerial armadas of specially developed Sky-Panda strike gunships. They sported magnetically accelerated rail guns and high calibre Gatling guns. They were an enormous step up from the regular Hornets that the military employed. The things were so primitive that additional rocketeers had to be strapped to the sides just to give it enough firepower to contend for air superiority. But even those airborne deathtraps were absent. In fact, nothing but the standard orbital shuttles was even off of the ground. And all three of them knew that those wouldnt be providing any sort of assistance. Maybe they just got delayed, Ryan said hopefully. There had been a few rumours abound that the Sky-Pandas had been hit hard in a previous engagement. Of course, nothing official had come out regarding losses, but more than a few reliable sources said they had been wiped out. Maybe, Ridge agreed more than a little doubtfully. He would never voice his concern, but he doubted the Sky-Pandas would reach the battlefield. Private Boudewyn had a personal stake in the armada. His fianc, Lieutenant Alice Anders was one of their pilots, and most likely dead, though Ridge would never say as much to him. The Sky-Pandas werent going to show. They would just have to make do without them. Just as they were about to turn from the armour column and return to their assigned task the air raid sirens began to blare. At first it was only the ones on the far

side of camp, nearly a mile away. That was good; the north approach had heavy turrets equipped with surface to air missiles. Not nearly as big and effective as the wolverines that had just passed by, but still, more than enough to deal with a few stray enemy fliers. The sergeant wasnt too worried. The towers were quality pieces. And they could be retrofitted to combat almost anything that the enemy could throw against them in a matter of seconds. In fact, one of the crates that the squad had just moved carried the components for a heavy flame mortar. Kyle thought of it and shuddered, it wouldnt be fun to be on the receiving end of one of those, especially since he was infantry. Flashes and airbursts were all that was visible over the high rising supply pads that towered above them. More tanks were being offloaded, and some squads were even being distributed flamethrowers, though Kyle couldnt even begin to guess at why. Corporal, go grab us one of those. Ryan paused and looked back at the sergeant. What? Why would we need those, weve got more than enough armour to just crush whatever infantry goes up against us. Kyle merely shrugged. Better safe than sorry. Ryan rolled his eyes, but nodded in agreement. He marched over to fetch one, while Ridge placed another ammo crate on top of the growing pile. They held tank shells. The camp had been stockpiling for hours. Orbital deployments allowed for quick and easy military cities to be deployed in the blink of an eye. In the past it could have taken days, or even weeks to set up a base camp from which assaults could be launched, but now, with the assistance of land based drop hubs, bases could be constructed easily and efficiently. It was hard to believe that they had only made landfall a few hours ago. How many of those are left? Kyle asked, looking at the already enormous pile of ammo that the infantry had been assigned to stock in key locations. Ridge consulted his data sleet. Says, sixty seven thousand. Kyle shook his head ruefully. What could they possibly be expecting to face that would require so much punishment? Kyle wasnt sure, but he had heard that the Grizzly divisions were some of the most elite, not to mention the heaviest, battle tanks in the entire military. Weighing in at nearly two hundred tons, and armoured with several feet of armour plating, the things could stand up to all but the most determined barrage. And that was only if whatever was attacking them managed to survive long enough to even fire. The Grizzlys were fitted with twin barrelled main guns. Firing high explosives at the speed of sound. The shells that they fired could easily gut anything that wasnt a Scarab Walker. Though, in the rare instances that those did make an appearance on the battlefield, the Grizzlys came equipped with high powered nuclear charged canister explosives. Kyle had seen those in battle, and knew that once the Grizzly crews loaded them in, whatever they were facing simply disappeared. The sergeant looked up to see Ryan approaching with the flamethrower in hand. Here you go, I dont see the use it will be though, he said with a frown. Like I said, better safe than sorry. Almost the moment that Kyle was done speaking those words, the ground started to shake. Very subtly at first, but noticeably. One of the ammunition crates fell over, and

Kyle winced. He doubted that they would explode from simple mishandling, but still, dropping high explosives from any height had never been something that he had been keen on. Ridge looked around, trying to identify the source of the strange shaking. The tanks had already long gone past, now partially obscured in a dust cloud whipped up by their own treads. But then suddenly it stopped. Ryan was about to question it when Kyles command radio flared to life, and suddenly they were being given orders. A female voice filtered over the com channels. All squads push the north-eastern barrier. Repeat, all squads push the north-eastern barrier. By the time the mass order was finished, Ryan had already grabbed thee flamethrower, and Ridge was gathering up ammunition for his assault rifle. Almost immediately, they were on the move. The north-eastern barrier was more of a siege wall. It was a long line of men and machines that guarded the longest approach to the camp. Almost two miles of desert terrain lay between the camp and the nearest cover, any assault along that path would be suicide. The enemy would be leaving themselves open to whatever firepower was available. Very few, if any, would even reach the line. And if they did, there was more than enough infantry supporting the tanks to just clean up the scraps. It would be a bloodbath, Kyle thought with a slight grin. Upon reaching the barrier, he quickly found his confidence in the militaries ability to organize a defence waning. What greeted them was chaos. Men were milling about, setting up sandbags, and machine guns. Grizzlys were dug into place, sand mounded around them to provide some additional support for their long range shelling. They were bombarding some unseen enemy. Dust clouds whirled around as the tanks and men kicked up sand. The approach was barely visible, and all that any of them could make out were a few shapes that looked like mountains far in the distance. That was strange, because Kyle didnt remember there being any mountains on the other end of the approach. Just as he was about to ask for a rangefinder, to better spot the shapes, a particularly gruff looking lieutenant found them. Stop standing the fuck around. Get to a post. Yes sir, they all replied in unison. Sorry, sir! The lieutenant glared at them for a moment longer and then moved off to deal with a different, though similarly confused looking squad. You heard him, lets move! The squad moved out into the maze of trenches and sandbags. It had been dug by machines, but was now being manned by men. Once they reached an empty foxhole, the three settled down and took stock of what they had. Ryan set the flamethrower down, panting. He was soaked, head to toe in sweat. The weapon was heavy, and he wasnt the biggest guy. Ridge, why the hell didnt you carry this thing? Ridge hefted it easily, and took a look at the heavy black weapon. It had a built in fuel tank, and drew from a fast burning naphtha jelly reserve. It worked for days without running out of fuel. And it could burn through anything from steel to rock. The only

downside was that the weapon itself weighed in excess of fifty pounds. The fuel added another fifteen to that. And this one was fully loaded. The private set the weapon back down, and shrugged. Iunno, you never asked. Ryan glowered at him, and looked as though he was about to come back with something witty, when the ground shook again. Kyle had thought he had heard it several other times while they had been moving to the barricade, but had simply ignored it. But now, sitting still, it felt even more pronounced. He stood up in the fox hole, and looked back out at the approach. Now those shapes were much closer, and he could feel the ground tremor in a rhythmic pattern. They were still much too close to differentiate from the sand, but it was obvious now, they were no mountains. The Grizzlys fired another salvo at into the dust, but it appeared to do nothing to slow the enormous shapes. Ridge, pass me the rangefinder, Kyle said, pointing to foxholes supply kit. Sure thing boss, Ridge chuckled. Hell, if the army doesnt give us information, at least they give us everything else right? It was partly true. Many luxuries of course were missed during deployments, but for the most part, none of them had ever been in short supply of food, ammo, or any other necessity of military life. The foxhole supply kits were diligently maintained, and had everything from the rangefinder that Kyle held to first aid kits, and even rations, should the engagement turn into a protracted siege. Kyle stared through the lens of his scope and adjusted the zoom until there was no more blur in the image. What he saw stunned him for a moment. Ryan seemed to notice. What is it? Scarabs. Scarabs? Here? Ryan laughed nervously. Thats no possible, they would have been spotted. Theres no way they could have been deployed without anyone noticing. Here, take a look. Ryan grabbed the rangefinder and peered into it. He came back just as stunned as Kyle had been. The ground shuddered again. Violently. Then, all they could see for a moment was an incredibly bright light appear in the centre of one of the shapes. It burned into their retinas for a moment, blinding both Ryan and Kyle, but not Ridge, who had chosen to rummage through the supply kit for a ration bar. A moment later, the light discharged a bluish white beam of energy, less than fifteen metres away, straight into the nearest Grizzly. The tank exploded in a shower of multicoloured sparks. The turret was launched skyward, and the metal armour superheated and melted away. All that remained after on a few seconds of being blasted was a misshapen hunk of molten metal. The other Grizzlys continued to fire, but the Scarabs started to pick them off one by one. The squad took cover down in the foxhole as best they could. There was no use in firing at it. If the Grizzlys couldnt harm it with their weapons, there was very little that a flamethrower and a few assault rifles would do to harm it. The sounds of its energy canon firing and the screams of men being burned to crisps, or the explosive roars of dying Grizzlys filled the air. The three werent

cowering, they were waiting. There had been no order to retreat, so they had to hold the position. Besides, leaving the foxhole seemed like a terribly unsafe decision at that moment. Every step that the enormous constructs took was enough to shake them off their feet. Indeed, whenever one of their enormous feet landed, the ground shuddered so much, that the crouched men were thrown onto their backsides. It seemed to last for hours. It sounded like a battle was being fought, but it wasnt a fight that they would be able to influence. An enormous shadow began to pass over them. And soon the Scarab was directly overhead. Its enormous underbelly was enough to completely eclipse the sun from view. They could make out the inner workings of its mechanical legs, and its enormous armour plates. Literally, thousands of blasts pockmarked the Scarabs surface, but no real damage was visible. Holy shit, Ryan muttered. They all looked up, mouths agape, awestruck by the enormity of what they were seeing. Slowly, Ridge climbed out of the hole. Kyle and Ryan followed suit. There was no one else around. They looked down the barricade line, and saw only the smoking carcasses of several hundred tanks. The shadow of the Scarabs passed, and they continued to fire their energy canons; annihilating everything that stood in their path. The camp was ruined. Kyle knew that. But perhaps there was a chance that the other lines could turn back and focus the constructs down. One look at the burnt out remains of what had once been one of the most formidable armoured divisions known to man told him that the chances of them taking one down, were small indeed. Ryan dragged the flamethrower out of the hole, and balanced it over his shoulder. So what do we do now? I dont know. They all stopped for a moment as the enormity of their situation came crashing down on them. The line was broken, and they were all that was left. Of an entire join divisional force, nearly a hundred thousand men, they three were all that was left. They looked around at the melted tanks that had rolled past them just minutes earlier, finding it difficult to comprehend just what had happened. That is, until something else commanded their attention. A deep roar brought them back to reality. It wasnt a mechanical roar, it was an organic one. One that was far too barbaric for a machine to ever create. As one the squad looked out towards the desert approach. Standing over the nearest foxhole, was what could only be described as an eight foot tall, hammer wielding, armoured gorilla. It was holding a badly burnt, though still living, soldier up by his throat. The man struggled against it, but the creature easily snapped his neck with a flick of its wrist. Shit.

The creature stopped, and sniffed the air. It dropped the dead man, and turned slowly to look at the trio standing stupidly out in the open. It snarled, and for a brief moment, Kyle felt certain that they were all going to die. The gorilla thing took a step towards them, then another, and started to gain speed. It took a moment for any of them to gain their bearings, but eventually, the sergeant gained enough sense to aim his rifle at it and fire a burst. It hardly slowed. It leapt into the foxhole with them, dominating the entire area with its massive bulk. It swung its hammer wildly, blasting away chunks of earth each time it missed. It was all they could do to avoid being squashed. The burning tank remains made manoeuvring away from its swings difficult. Running wasnt an option, as they were too closely barred in. The thing had cut off their one escape, and they were trapped between running out into the approach, or into its hairy form. Ryan desperately grasped at his sidearm, but the delay in movement left enough of an opening for the creature to backhand him in the chest. The corporal was launched against the side of a tank hull. He crumpled into an awkward looking heap, and stayed very still. Taking advantage of the creatures momentary distraction, Ridge launched himself forward, slamming into the creature with enough force to drive it back several steps. The creature stumbled, and they both fell into a foxhole. Immediately, the troopers nostrils were filled with the scent of burning flesh. Whoever had been in this hole hadnt made it out. It was on its back, and ridge was on top, but the creature still had an obvious strength and size advantage. He grappled desperately with it, but its strength was too great. In such close quarters, Ridge couldnt hope to compete with it. It cracked a heavy hand directly into the soldiers side, and Ridge could feel his ribs snap. Even through his armour, the force of the blow as more than enough to break his bones. He grabbed for his combat knife, hoping to at least try to wound the creature before it finished him but didnt even make it half way through the motion. It grabbed the private by the back of his armour, and flung him out of the hole. Ridge landed heavily a few feet away. Battered, but still alive. The delay had given Kyle time to ready himself. As the creature rose, he gave a sharp whistle, commanding its attention. It was panting heavily, and it turned to see him. Its eyes were filled with rage. Just as its face came into his view, Kyle pulled the trigger, and unleashed a torrent of flame. In seconds the beast was a burnt crisp. Kyle dropped the flamethrower, and moved to the fallen corporals side. He checked for a pulse, and found one, though it was very faint. Ridge rose shakily to his feet. He looked deathly pale, and he clutched at his abdomen as if it was about to fall apart. Kyle gave him a nod, Ridge returned it. What happened? Ryan whispered, just barely clinging to consciousness. I killed it. Burnt it. Ryan chuckled, though it sounded more like wheezing. Whats so funny?

Better safe than sorry.