“We’re flushing out the last of the resistance. They’ve retreated to the pipes and sewer lines, and might be able to hold out for a while there, but I think they’re finished.”

The Colonel looked over the room which had served as the Ars Nox control room. A factory abandoned to the elements, each of the windows was covered with sheets of foliage that gave the interior an eerie green look–and which had helped to shield it from Directorate satellites. “What about the intelligence? That’s why we didn’t nuke and pave from the air.”

“Well, Unit 731 has been brought in, and given everything we found,” said the Adjutant, instinctively ducking as the sound of heavy combat echoed from deep below their feet. “Ars Nox was able to nuke most of their drives, so it’ll be some time before we know for sure what we’ve got.”

“Papers?” The Colonel ran his hand along the worn surface of a wooden table bolted to the floor, one which had until recently housed the nerve center of the local Ars Nox computer network and command/control systems they’d been using to stage attacks nearby.

“Recent orders, daily codes that will expire in a few hours…nothing significant beyond delivering a few local cells to us.” The Adjutant licked his lips delicately. “If I might speak freely, sir, I don’t think that the intelligence value of this raid will be worth the cost in lives, time, and treasure. I would submit that next time an aerial bombardment might-”

“That’s enough,” snapped the Colonel. “Go get me an update on the fighting, and tell the Unit 731 boys to contact me as soon as they finish sifting through those fried drives.”

Seemingly terrified, the Adjutant fled the scene clutching his briefcase. With him gone, the Colonel allowed himself a long, sweet breath of the musty air.

It brought back so many memories. The factory had been silent for ages since the final and crushing depression–no one in town was closer to it than a grandfather or great-grandfather who worked the line. But even in the Colonel’s boyhood days, children had run throughout it, playing games, stealing kisses. They would be on the side of Ars Nox now–the whole area was–but they likely still came to play even as men with weapons and computers fought a quiet war nearby.

Even if they didn’t, the Colonel couldn’t stand to see his old haven taken from him, no matter the cost in “lives, time, and treasure.” So much else had changed, so much else had been destroyed.

But not this; not this.

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