Author’s note: This is a fourth part of Phoenix crew stories. It is recommended to read these in a correct order. Click here to read the first part or here to read the previous part.
Waking up from the EVR is no fun. I remember hearing some voices, echoes or something before, and even after waking up. Lucky for us, it seems that the metal cage that is the Phoenix hull has provided good cover and we were largely shielded by the whatever effects these events have. Netanya has survived three of these already, always managed to get into a cover before the culmination of the event. Apparently, these events have played a significant role in the crisis earlier this year, but they were executed in a more controlled manner. She is not really sure why NAC is calling it EVRs, but she is pretty confident in saying that whatever is happening right now is not going according to plans they had. I have asked what does it mean for us – if we get surprised by this thing during our travel to Namalsk. She told me not to worry about it, I knew the answer anyway. Luckily, the events are not too regular in an occurrence these days, we should have plenty of time.
Shaken up by the events of last evening, we woke up and got everything loaded up on sleigh and our backs. Sergei did not sleep much as he was running around Phoenix, checking if the rig survived the yesterdays blast and that its ready to be left alone for a week now. Everything looked good. We left Phoenix alone in the early morning. Based on our current position, Netanya suggested we may be 2 hours away from the coast. As we were slowly walking west, I could see people looking back at slowly disappearing Phoenix here and there. Understandable, it was their home for months now. What we are about to face and do now has however much bigger value than sitting on our asses. We may be able to get to the bottom of this, perhaps even fix all of this mess. Put a question mark in here, if you feel lucky.
When we have got to the vicinity of Tara island, we have carefully observed the coast, the harbour and the surrounding area. Sea ice was broken up a lot in front of the harbour and there was no way we could get to the coast without getting our feet wet. That was until Sasha has found a boat, stuck just slightly in the sea ice. We were able to get it quickly unstuck, carefully loaded supplies and in three runs, transported everything and everyone on the coast. It felt good to step on an actual piece of land after all those months. We had to split into three groups. One guarding the supplies and two scouting ones. It took us good two and half hours until we have got the harbour secured. The area was a mess, not going to lie here. The conflict has left some serious scars on the whole complex, but we have found a building in the centre of the area. It had good vantage points as well as reasonably sized basement area, which served as a great cover. It took us almost five days until we have settled down. Cleanup probably took most of the time of all the things. We have hooked the power generators to the basement grid as well as some solar panels on top to keep additional batteries up and running. We tried not to disrupt too many things from around the building as we did not want to uncover ourselves too much. If NAC is still active on Namalsk, they may be using some drones to scan for any activity.
Day six is when we have started planning our operation. The goal was pretty foggy, but we wanted to make our way to Athena Research Institute and Athena-2 sites. We believe that only there we can pick up where Netanya was forced to stop. We did not know when/if NAC shows up. It only makes sense to slowly expand our area of operations. We began with expanding our eyes on the surrounding areas and choke points. That also included several supply stashes along the way, in case of an emergency. It took another week before we have got a solid intel on NAC activity. Few offroads were spotted driving from Sebjan dam down south by Netanya’s scouting group. Then, few days later, Sergei’s group got ambushed in the northern Sebjan factory. Luckily, nobody got terribly hurt, but shots were fired. It seemed that they were definitely waiting for somebody, but the ambush itself felt odd, like our guys were there much earlier than they were anticipating. Anyway, they have showed us that they knew about us. That was suddenly quite an unsettling thought, but we were prepared.
What we were however not prepared for was the day after. I was making a breakfast for my group when I have heard a radio call by Sergei’s group, which was just returning from another scouting mission. Before Sergei could however finish his sentence, something exploded above us. Everything has shaken up, dust was falling from ceiling and the power went down. Everyone quickly grabbed their weapons and ran in two different ways to get to the surface. I have picked up the radio again and heard Sergei saying that they have a fucking BMP-3, right at the entrance and like 8 men now within the harbour area. This was it. We have not spend too much time within the area, but we kind of hoped NAC would know even less than we did. Either way, we have worked our ways through corridors and engaged their breaching group. Netanya was tasked to deal with their APC with three others from her scouting group. We have entered big hall of the factory we were living in, morning sunlight was piercing through the partially broken windows on one side. Ahead of us were the main doors, which we have rightfully suspected were the target of the NAC’s APC. It took them only few seconds before the explosive rounds shredded the doors into pieces and turning them into shrapnels flying through the open space of the factory. We tried to get as much cover while still retain an overview on the entrance. Few seconds after the destructive door breach, with the dust still in the air, the area was filled with thick smoke and NAC breach group has entered the factory. CQB is a chaos, a horror one could say. We did not have much of a combat experience, but what we lacked there we compensated with our will to live and the hardships of living on the open sea. Our claymore got at least three of the enemy breach team, while the rest of them were under moderate suppression fire. That however changed right after one of their grenades killed Sasha and Peter. I have suddenly felt so much anger inside me. We started moving towards the remaining enemy units, switching up cover and suppression. I remember getting at least one before I have heard a loud engine noise. The APC got right into the entrance. Now or never, Netanya. Seconds suddenly felt like hours. We were waiting until that APC sprays down our side of the factory with those explosive rounds until a sudden overwhelming sound shattered all the windows in the factory. I swear my brain thought this is it, this is how I leave this world. But it was not, it was Netanya’s team wrecking that APC from behind. Now or never we told each other. NAC breach team was slightly stunned due them being closer to the APC and so we did not hesitate and rushed them. While already recovered, they were still caught by surprise. What followed was set of quick radio checks, an hour long corridor cleaning, shooting two drones out of the skies and we have official declared a victory. It was over and sadly, it was time to mourn now over our fallen. Sasha, Peter and also Ryan. It was difficult for all of us, but once the situation has calmed down, we have buried them close to the coast.
We knew they will eventually be back and so the only logical thing for us would be to get moving, make it harder for them to hit us while we still attempt to reach our objective. We have chosen the southernmost route, cross the massive Tara railway bridge, get to Brensk marsh before slowly making our way towards Athena-2. Considering our losses and change of plans, we were moving together. It was an early evening, the sun was already behind the mountains when we have stepped on the Tara railway bridge. I walked with Netanya on my side while others were ahead of us. I remember Netanya trying to distract me by talking about certain old tv series and the next thing I remember is a hot dust flying into my face and the concrete I was walking on falling down. Few moments later, somebody grabbed my hand and pulled me back. My leg was seriously bleeding, but I did not pay attention to it. I simply could not after seeing what has happened in front of me. The lower part of the bridge section was completely destroyed. Metal beams were bent, the concrete floor completely gone. What was the worst is that there were pieces of our equipment hanging around. I looked left and right. I could only see Netanya, who was also somewhat in shock, but was already pulling something out of her medkit. They were gone. Everybody in front of us. Just like that.
Story continues in final part 5, stranded.