SOMEWHERE OFF THE NEO-VENETIAN COAST
The vague light of sunrise could be seen from the East. But there would be no sunrise for several Inimician Special Forces operatives. Casualties had already exceeded the Imperial Army's highest estimations, and with SRA reinforcements seemingly popping up out of nowhere, the situation looked exceedingly unmanageable. This also became clear to Vicarius Wilfred Cocx, still in the control room on board the helicarrier that was named after him. Shouts of "At least 200 more hostiles on approach" and "Overwhelming enemy firepower" and "Take-off not cleared" filled the room. Roger Appelar, the highest officer on-deck, confirmed increasing enemy anti-aircraft presence in the city, making it impossible for the Inimicians' helicopters to extract the hostages.
"We must deploy the cuise missiles. Authorise our subs to launch upon confirmation of surface-to-air sites."
Vicarius Cocx could already see the European-wide headlines. "THOUSANDS PERISH IN INIMICIAN MISSILE STRIKES". He interjected: "This is one of the most densely populated areas in the country, Roger. Think of the hundreds of civilian deaths. As superior officer, I order you to stand down."
"Your Excellency, with all due respect, look at the screens. Look at our soldiers. The entire mission depends on how many aircraft we can get in the air. Yes, we have drones on the way. Yes, more fighters have been scrambled. Yes, all special forces teams have now been deployed on the ground. Yes, more attack helicopters are on the way. But they have no hope of operating successfully if these surface-to-air missiles are not taken out."
Cocx viewed the movements of the men he now felt he had sent to their deaths. Causing someone's demise was easy enough from a distance -- Cocx had ample experience with this. But seeing those he was responsible for surrounded, cut off, and in danger of suffering death or, worse, imprisonment by the SRA, made him shiver. A long pause, silence ensuing. "Are you sure you have the sites mapped?"
"We are sure."
SPEAKER'S RESIDENCE COURTYARD
Major Stuart rolled behind a nearby wall, shots whistling around him, damaging the brickwork. An all-out assault now seemed to have commenced. "Concentrate fire on the main gates", Stuart radioed in, "Air support critical at main gates!" -- the noise and smells of combat became almost overwhelming, and took Stuart back to the days he had stormed the defences of Telum in 2011. His will to survive had not given in then, however, and it would not give in now. Air support came at last in the form of an attack helicopter, unleashing its full firepower onto the approaching SRA troops.
"MANPAD, four-o-clock!", Stuart informed the helicopter crew, just a fraction of a second too late. He saw an SRA fighter on the residence balcony, bearing a handheld missile, fire at the Inimician craft, which was struck in the tail. The whirring of engines intensified and then died down in a crash of fire. "Heli down, heli down", the radio announced.
Stuart knew the Inimicians could not stay where they were, especially with the wreckage of a helicopter blocking extraction. In a moment of quiet, he made his way to some of the NCOs. "Listen, our backup plan is now in effect. Gather the hostages, we make for the backup location." Under fire, the special forces team made their way through a broken-open window to a nearby park. About five minutes into the journey, Stuart heard a sound he thought he had banished from his memory: guided missile strikes. "Cover, cover!", he shouted, as three conventional ballistic missiles struck strategic surface-to-air sites nearby.
They never noticed two of their operatives had been surrounded and forced to surrender by SRA men in one of the mansion's rooms, and the pilots of the downed chopper were still alive.
JUST ACROSS THE INIMICIAN-VENETIAN BORDER
"Focus on the here and now. We can do nothing to help them."
The second Inimician incursion into Neo-Venetian territory had been underway for around 30 minutes, and was approaching its target, the Social Republican Army facility where Lando Ambrogio and Peter Zan were stationed. This operation was designed to be different to the Neo-Venetia City extraction campaign: a small group of special forces operatives was to disable air defences and missile systems covertly, before the hostages would be extracted through the air. Captain Baris Moore, a newly-commissioned officer, led the special forces team, which had paused about a mile from the Neo-Venetian camp.
"You know the plan. A team proceeds around the west, disables SRA anti-air positions around the north, west, and south sides of the compound. B team does the same, from the east. C team breaches the fence and proceeds directly to the officers' quarters. Good luck, gentlemen. Time to go." Through his radio, he announced: "Jackdaw is a-go, I repeat, Jackdaw is a-go. Extraction ETA, two-zero minutes."
Without being noticed, the teams split up and made their way around the compound, surrounding it and disabling several anti-aircraft guns. Captain Moore, who had joined C team, ordered his men to cut the barbed wire surrounding the camp, and snuck into the grounds unseen. He proceeded at the head of the 10-man column around some of the buildings, checking every corner. An SRA guard, posted at the Inimicians' planned entry point inside, startled the Captain as he proceeded around a corner. He noticed the guard's surprise, and swiftly neutralized him, but not before he had let out a cry of help, and aroused the compound around.