Nobody really knew her breed, and she didn't mind at all. She knew her name and the pack she ran with.

She also didn't know the things they'd done to help her. Not Pepper pointing a gun at a doctor's head and coldly saying: "It might be a dog to you, but she's not a dog to us. Make her a replacement leg." And the doctor watching the tall and short figures, grimy with blood and smelling of really bad things. A chain-smoking First Sergeant terrifying her even more than the gun to her head.

But nobody ever thought Mimosa was useless. She never barked or attacked unless told to. The reason? Mimosa walked near this interestingly smelling, short hunter who worked with her through instincts. She was behaved because she loved him implicitly. He'd never hit her and always walked with her using soft words. So did the rest of her pack as she walked with a tiny whir of a servo in her left front leg.

When she heard the whistling, she dove to the ground like she'd seen them do. The bombardment was about to commence. What it was, she didn't know, but when Wright yelled "Dog down!", everyone listened.

They did. Wright had been paying attention, as had Kirklin, to how this dog, who had saved their lives so many times on ranges like this, did -- what came naturally. Whimpering quietly as the shells hit around the shock troops that the Rangers sometimes worked as, who planted themselves against the ground. She crawled next to the one who seemed to be the alpha. He hugged Mimosa close, cursing under his breath, each curse a countdown to what he was planning.

When his body tensed in preparation to move, her servo whirred. She understood. It was time to move quickly.

"Going up!" he yelled, and Mimosa was the first up. She'd hunted with them for so long that she knew how they worked.

Kirklin got up and rushed toward their objective with the pack of anti-tank ammunition they'd jury-rigged into a bomb, Mimosa with them. She ran with her friends, avoiding incoming fire and started to snarl as one of them went down. But she kept running, next to Wright and Kirklin. That bunker was essential to SOL Banking's defense, but she didn't know that. She just knew she had a job to do, and so did these others near her.

"Callis! Get that -- ****! Pepper, pick up that **** --"

And suddenly they were in the crossfire. "Dog down!" Wright yelled, and again, the humans dove down, following Mimosa's advice. She looked up, hearing the commotion around them with a whimper that was drowned this time by Knowles petting her head and holding her close.

"God ****** dammit, whe--"

Mimosa watched them look up, curious.

"Dog down, *******s!" Pepper yelled. "Get the **** down!"

Mimosa stayed still, the ground rumbling as air support smashed down on the path to their objective. Again, she didn't know where they were going, but she trusted these people. They'd fed her, they'd kept her safe. Carried her when she had been too tired -- and she could smell and feel they'd been too tired to continue. Whatever they did, they did with her in mind.

Once the pass of the air support was done, they all watched the burning forest and quite much as a choir said: "****."

They watched the forest start burning around them, Kirklin getting up to yell: "Left, double up!" before running that way, sensing much like Mimosa that the wind would blow to the right and spread the fire first there.

So they ran.

They ran.

At the end of the day, everyone was coughing due to the smoke wafting around, and the added smoke from explosives they'd planted, but she whirred her left leg to the one who felt closest to her somehow. Something about all of these -- Pepper, Callis, Wright, even Merry Knowles -- felt right, but she had taken to understanding that this one was the best.

As he sat there, eating his MRE and watching the scene of a burning bunker in the dusk, Kirklin noticed Mimosa crawling up to him. Without a single word, he took out a helmet and poured water into it. Gladly, she drank. Wright stirred nearby, taking a trophy plate and setting it down. After a look, Kirklin nodded and spilled the rest of his MRE on the plate.

"Guid gel," he said, fondly.


They were out for murder. Specifically, murder that was really unsanctioned as a mission. Pepper in particular was adamant about this, but it certainly helped Pepper's chances of survival that the rest of Echo -- and some from Juliet and other units had went out for revenge.

They had killed someone close to their cohesion, and the way Baxter looked, their death wouldn't be quick. Kirklin made note of this, but to be very frank, if he had his way the people who'd killed one of their most loyal would have died drowning in citrus juice with a thousand papercuts. The idea was appealing, but not very practical.

They hadn't even told Command anything other than that as they were on leave, they might as well see if they could sow some discord, destruction and death on their free time. Command, used to their tendencies, had just kind of shrugged on the comlink. Afterward, they stopped to finally wonder if they needed more shrinks in the Corps.

Because there is something to be said of a bunch of lunatics from 2WRC deciding that they wanted the head of a sniper so badly that they'd blow up a central location five miles behind the line, sauced up on whisky and -- in the case of some of the sociopaths -- pot.

"Sir?" someone in Command said, confused. "I'm getting reports of an assault by some of ours on the fort we were planning in the latest operation."

The lieutenant general on duty stopped to stare at the man by the command set, surrounded by several others working on keeping the net up and running. He was in charge of this quadrant, and he knew always exactly where each unit was, partially thanks to his habit of imbibing generous amounts of coffee. He'd always stopped to listen to what units were around and how they worked.

"Oh God. What is it, Simon?" he asked, already fearing the worst.

"Air recon is reporting firefights and explosions. It's... the forward scout air patrol says FLIR shows... some unusual attackers. They move like... woodland hunters? One pilot said something like that, sir."

At that precise moment, the quadrant chief had a fairly good idea of what was going on, and he was right in his assumption. In the air, helos and drones keeping an eye on the activity down started reporting a breach to the fort.

They hunted.

On the ground, the bloodshed was unmistakable.

"Callis! Rockets there, **** it!" Wright yelled, cracking an enemy's neck with her arms. She was beyond logic, too. Enjoying every moment.

Whistles, they were, the rockets. They hit a tower in the fort, setting fire to the rest of the structure and the palisade built within the fort. It was gone quickly, crushing the structure and all the animals that had been meant to be food. And the night howled. Knowles kept fighting the side, and all of them kept on the move.

Rule #4 of 2WRC. Always attack if you have no plan or intel. They really don't expect it.

So 2WRC ran around, casting ammunition in several direction with their battle plan solidified by whisky, instincts and the occasional person who simply felt the need to kill. Not out of revenge. Kirklin and Wright had thought of this very thoroughly, taking in mooks from 2WRC to go with the smarter elements. They were ****ing animals after all, and this proved to be the point when Command listened to report of several explosions, afraid to pull in air support for other than intel purposes.

They were fairly certain 2WRC was done for by the time the fort started burning, courtesy of Keller having spread petrol all around and then lighting it up like the cheerful pyromaniac he was.

But no. Having lost two, 2WRC kept trading fire with their quarry, who was sweating like a pig as he fired from the tower. He had an admirable track record of killing soldiers from a distance and being elusive. He'd made a mistake, however. He'd killed someone trusted by a bunch of Rangers. They had killed her, and bragged about it in propaganda leaflets and comms messages.

Now the wolves were at the door.

It was kicked in, and behind him in the burning tower, four people stepped in, one immediately firing a heavy-duty round into his hand, the other one in his knee, the third one in to his stomach. The fourth was the worst. He hadn't done anything. Sergeant Dunbrook watched the unmoving figure as the three others came closer. One had a saw. The others, duct tape. And the building burned.

The screaming, sadly, could not last for long. "Mimosa says 'lo," the one framed by flames behind him, still unmoving, said. At the same time, miles and miles away, the lieutenant general was hastily trying to get a hold of anyone who could stop their carefully laid out plans from exploding --

As the place did, not far later after Sergeant Dunbrook's face was pressed into gasoline and lit on fire. And then smothered with fire-retardant foam. Command never even bothered court marshalling any of them. After all, they were only animals to be used. Smart and deadly, yes. But animals.