Here we go, Part Four. I hope this still gets some eyeballs on it, there seems to have been a drop off while my computer was dead, that and 47-1 drops today.
The chapter/part names I have been using are for the most part placeholders of a sort, but his one still required a bit of thought.

An explosion outside woke him. Startled awake, he sat up and trained his pistol at the mouth of the cave and saw it was still dark. Outside, he heard additional explosions and their echoes in the valley. With a slow realization as he returned to wakefulness, he did not hear voices and realized that wasn't his grenade. He was hearing high altitude reentry sonic booms.

He rushed to the cave entrance and disarmed his trap. He exited the cave and quickly mounted the slope up to the clearing he had surveyed from the evening before. Reaching the clearing, he started to scan the valley and the sky with his scope, hoping that the single moon was bright enough to see by. He alternated between rapid scanning with the scope and using his naked eyes. After a moment, he started to hear the whine of multiple engines and his heart began to race. Looking to the source, he could almost make out the silhouette of several large dropships beginning their decent to the valley floor. Suddenly, several smaller craft raced by with a howling screech and the night sky was suddenly lit up with multiple flashes as bright as the light of day. Moments later the shock wave reached him, as well as the growling sound of multiple medium caliber Gatling guns.

With a sinking feeling, he recognized what he was seeing. Consortium standard planetary assault tactics were to drop several high yield concussion bombs into the target drop zone and then to spray the surrounding area with sweeps of machine gun fire, both to shock and soften potential hostiles. More ships swept in and the process repeated… many times over.

He could not make out what type of ships they were, but the silhouette and apparent distance suggested that these were Apollyon class troop ships, dropships that were large enough to deliver an entire company of infantry or even armor to the surface of a planet. The Consortium was landing at least an entire battalion and because they were landing here rather than closer into the city suggested that they were going to sweep the valley and ferret out Echo's survivors.

Their presence also suggested several more things to him. It gave him only a faint twinge of regret to remember him now, but he remembered the LT stating that there was a Consort reinforcement fleet that was sixteen hours out… this must be them. This also told him that since they were landing troops, Echo fleet must have lost control of the orbit and withdrawn. Bad news for recovery if he were ever able to find a radio and get a signal out. He was starting to add up the pieces and the sum he reached didn't look good at all.

He estimated that their landing zone was several kilometers distant and that this unit would first need to secure the drop zone, establish a foothold and assemble. This placed him out of immediate danger, but he knew that he needed to get moving. He wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep at this point anyway, so he chose to move out immediately. He returned to the cave and after a quick check, he gathered his ruck and set out at a jogging pace like he had the day before.

He continued his run, stop and listen routine from the day before, torn between the thought that a larger force and vehicles would be much easier to hear from further off and the certainty that their presence indicated he was actively being searched for now. Surely he had been spotted on thermal scans by now, unless the sweep had passed while he was in the cave. During a longer pause to drink some water, he removed his helmet and decided that he would leave it off and stick it in his ruck. Shaking his head as he put it away, he thought to himself that he would have their ass if anyone in his team did what he was doing now. Extraordinary circumstances… he thought to himself trying to justify it. It's heavy, I can hear better without it and I can keep cooler without it on. I'm practically running a marathon out here. Scolding himself for questioning, himself he packed it up and continued onward.

He continued his hike until sunrise when he stopped to rest and to eat. He noticed that he could hear the sound of running water and decided to investigate after catching his breath and eating. He unceremoniously dropped his ruck, sat himself on the ground next to it and pulled out a meal pack, not even bothering to read the label. He pulled out the coffee and sugar packets first and briefly thought about mixing it up. Instead, he tore both packets open, dumped them in his mouth and took a swig from his canteen, washing it down.

"Gonna have to do," he whispered as he opened the main meal pouch.

While eating, he saw intermittent flashes of a white reflection in the distance through the trees that were swaying in the morning breeze. He paused mid chew and looked at it intently as he reached for his pistol. It didn't move, it was the leaves on the trees breaking the line of site to whatever was making the reflection. He returned to eating, hurrying it up in order to go investigate the reflection and the running water he heard.

He set off again and found a hole punched through the tree canopy and a gouge in the ground. Realizing that he had come across a crash site, he picked up the pace. The wreckage seemed to have come in at a shallow angle and slid on the ground before coming to rest under a dense knot of trees, hiding it from direct observation. Although fearful of what he might find, he hurried to it.

He saw that it was a significant sized piece of wreckage, nearly the entire right side of a dropship fuselage, minus the flight deck and the tail section. Even the troop seats were mostly intact. Not sure what to make of it, he found no bodies at or near the crash site, leaving him wondering if it was his own ship. This gave him mixed feelings of hope and apprehension… Like on his own ship, this crew must have jumped… or been preparing to. Lacking the tail number, he wouldn't be able to tell. He paused in his cursory examination of the wreck and looked around into the trees, hoping that he might see eyes looking back at him. After a moment, he lowered his head and returned to his investigation.

Lying on the ground near the remnant of the fuselage, he found one of the two secondary ordinance racks, the source of the gleaming white light he has seen earlier. It had apparently popped open and then subsequently been ripped off in the crash, the six gleaming white guided bombs exposed to the sun. He wondered how the impact hadn’t caused the armed ordinance to go off. He hurried over to one of the external compartments and pulled out a camouflage net and quickly set to covering the exposed ordinance rack. Once finished, he returned to the remains of the fuselage and began to open the compartments to inventory what he found.

He found more food and water, a basic tool set, skid stretcher, a spool of commo wire… ammo for weapons he didn't have. Temporarily abandoning that search, he moved forward to where the flight deck had broken off from the rest of the ship. There, he found another broken open storage compartment and a pilot's personal defense carbine hanging from it by the sling.

"Jackpot," he said aloud as he reached for it and untangled the sling.

As he removed the weapon, he saw a combat computer laying on the forest floor. After checking and loading the carbine, he put the spare magazines in his load equipment and hopped down. He saw that the impact of the crash had jostled the battery loose and it was nowhere to be found. Returning to where he left his ruck, he pulled his combat computer out and swapped the battery over to the new one. He now received a flashing low battery light, indicating that the likelihood that when the screen of his own computer was smashed, there was a short that caused the battery to drain.

His fists clenched in frustration, he returned to the fuselage and found a solar charging mat. He set it up in the sun and decided that while he waited, he would investigate the running water he had been hearing. He set off in the direction that he had heard it from and was expecting to find a creek but the forest thinned out ahead and he passed out into a clearing. Before him he saw a large river running through a gorge in the valley floor. The river below extended into the distance to his right in the direction he had just come. Below him, the river made a sharp jog and ran directly to his front. Stepping back into the tree line, he pulled out his map. This was a significant terrain feature and I should be able to find it on the map, he thought. After studying the map, he discovered that in the darkness, he had strayed a fair distance into the valley center in his rush to put some distance between him and the landing Consorts.

After folding the map back up, he returned to the crash to check on the charging computer. Crossing his fingers, he turned it on. Much to his relief, it powered up. After finding the weapon, this was the best news yet. As it ran through the boot up, he hoped that it had been updated. Updates were pushed via radio, but the computers did not have their own. Despite having a GPS receiver, they relied on a soldier's personal radio for data and their updates. Since his own was missing and there was probably no one up there to send an update anyway, he would need to rely on the stored update in memory. The map of the valley flashed onto the screen and he sighed a breath of relief as the locating message appeared, indicating it was searching for a GPS signal. Once it was triangulated, it displayed his position which he compared to his map to verify. It was spot on. He first placed a reference marker on the map to mark the crash site for future reference and proceeded to review the surrounding area. As he scanned the map in the direction of downstream, he found that the main road that ran the length of the valley crossed over a bridge less than a kilometer away. He paused for a moment at this, lost in thought and looked up at the ordinance rack under the camo netting. He then glanced over at the fuselage where he had found the skid stretcher.

He placed his hands to his face, his fingers steepled and thought about the difficulty and the implications of what he was now considering.

The Army expected its members to professionally and academically develop themselves and in his spare time Sergeant Huygens had begun taking college correspondence classes. One of the courses he had been in the middle of taking before this operation began was military history and a segment that he had found particularly fascinating was insurgency in the 20th and 21st century. Thinking about this, he thought about where his present situation might end up, how the history of this operation might be written by future historians. He recognized that his own situation was different, that there was a clearly defined, trained military enemy force and he was soldier of the opposing force… but the vague similarity did not escape him. Resolute in his decision, he stood.

"I'm going to take that fucking bridge out," he said aloud.

He set the computer to standby, leaving it to charge and returned to the wreck. He packed up his rucksack with more food and water along with some ammo for weapons that he half hoped, half expected to find later. He set it to the side, away from the wreck and gathered the tools and the stretcher. He thought over the multitude of ways it could be accomplished and in order to make as few trips as possible, decided to forgo surveying the bridge first. Thinking that should the bridge prove to be impossible, he could at least crater the road. Returning to the ordinance rack, he pulled back the camo netting.

His training in crash site recovery operations included basic disarming of ordinance. Checking this first, he engaged the hard safeties on the bombs. He remembered that the class was 'overtaught,' that they were shown how to do many things that were actually above their level, but then also told to never, ever do them. Silently thanking that instructor, he then set to work on removing the retarding fins on the rear, as well as the guidance packages at the nose of each bomb. He noted that the first three would be easy to disengage, but he would need rope to lower the next three from their positions. He released the first one from the rack and secured it to the stretcher. Returning to the wreck, he found a medkit and took the scissors and started to cut a piece of the netting off to wrap the bomb in. With the drag strap over one shoulder, he set off to the bridge, dragging the bomb along behind him.

By the time he reached the bridge, the sun had fully cleared the horizon. He saw that it was a large single span bridge that had a sub-bridge catwalk for utilities below it. Leaving the bomb behind, he investigated the catwalk. He found that the catwalk extended the entire length of the bridge, built for future utility upgrades that had not been installed yet.

'This might be easier than I thought,' he thought to himself as formulated his plan and returned to collect the bomb.

He dragged it out onto the bridge, positioning it where he thought it would be the most effective. He returned to the crash and repeated the process until he had brought all six bombs to the bridge. By the time he had finished, it was mid afternoon. He then set to arming and wiring the detonators. As he finished, he realized that the wire he had left was a lot shorter than he would have liked, a fair bit of it was stretched out on the bridge. He was about to go look for more back at the crash site when he heard vehicles on the other side of the river. Looking back to the bridge, he decided that 200 meters was going to have to do.

He set himself up behind the cover of a tree and small dip in the terrain and prepared his improvised detonator. As the massive convoy entered his sight, he saw that it was escorting an artillery battery, presumably to shell the remaining resistance in the city, probably the air defense. He expected that they would stop and dismount to inspect the bridge and prepared to set it off, but he waited to see what they would do first, hoping he could instead catch them on the bridge. As they approached, they showed no signs of slowing and they began to cross.

Once they had crossed three quarters of the way, he triggered the detonator. At first, nothing happened so he kept hitting the trigger, over and over. Suddenly, there was a series of massive explosions that shook the valley. The shockwaves pounded him and causing his heart to skip a beat, even at 200 meters distance. As the echoes of the explosions subsided, they were replaced by the sound of groaning metal, the protests of an overloaded bridge that could no longer support the weight on it. It began in the middle, the thinnest part of the span now severed, began crumpling into itself. The ends also severed, pulled away from the abutments at either end, pivoting on the footers. The entire span as it crumpled, began to sag down into the gorge. Many vehicle drivers accelerated or reversed in panic, futilely trying to get off the now broken bridge. Others jumped clear of their vehicles to run, a measure that soon proved to be equally futile.

It gained speed as it collapsed, the groaning howl of the failing bridge built to a crescendo as there was another, larger explosion on the far side of the bridge near the abutment. The remains of the bridge collapsed into the river bed, a mess of twisted metal, tossing the Consortium vehicles about like an angry child’s toys.

The smoke from the second explosion cleared and revealed that the bridge abutment on the far side had been significantly damaged. There were also several vehicles destroyed and on fire as well. He thought that the charges on the far side must have been under an ammo carrier when it went off, the explosion was vastly different and much, much larger. Troops were dismounting from the vehicles in a panic now as their leadership shouted in vain at them to form up a defensive perimeter.

"Take that, you sonsobitches," he whispered to himself as he reeled in the remains of the wire before he withdrew.

Having made the trip to the bridge from the crash site six times, he collected the stretcher out of reflex. He decided that he should keep it and load it up with additional supplies at the crash when he collected his ruck.

Returning to the crash site he paused and listened. The chaos across the river was now too distant to be heard. Several aircraft could be heard circling the destroyed bridge, providing air cover in anticipation for an attack on the convoy that never came. Ideally, it would have been a good idea to engage the convoy after taking the bridge out… but he was only one soldier, not the platoon element that would have been needed to pull it off. He quickly loaded the stretcher with more food, water, ammo, along with the tools and the med kit. He tested the weight and found it to be acceptable. He checked the map on the combat computer again and oriented himself to head off to another one of the suspected crash sites he had transferred to it and set off.