While out on an exercise their commanders describe as "some bureaucrat's idea of a fieldtrip", a US National Guard combat battalion are equipped and sent into a poorly-explored cavern somewhere in the wilderness between Idaho and Montana. Upon arrival, five platoons are stationed at the first antechamber, into which they use cranes to lower supplies to set up a base camp for the weekend. The other goes deeper "for shits and giggles."
While constructing the camp, several of the men near the tunnels report hearing echoes of distant gunfire. Without radio communications, the acting commander sends two combat-ready platoons on search-and-rescue. As the platoons advance they see breathtakingly beautiful and frightening subterranean landscapes.
Deep under ground, after coming across large, insect-like corpses, they find where the forward platoons had reached and the environment changes drastically. The tunnels they walk through are smooth, like burrows, and all uniform in size and shape. They proceed to find a cavernous area covered in these holes, as well as the forward platoons.
Bodies everywhere in the pitch blackness illuminated by their flares and spotlights. What more, the corpses are being fed upon by the large spider-like insects they came across earlier. The creatures apparently rely on sensitive eyesight, scattering as soon as the area is illuminated.
The soldiers check the area, cautiously moving in squads on the lookout for whatever it was that killed their comrades. They find pockets of survivors who'd hidden amid the battle. They warn them about larger, warrior bugs in the colony that aren't necessarily tougher, but larger and hear rather than see.
The CO of the rescue party makes the call to pull back to where they first came across the strange tunnels of the colony and hold position there. That's when things go from bad to worse, as the larger bugs are spotted in the beams of their searchlights crawling down the high walls towards them.
Flares are fired and a fighting retreat ensues, with warrior and worker bugs attacking the panicked soldiers from the countless shadows of every nook and cranny. Most make it back to the 'point of incursion', but the beautiful cave is indefensible, and so the officer makes the final call to get all the way back to the camp.
After fighting all the way back through underground cliffs, crevices, and flooded and cramped caves they traversed earlier. All the while they're besieged by the pursuing creatures, who they're only able to hold off at potential chokepoints for a short time before they're impossibly flanked.
Finally they reach the base camp. After following orders to "turn every goddamn light bulb and glow-stick we've got" to set up a perimeter that successfully kept most of the worker insects at bay, they radio to the nearby airbase they used as a staging area for the exercise.
Helicopters fly a small quick-reaction force of Air National Guard and Civil Air Patrol volunteers, many of whom are equipped with personal hunting rifles and still dressed in civvies, out to the cavern. Upon arrival, they see through the huge entrance the pitch battle ensuing below.
Several daring pilots chance the mouth of the cave when they see the storm of gunfire, touching down amid the chaos. They're abruptly loaded with some of the wounded and sent back up to start the evacuation.
The Lieutenant in charge, suddenly faced with an illogical, unconventional threat, disregards all but the most vital rules of commanding troops in battle. Fearing the worst (that their incursion may have incited the colony to spread) he starts organizing his men to hold out for reinforcements, rather than retreat and attempt a quarantine in the dense mountain-forest wilderness above.
Meanwhile at Malmstrom Air Force Base, skeptical reports accompanied by alarming images fly up the chain of command, eventually reaching the Pentagon and Western Continental Defense Command. It's finally brought to the attention of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chief of the National Guard Bureau, who then assemble the Join Chiefs of Staff in Washington.
By this time word has spread across the rural state that a National Guard unit is in trouble and engaged in fighting, but against who or what is understandably lost in transmission. Without hesitation, hundreds of police officers, paramedics, rescue teams, and countless farmers and hunters pile into everything from ex-military UH-60s to bush planes, all heading to the unit's aid.
While the men in the cave continue to fight atop a mountain of bodies straight out of a sci-fi film, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff goes before the president to ask permission to bring the nation from DEFCON 4 to 2. An awkward and embarrassing briefing later, the order is issued and across the US the military mobilizes.
Covertly, orders are also issued for a B2 bomber squadron equipped with two B61-11 nuclear bombs to abort their routine circulation across the West Coast and land at an air force base in nearby Washington. Pentagon analysts begin calculating fallout trajectories and flipping through pages of bomb impact documents and geological surveys.
Inside the cave, fuel is running low. The spotlights illuminating the high walls of the cavern need to be shut down, instead focusing light on the camp's perimeter. Ammunition is also becoming dire, and worst of all the bugs keep coming. Now in a more opened area, however, the troops take fewer casualties as they're fighting more on their terms. But morale is inconsistent.
Federal military authorities get in contact with their state and local counterparts, relieving them of their panicked command and forming a direct line of communication from the entrenched National Guard unit and the Secretary of Defense. They conclude that the unit does not have enough ammunition to last until currently mobilizing ground forces can arrive in the wilderness.
The Secretary of Defense asks the Lieutenant from the White House Situation Room "The only guys who'll get to you in time are the jets. What would you do?" To which the stressed CO responds "Get bombed, sir." acknowledging his commitment to being the guy on the ground.
Not far away, a group of soldiers who've stripped off their body armor man rain fire over the tangled bodies from a position made of plastic transportation crates. One shouts that they "just don't stop!", to which another responds asking "Have you ever seen an ant colony fight a termite colony?" A third cuts the conversation off, yelling "Just kill them 'til there's none left to kill!"
Despite an FAA order to clear the airspace, private and emergency aircraft equipped with ammunition and medical supplies continue to converge upon the cavern from all over the state. Convoys of trucks navigate backcountry roads over the mountains, and just as word spreads to news agencies, the President issues a media blackout for the region. The Situation Room falls into silence.
The flight of fighter-escorted bombers equipped with the nuclear warheads never gets the chance to land, but instead is directed by the Pentagon onto an attack route over the cavern. The anxious but professional pilots are then issued, confirmed, and even triple-confirmed the order to discharge one B61-11 nuclear warhead on American soil.
Even over the chaotic fighting, as soldiers are pushed further and further back to the cliff beneath the cavern entrance by the large creatures, the desperate men could hear the distant but unmistakable rushing roar of a B2 bomber. Several brave soldiers gave renewed shouts of triumph, leading their squads in a charge to retake the subterranean perimeter. Amid the chaos, someone shouts "Fuck yea! Kill 'em with fire!"
The four-hundred kiloton blast knocks down trees for four and a half miles. Above the dust and smoke rises a mushroom cloud half a mile wide. Beneath it, a crater three-hundred yards in diameter where five-hundred and thirty-three men and women of the United States National Guard had been moments before. Seventy-six civilians and emergency responders also lost their lives in the blast.
News of the apparent battle, attempted containment by the government, and detonation of a nuclear weapon within dense population centers spread as quickly across the globe as the dense cloud of radiation drifted northeast into Montana. The fallout from the subsurface burst carried with it a great deal of dirt and stone, depositing it across the landscape as it almost reached the Canadian border.
"Did this really just happen?" somebody asks in the Situation Room, satellite imagery relaying a massive black cloud over burning, leveled forest. "Even if that worked, we will burn for this." the Secretary of Defense says into the stunned silence.
A ridiculously campy horror movie idea. The whole part about the soldiers fighting gigantic bug things in caverns came straight out of an extremely vivid dream I had, which ended with me cheering on the nuke as it rushed over our heads. Oddly enough it was one of the few dreams I've had where my guns actually fired instead of throwing hot air at the bad guys. I suppose the inspiration came from Starship Troopers, Dog Soldiers, and a bit of Dr. Strangelove.