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Another Long Night
by
Joel "Whoopy-Cat" Illian

© 2004-2005, All Rights Reserved.

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I sat alone in the pitch dark, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness as they always did.  This time, however, there was absolutely no ambient light to provide any vision for my pupils.  “I may as well be blind!” I thought to myself. “This is ridiculous.”

I was tired - real tired.  I decided to sit back for a moment and rest.  The sporadic gunfire in the distance had momentarily abated.  “Maybe they’ve moved on.  Maybe they’re just waiting for me to emerge.  Either way, there’s no way they can see me here,” I thought.

Besides, I needed time to give my arm a rest.  It had been killing me ever since the desperate firefight outside the tunnel entrance.  I didn’t know what I’d done to it, but my whole arm, from the elbow to my wrist, had been killing me ever since then.  “Hope it’s nothing serious,” I mused.

Part of me wished I hadn’t used up my flashlight’s batteries in the caves.  But, upon reflection, that was probably the best place to use it.  My mind relived the tense time I had spent in those dark, dank, rat infested holes in the ground.  I could still taste the musty air that had clung to the cave walls like the bats that hung from the ceilings.

“Yuck!” I shivered as I remembered the caves.  Nope, that was definitely the place to use up my remaining flashlight power.  This duct might be cramped, dark, and filled with creeping bugs, but it’s a far-sight better than it would have been stumbling around in those caves without light.  “Ick,” I shivered one last time, chuckling silently at my own silly little phobias.

I sat quietly for a while, listening for any hint of the enemy.  But all I could hear was a steady dripping somewhere up ahead and the constant thrumming of the fan somewhere far off behind me.  I guessed this was as good a time as any to have a smoke.  I’d been dying for a cigarette for hours, and the light would be a welcome respite from the dark.

I closed my eyes as I flicked my lighter so the intense light from it wouldn’t constrict my widely-dilated pupils, ruining what little night-vision I had developed in here.  When I was sure my smoke was lit I pocketed my Zippo and took a much-needed drag on the cigarette.  “Ahhh, nothing like the first puff from a freshly lit snide,” I thought to myself, inhaling deeply and finally blowing the smoke out my nostrils.

While the cherry on the cigarette was glowing dimly I stole a quick peek out of the slit of my left eye.  It’s amazing how much can be illuminated by something as faint as a passively burning cigarette.  It never fails to amaze me.  What had initially seemed like a nice, fresh cigarette turned out to be a badly bent snide that had apparently at some point become totally soaked (“Probably in the caves,” I chuckled to myself) and had clearly spent far too much time in my pocket.  Fortunately it was dry now.  In the glow of illumination from the cig I checked it for any cracks or breaks in it.  Thankfully there were none.  I then turned the cherry-end toward my aching right arm, but failed to see any outward signs of injury.  At least I wasn’t bleeding.

But, despite the relatively strong light emanating from my glowing cig, I was able to learn nothing about my surroundings.  Even when I puffed lightly on it, causing the cherry to glow bright red, the light from the faggot provided nothing in the way of vision to me in here.  Oh well.  It’s just a stinking duct.  How much different could it be from any other duct I’d crawled through in the past?

“Dang,” I thought, “It is really dark in here!”

I closed my eyes again while I pulled deeply on the coffin nail and inhaled the deadly carbon monoxide.  “Deadly,” I silently laughed.  “...As if sneaking around in enemy territory wasn’t deadly enough? ...As if crawling around through the ductwork of the world’s largest terrorist base wasn’t ‘deadly’?” I snickered.

I was just about to take one last puff on this wonderful snide when I heard a distant clattering up ahead of me.  I keyed my voice-com and breathed a whispered call into the microphone dangling in front of my neck, “Charlie Two, where are you?”  I received nothing but a faint crackle in my right earphone.  “Stinking metal vent shaft,” I cursed quietly.

There’s nothing I hate more than wasting tobacco, and normally I would have extinguished the flame and kept the remaining butt for later use, but this was a little more serious than losing a half-gram of tobacco.  I dropped what was left of the cigarette and crushed it until it was no longer emanating any light, wishing I’d been able to steal that one last puff before throwing myself back into the fray.

The clattering continued, although it didn’t appear to be getting closer.  Had the light from my snide given me away?  Had the smoke wafted through the ventilation duct, alerting someone on the other side of my presence?  Neither seemed very likely.

I gripped my M9 tightly and covered the barrel of the pistol with my left hand.  I silently tried the switch on the tactical light once again but only got the predictable result: nothing but darkness.  Sure enough, the batteries were spent.  “Oh, well,” I shrugged.  “It never hurts to try.”

Forgetting any hope of illumination, I silently crawled forward on my hands and knees, trying to keep my 9mm pointed ahead of me as constantly as possible.  I could have scampered through the duct much more quickly, but I wasn’t going to risk any chance of making unnecessary noise – not in here!  So I silently plodded forward, barely a decimeter at a time.

The clattering ahead was growing almost imperceptibly louder as I slowly proceeded forward.  After advancing nearly a hundred meters at this careful pace the clattering ahead stopped abruptly.  All at once I could see.  It was as close to pitch-black as it gets, but it wasn’t quite black anymore.  The walls, floor, and ceiling of the square vent shaft around me were finally revealed in the very darkest shades of gray.  Upon noticing this, I instinctively halted my forward progress and sat as still as a stone.

The noise was not more than ten meters ahead of me, I judged.  As quickly and quietly as I could, I removed the tactical light from my M9 and placed it in a pocket, replacing it with my extended pistol suppressor.  This done, I carefully lowered myself from my knees to a prone position, aiming, as best I could, toward what seemed to be the source of both the noise and the tiny bit of light.  Then I waited.

Soon enough, the clattering sounds stopped, and the vent shaft was flooded with light (relatively speaking) as someone removed the access panel from the floor in front of me.  I checked that my safety was off and aimed at the center of the light although my eyes were having great difficulty adjusting to this rude influx of light.

Some shuffling noises from below the open access panel sounded like the scooting of a step stool or ladder.  An instant later, a figure appeared in the opening.  He looked directly at me, but I couldn’t identify the figure as friend or foe.  Apparently he was having even more difficulty adjusting to the dark than I was adjusting to the light.  After sensing no one in my direction he turned the opposite way, blocking much of the incoming light from below.  That’s when I saw the red and white checkered towel on his head, immediately identifying him as an enemy.

I nearly fired my pistol at the wrong instant.  He ducked down momentarily, apparently retrieving a flashlight.  When his head reemerged from below I squeezed a pair of 9mm rounds off into his head.  The muffled clicking of the two silenced rounds flying from my pistol was almost immediately followed by the sounds of the man falling from his ladder to the floor in the room below with a thud.

I waited a moment to listen for the telltale sounds of another person in the room with the dead man.  When I was reasonably satisfied that he had been alone, I crept up to the opening in the floor of the shaft created when he had removed the access panel.  I peeked carefully at the room below me, checking for additional threats.  Seeing none, I tried to reach my feet down to the ladder which, remarkably, was still standing under the open access panel.

Upon descending from the vent shaft I found myself in a very small room with only a single light.  It almost looked like a closet – a fairly big closet, or a very small room.  I saw my dead enemy lying face-first on the floor.  A large pool of blood had already formed around him.  I checked him for weapons or any items that might be of use to me.  He appeared to be armed with only the flashlight, the batteries from which would not fit in my tactical light and the bulb of which was broken from his fall from the ladder.  Useless: I can’t make it work and I can’t even cannibalize it to make my own light work - great. “Well, hopefully I won’t need a light anytime soon,” I prayed.

Upon rolling the dead man over, I found a 9mm pistol tucked into his belt.  Further searching revealed no additional magazines or ammo.  So I popped the clip from his 9-mil, checked that the magazine would fit in my M9 (which it did), and made my way toward the door.

The room was so small that I was forced to move the ladder a bit to get to the door.  As I was just setting it down in an out-of-the-way place, I heard the door handle being jiggled.  I immediately dropped to one knee as I swung around 180-degrees toward the door.  I had just enough time to raise my pistol to about the level of the door knob as the door swung in toward me.  I was confronted with another towel-headed figure with an AK slung over his right shoulder.  Upon seeing me and his dead comrade, he clumsily tried to unsling the rifle from his shoulder.

I squeezed two rounds into his torso and one into his forehead before he could even yell or cry out.  He dropped straight back like the people taking the “Nestea Plunge” from the old television commercials.  The AK clattered to the ground making far more noise than I would have preferred.  But after several moments of remaining as still as a statue, I could hear no indication of anyone else coming.

I peeked out the door, left and right, but saw no one coming down the corridor either way.  I grabbed the man’s feet and dragged him into the cramped room with his dead comrade.  The three of us, plus the ladder, almost completely filled the room and I had to stumble a bit to maneuver my way around to the door.

I searched this dead man as I had the previous one and this time I hit the mother-lode:  he was carrying four magazines on a bandolier under his cloak.  I threw it my around my head and over my left shoulder.  After holstering my pistol, I grabbed his AK-47.  A quick check found that it had a full clip and a round in the chamber.  I gave the weapon only a very cursory inspection.  After all, almost regardless of what condition it was in, it would surely still be in perfect working order; this is what Kalashnikovs were famous for.

I took a bit of clothing off the second man and cleaned up the blood in the hallway as well as could be expected.  At least there wasn’t an obvious pool of blood there now.  I checked the door and was delighted to find that it had a single-cylinder locking mechanism which required a key to unlock from the outside.

I worked the lock from the inside, snuck another quick peek down the corridor, and exited the little room, pulling the door behind me as I went.  Sure enough, it was locked and I couldn’t go back in even if I had wanted to.  Hopefully no one would try to enter the room for a while, and if they tried, perhaps it would take a while longer for them to find a key to open the door.

The hallway to my right led to a door which looked to be an exit, so I turned left instead and began to make my way down the corridor.  I kept close to the wall and walked as carefully and quietly as I could.  The walls appeared to be of cinder block construction with only the faintest hint of having worn a coat of paint at some point in the far distant past.

Every twenty meters or so the wall broke to allow for a door which was no more than a half-meter recessed from the level of the wall.  These coves were only barely big enough to hide in and would surely offer no stealth against anyone walking down the hall past me.  They could, however, provide at least a little cover and should be sufficiently deep to hide me from someone passing across the intersecting corridors which seemed to cross this main hallway every 100 meters or so.

As I slowly made my way down the hallway, I ducked into every door cove I encountered.  Each time, I tried to open the door, but they all seemed to be locked. If I had known for sure that there was anything worth my trouble in any of these rooms, I might have risked breaking out the glass in the doors.  But the lights in each of the rooms I passed were turned off so I couldn’t see at all what might be in these rooms.  Without a glass cutter I was not about to risk alerting the entire base of my presence by smashing the glass, especially since I had no reason to believe there was anything in any of these rooms that would be of interest or assistance to me.

I had ducked in and out of several dozen doorways, and had carefully and quickly maneuvered past three crossing corridors when I suddenly heard something.  I backed into the nearest cove and my heart was already pounding by the time I realized the noise was coming from my right ear.

“Delta-Two, this is Charlie-Two.  ‘Sat you?” my earphone crackled. “I’m in the main corridor,” Charlie-Two whispered electronically in my ear.  “I just saw someone duck into a doorway but he’s carrying an AK.  Wazzat you?”

“Yeah, I’m in the main corridor and I’m carrying an AK-47,” I whispered in reply.  “Where’re you at?”

“Hundred meters or so... Beyond the next crossing corridor... opposite side of the hall from you,” Charlie whispered.

I took off my Kevlar helmet and peeked my head out of the hall just far enough that I could peer down the hallway with my left eye.  Sure enough, just about 100 meters ahead another left eye was just barely visible, peeking out of a doorway on the opposite side of the hall.

“Eyes on,” I whispered into my headset microphone.  I could see Charlie give me a slight nod before disappearing back into his cove.  “Can you watch my six as I try to get to you?” I asked.

“Affirmative,” came the quiet reply as Charlie again peeked his head out just enough to be able to watch for traffic behind me as I made my way towards him.

I put my helmet back on my head and stealthily started toward the next nook in the wall.  I was almost exactly between the previous cove and the next one when a figure emerged from the crossing corridor about half-way between my position and the cove from which Charlie was watching.  Upon reaching the main corridor the man turned and walked directly toward me.  He was clearly in a hurry and his mind was on other things.  He seemed to be muttering to himself in Farsi as he walked briskly down the hall in my direction.

“TROUBLE!  TROUBLE!” Charlie’s anxious voice hissed in my earphone.

I was too far from my previous hiding place to go back, and not nearly close enough to the next doorway, so I just froze in place.  I tried to reach for my silenced M9, but this movement must have caught the man’s eyes as he stopped abruptly and looked straight into my eyes.  At first he was too startled to say or do anything.  Just as it appeared he was going to yell, I watched in amazement as his throat exploded in a fountain of red.

First he grabbed at his throat, then, thinking better of it, he reached for the holstered pistol he wore on his belt.  Before he could even reach it, two more muffled clicking sounds came from behind the man and he fell forward to the ground.  From behind the now-dead man, Charlie had quickly closed the distance on him and was now nearly half-way to the crossing corridor from which the man had emerged.  Charlie’s silenced pistol was being held in two hands as he continued forward, slowing as he reached the crossing hall.

I flashed Charlie an appreciative look before joining him in converging on the man he had shot.  Charlie stopped at the crossing hall momentarily to check for additional threats.  Apparently seeing none, he dashed across the hall and we met at the dead man’s body almost simultaneously.

Without a word we each grabbed the man under one armpit and turned him around in the direction from which Charlie had just come.  When we reached the crossing hallway we stopped.  Holding the dead man under his right arm, I looked down the hall to our right; Charlie checked left.  An instant later we ran across the intersection with the dead man’s feet dragging on the floor behind us.

“Over here,” Charlie whispered with a leftward nod of his head after we had run the fifty meters back to where Charlie had been when he had first seen me.  “This door is unlocked,” he said as he turned the knob and opened the door.  I looked behind us briefly and noticed a conspicuous trail of blood leading all the way down the hall to where we now were.

When Charlie had opened the door, we flung the dead body to the floor and quickly closed the door behind us.  We didn’t turn on the lights; we just looked at each other’s black silhouette in what little light was coming through the door from the hallway outside.

“Man,” Charlie declared, “Am I ever glad to see you!”

Aww, shucks,” I replied over my shoulder as I searched the dead terrorist’s body for anything that might be of use to us.  “I never even knew ya’ cared, Chuck!”

We shared a quick, muffled laugh before returning immediately to the business at hand.

“How’d you fare on the way in?” Charlie-Two asked.

“It was... interesting,” said I.  “Very interesting,” I said, looking up at him.

I could barely see Charlie’s black silhouette nodding back at me in the darkness.  “Yeah,” he agreed.  “That’s one way of putting it.”

“Where’s your partner?” I asked.

“Charlie-One... He’s gone,” Charlie-Two replied in a distant voice.  “Bought it on the way in,” he added, looking at the floor.  “Sniper.”

“Son of a...”  We both looked at the other in the darkness and shook our heads.  “Sorry, man,” I finally managed.

“And what about your mate?  Where’s Delta-One?” Charlie asked.

I could only shake my head.  Charlie swore under his breath.

“So,” Charlie abruptly started, “what’s up with the Kalashnikov?”

“Oh, man,” I whispered in disgusted anger, “Met up with some nasties outside the caves – must’ve been fifteen or twenty of ‘em I suppose.  The first ten or so were kind enough to just stand there – right out in the open! – firing at me from the hip!” I laughed.  “But then the rest of them apparently took that lesson to heart and grabbed some cover.  By the time I finished off the last of ‘em I had less than half a mag left.  With no ammo, I just ditched my MP-5 and went on with only my 9-mil,” I said, pointing to my pistol.  “Just as well, I guess.  I had to use a series of ventilation shafts to get inside this place, and that SMG would’ve just made it all that much harder,” I shrugged.  “A kindly A-Rab fellow gave me this as a peace offering,” I joked, holding up the AK-47.

“Yeah,” Charlie snickered, “a Rest-in-Peace offering, you mean.”

We shared one last muffled laugh before getting back to business.

“What about you?  You okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Charlie sighed as if disgusted with himself.  “I took a frag from a ‘nade just about the time I lost Charlie-One,” he said, looking down at his torn pant leg.

“Ouch,” I cringed, joining him in inspecting his wounded leg.

“Yeah,” Charlie agreed.  “But the worst part is:  it was my own grenade!”

Ohhhh!” I almost burst, holding my hand to my mouth to stifle the laugh I wanted to let out.  Charlie nodded, taking turns looking down at his leg and then looking up to watch me desperately trying to stop myself from laughing out loud.  Still half-laughing but trying to act sympathetic, I shrugged and finally said, “...Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.”  Now Charlie was laughing with me.

We shared another quick moment of levity. Finally I asked, “So you okay now?”

“Yep,” Charlie-Two confirmed, “I found a first-aid kit in this-here room.  What about you?  You need anything from it before we move out?”

I shook my head, looking at my right forearm, “I don’t think there’s anything in that med-kit that’ll fix what’s wrong with me.”

Charlie nodded knowingly and we both laughed at my whining.

“Whaddaya hear from Alpha and Bravo Teams,” I asked.

“Nothing,” Charlie replied, suddenly serious again, “Not one thing,” slowly shaking his head.  “You?” he asked.

I simply joined him in shaking my head in the negative.

“I was afraid of that,” Charlie said sadly.  “Well...” he finally concluded. “Guess it’s just you an’ me then, eh, Delta-Two?”

“Yup,” I said.  “And as much as I needed this little breather, I think we’d better get moving.  Hiding out in a room with a blood trail leading to the door prob’ly ain’t the smartest way to achieve our objective.”

“No doubt,” Charlie agreed.  “Got any idea ‘xactly where we are?”

“Some,” I admitted.  “I think we just passed the hallway we want,” I said pointing in the direction from which we’d just come.

“That sounds ‘bout right,” Charlie agreed, then adding, “Here.  You might as well have Charlie-One’s weapon,” he said, laying a silenced MP-5 submachine gun down on a nearby table.  “I still have mine, and I also found this beauty,” he said, reaching toward the floor behind him and revealing an M4 automatic rifle with an M203 grenade launcher mounted under the barrel.

“Nice!” I smiled at him.  “Got plenty of ammo?”

“Yep,” Charlie replied.  “I’m ready to rock.”

“Good,” I said, slinging the AK onto my back.  I grabbed Charlie-One’s MP-5 and instinctively went through the process of checking it over.  Satisfied that all was in order, I said, “Let’s do it!”

Before opening the door we each did one last quick weapons-check.  When we were both situated we shared a single nod and opened the door as slowly and quietly as we could.  Charlie looked left as I peered to the right.  After sharing an ‘all-clear’ nod we moved out into the hallway.  But before closing the door Charlie stopped suddenly and whispered, “Wait!”

I backed into the doorway as Charlie went back into the room.  He pulled the pin from a fragmentation grenade and gently balanced the trigger under the dead man’s body.  A nice surprise now awaited whoever would be unfortunate enough to be the first to find this body.

Back in the hallway once again, Charlie quietly closed the door behind us and we headed back down the hall toward the intersection.  I hugged the wall and carefully moved down the hall in the direction we wanted to go while Charlie scouted the opposite direction, walking backward with his left hand on my left shoulder for reference.  Walking back-to-back, we slowly made our way down the hall, retracing the fifty-odd meters back to the intersection we had previously crossed carrying the dead Arab. 

Upon reaching the intersection I stopped and Charlie crossed to the far side of the hallway.  With my back against the wall I peeked out into the intersection and looked down the hall to our left while Charlie did the same, checking to our right.  Nothing.  Good!

While I watched in the other three directions, Charlie looked one last time down the hallway behind me.  After another ‘all-clear’ nod he ran down the intersecting corridor to my right.  I continued to scan the other three directions behind him as Charlie headed down this new corridor.  When he had gone about twenty meters he quickly ducked into the first doorway-cove on the far side of this hallway.  When he was settled, he faced me.  I turned my head and looked over my shoulder.  Charlie nodded, aiming his M4 so that he could cover my ‘six’ as I leapfrogged ahead of him.

With Charlie on the left-hand side of the corridor I traveled down the right-hand side, hugging the wall and ducking into the first doorway-cove on my side of the hall.  After I stopped running, I turned around to cover Charlie’s back as he ran past me again along the left side of the hall.

When Charlie was in position in the next nook in the wall he took a knee and pointed his M4 down the hallway as a signal for me to move ahead of him.  I found a small table from which I could cover Charlie.  I knelt down and Charlie scurried up ahead once again.

We took turns ‘leapfrogging’ in this manner for quite some distance without seeing any signs of life in any direction.  Taking turns like this we found that we were able to cover quite a long distance in a relatively short time.  It was much faster (and certainly felt much safer!) than when we had each been alone.

Eventually we approached a T-intersection where another hall (parallel with the main hall in which Charlie and I had found each other) met the corridor we were now traversing.  While Charlie covered me, I jumped ahead to the edge of this perpendicular corridor and stole a peek down the hall.

As I was just turning the corner to look down the near side of the hall, I found myself face-to-face with a pair of armed guards.  ...Well, actually I was face-to-back with the nearer of the two, less than a meter in front of me.  The one who was facing toward Charlie and I naturally saw me before the other man even knew what was happening.

I squeezed off a long burst from the MP-5 Charlie had given me.  Although it was not quite as silent as my pistol’s silencer, the suppressor on the MP-5 gave a good account of itself as I fired.  The man facing me was forced to maneuver around his comrade in order to get a clean shot at me without hitting his friend.  As it turned out, he should have risked shooting his friend for, by the time he was in a position to safely return my fire, his friend was leaking blood from dozens of holes – dead before he even hit the ground.  As he fell, I lowered myself at the same time, falling with the dead guard and firing through and around him, finally taking out the guard who faced me.

It was a terrible display of fire discipline on my part.  I hadn’t fired even a single aimed shot; but they were so close that I had been taken completely by surprise.  Thus, by the time they were both on the ground, I had nearly used up an entire magazine.  I quickly swapped it out for a full clip just as Charlie closed ranks behind me.

I was just turning to Charlie and saying, “Man, that was too close for comfort,” when Charlie abruptly raised his M4 and fired a burst over my left shoulder.  I turned to see a man fall out from a distant doorway and into the hall.

Charlie had saved me from the gunman I hadn’t seen, but the loud report from his M4 was most disconcerting.

Sure enough, not three seconds later two more gunmen came running up the hall towards us yelling and firing their AK-47s at us.  Charlie opened up with several three-round bursts from his M4 and began to slowly back into the hallway we had just come from.  I turned just in time to see a gunman racing in from the right.  I leveled him with a burst from the MP-5, but I could hear footsteps approaching from the opposite direction.

Just as I swiveled left to address this new threat, a volley of lead came down the hall.  The fire was inaccurate, but one bullet glanced off the wall and grazed Charlie in the right shoulder.  He staggered toward the wall and grabbed his wounded arm.

“Get down, Charlie!” I yelled, firing a sustained salvo down the hall to my left.  When I figured their heads were down I quickly grabbed a fragmentation grenade and hurled it down the hall, intentionally hitting the far-side wall so that it bounced toward our flanking assailants.

I ducked back against the near wall just as the grenade exploded.  I could still hear excited cries from that direction, so I pulled the pin on a second grenade and chucked it, this time aiming a bit higher.  The grenade hit the ceiling and then the wall before exploding about a meter off the ground.  Two men who had found cover behind a box caught the shrapnel from this second grenade and our left flank was again secure – at least for the moment.

I turned back to the right and saw the muzzle flashes from a trio of AK’s just as I turned.  Ducking to the ground I managed to avoid all but the flying pieces of concrete coming off the wall behind me.

I was just about to raise my MP-5 in the direction of these three gunmen when Charlie screamed, “’Nade!”  Before I even had time to cover myself Charlie launched a contact grenade from the M203 mounted beneath the barrel of his M4.  His aim was true and all three men fell in a heap.

“Loading!” Charlie called out.  I turned to face back down the hallway Charlie had been covering.  I hadn’t even fully turned around when I saw a grenade rolling towards us along the hallway floor.

I reacted purely instinctively when I saw it approaching us, rolling along the ground.  With the grace of a soccer striker I swept my left foot along the floor perfectly redirecting the grenade through the open doorway where the first two guards had been standing.

I barely had time to hit the floor when it went off.  Although the shrapnel from the grenade had been restricted to the room on the other side of the door, the hall where we were was instantly filled with smoke and debris flying through the open doorway.

Without even checking for enemy combatants, I grabbed Charlie, dragged him to his feet, and headed back into the T-intersection.  I knew the smoke would only cover our movements for a few short seconds.  Moments later another grenade exploded exactly where we had been.  Charlie turned and fired several bursts behind us as we ran, just in case anyone was trying to follow us through the smoke and dust from the grenade explosions.

I grabbed the last clip of MP-5 ammo and slapped it home just in time to see a group of armed men entering the hallway from one of the rooms ahead of us.  Charlie and I knelt on opposite sides of the corridor and opened up on this group.  They all fell, to a man, but I was now out of ammo for my MP-5.  I tossed it aside and reached for the AK I still had slung over my back.

When I turned to look over at Charlie, he was now facing the rear and firing on full automatic at a group approaching from behind us.  I immediately joined him.  Although we both ran through an entire clip in only seconds, the withering fire had successfully suppressed the attack from behind us.

As we both changed out magazines, Charlie called out, “Last clip!”  That got my attention.  I had just looked up at him when a furious volley of fire came down the hall in front of us, ripping into Charlie as he struggled to load his last magazine.

“Charlie!” I cried out.

Charlie looked over at me and met my eyes with his own before slumping to the floor in a lake of his own blood.

I fired the AK with a burning fury.  When it was empty I didn’t bother to reload it.  I snatched the M4 from Charlie’s hands and pumped a grenade out of the M203.  My hands struggled to grab another grenade from Charlie’s pack.  I worked the action on the grenade launcher over and over again – first firing this way, then that way.

When I was out of grenades, I switched to the M4 itself.  I looked down at the selector switch and chose “full auto”.  But before I could raise the rifle to fire it at anyone a volley of AK fire ripped through my body.  I turned to face the fire and was immediately hit by another salvo from behind.

I looked down at the streams of blood pouring out of my body before falling to the ground.

“AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!” I screamed, throwing my mouse down in disgust.  I raised my fist high into the air and slammed it down on the keyboard tray.  The reverberations caused my half-full can of Mountain Dew to spill all over the keyboard, trickling into every nook and cranny.

“What’s the matter, Delta-Two?” asked the voice in my headset.  “Did’ja get fragged again?”

I swore under my breath and then keyed the mic.  “Yeah, just a couple seconds after you bought it, Charlie.  ...But that’s not the real problem. I just ruined another keyboard and mouse!”

“Ha Ha Ha!” Charlie laughed at me. “That’s the fourth one this month, ain’t it?  You’d better hurry up and dig out another one.  The next round starts in ten minutes.”

“Yeah, Charlie, I hear ya.  Hang on a sec.  I need to get another can of pop before we respawn.”

“Okay,” Charlie laughed.  “See ya in a few minutes, Delta.”

“Yeah, yeah...” I muttered as I removed my headset and tossed it onto the desk. 

As I tried to think where I had stashed that new keyboard, I rubbed my aching wrist.

“Dang,” I thought to myself. “My right arm sure does hurt!  I just wish I knew why.”

I consoled myself, “At least now I have time for another smoke.”

 

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An original story by Joel T. Whoopy-Cat Illian

31 December 2004

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