I was eighteen when I joined the military. I was also short and skinny which did not help when I went through the training. All that changed when I walked off the Atlas struggling under the two duffles. A top sergeant gestured as I followed the others towards a hanger to process in, "come here private."
I moved out of line and towards him, "first sergeant?"
He grinned as he looked at my name tag and then at a clipboard, "how would you like to be in special operations?"
I reddened, "they said I am to short."
He nodded, "you afraid of the dark?"
I shook my head and he glanced at the clipboard, "close spaces?"
I shook my head again and he smiled, "we need tunnel rats son."
I frowned and he gestured to a waiting vehicle, "first you do not carry all that junk. Mostly you use a light with a pistol or knife."
I fell in as he started walking, "what does a tunnel rat do?"
He snorted, "one of the most dangerous jobs there is. The enemy have begun to use tunnels to hide weapons and ammo. When we find a tunnel your team is called. You are the first in and you hunt and kill any enemy in the tunnels and bring out what you find."
I thought about it as I shifted the heavy weight of the duffles, "okay."
He nodded to the driver, "take him to the Charger."
He turned, "thanks private."
He started walking and the corporal in the vehicle chuckled, "climb in."
Before I knew it I was on my way north to Clar. I was met by a short corporal who took me to the base armorer. He issued me a new eight millimeter pistol and a dozen magazines. Next was a new combat vest with eight underarm ammo pouches. Corporal Edwards drove me to a long half dome building.
Inside were six sets of apartments, each with a common area, bedroom and a bathroom. He told me two were empty and pointed out the four that had someone in them, including his. I set my duffles down and looked around and he leaned against the door, "listen kid. Tunnel rats do not live long. You listen and watch me and maybe you will live a little longer."
I nodded and he gestured, "get unpacked and start adjusting your combat harness. The entrance into some tunnels are small so no body armor. We leave our packs, rifles and magazines outside when we enter a tunnel. Keep the mage light out on your harness and cut the flap off the pistol holster."
He left and I relaxed and looked around before I started to unpack. He returned a few hours later and checked me and nodded, "good enough. We have a Han company moving into an area they believe has tunnels. Put water and a couple of rations in the pack with a couple of changes of socks."
Three hours and I was on a Charger with corporal Edwards. We landed to the south of enemy lines and at the edge of the western mountains. We shouldered our very light packs and I followed the corporal. The men that were in the woods were dressed in black uniforms and carried short carbines like the corporal.
We fell in as they moved out and started their patrol. When it got dark they slowed a little but kept moving. It was midnight when they stopped and word was sent for us to move up. The captain gestured to one side, "we have a marker."
Edwards whispered to me, "a marker is placed on or along a trail to a tunnel."
I nodded and he turned and began to move slowly before I saw a faint glow from moss on a tree. He turned in and we followed a narrow trail and I saw more. Finally I saw the hole and he turned and pulled me close to whisper, "this is where we leave our rifles and packs."
I nodded and glanced at the soldiers that were following us. I shrugged out of the pack and set it to one side. I took off the belt with the rifle magazine pouches and set them and the rifle on the pack. I pulled the mage light and pistol and moved to the hole. Edwards caught my shoulder, "they set traps and sometimes leave serpents hanging from the ceiling."
I nodded and tried to settle my stomach. He tossed a thick stick and the night exploded as the earth shook. He dove head first into the hole and I went after him as I turned on the light. He was crawling deeper and I followed. Ten meters and he stood up and moved forward. When I stood he was turning to the left and knelt in another tunnel.
I moved closer and he gestured, "keep going until you reach another branch."
I nodded and started moving and it was not even three steps before a soldier leaned out and lifted a rifle. My reaction saved my life as I pointed the pistol and fired several times. I knelt and aimed as the enemy soldier fell screaming. Another leaped out and I shifted and shot him twice in the chest.
I moved forward as Edwards yelled, "you okay kid?"
I nodded and swallowed, "I ... two men are down!"
I searched both and set the carbines they were using aside. I peeked into the tunnel they had come out of and saw a light. It looked like it was in a larger room and I glanced back as Edwards joined me, "I think there is a larger room."
He nodded, "did you change your magazine?"
I blushed as I quickly changed it and tucked the other away. He gestured, "go slow and watch for them to ambush you."
I nodded and moved into the other tunnel with the light and pistol up. I stopped a few steps down the tunnel and knelt while looking at a hint of a wire, "I have a wire."
Edwards hissed, "do not touch it."
I leaned over it and looked at both sides, "one side is tied off but the other is tied to the pin of a grenade."
He sighed, "good. Hold the pin and cut the wire."
I had to slip the pistol into my belt and pull my knife and juggle the light before I managed it, "done."
He gave my back a pat, "pistol out and move on."
I saw the smoke before I reached the room and dove forward with the pistol up and out. A soldier dropped the barrel of his rifle but I fired twice and he fell. I shifted and half rolled onto my side as I aimed to the right. An enemy spun while lifting a pistol and I hesitated before shifting my aim and firing.
He spun as I shifted and fired again and he fell screaming. I came to my feet and moved towards him, "I have an officer!"
My eyes flicker back and forth as I knelt and yanked the officer onto his stomach. I yanked one arm back and touched the barrel of the pistol to his head, "move and you die."
Edwards chuckled as he moved into the room, "we normally do not take prisoners kid."
I looked at the burning barrel and hissed as I leaned over and yanked out a leather satchel, "look at this."
He walked to us and knelt and growled, "those are Han gold certificates."
I nodded and looked at the officer, "he was burning them."
Edwards gestured, "tie his wrists. We can let intel have him."
I used his own bootlaces to tie his wrists and took his weapon belt and the pistol he dropped. The corporal took the satchel and we moved to several crates. Edwards nodded, "Nees carbines."
One box was shorter and I pried the top off, "what are these?"
He looked and frowned, "I do not know."
I touched the barrel, "three mage bands going down grooves in the barrel instead of around?"
He nodded and moved to the cases of ammo and finally opened one, "eight millimeter by two point five. It looks like they just necked down the old ten millimeter cases. The magazine lays along the top and the chamber is closer to the front and behind the rear sight."
He turned, "drag him out and we will start at the first cross tunnel and continue searching."
That was not easy but the look on the captain's face when I pulled him out was worth it. It took another hour to finish and then we had to drag everything out and set demo charges and blow up the tunnels. The sun was up by the time we blew the tunnels. After that I found out we get first pick of anything we find in the tunnels.
I kept the pistol even through the grip was to large. I kept all the new carbine rifles Edwards called a Sonne according to the markings. I also dumped a whole case of the ammo for it into my pack and as many magazines that would fit. He gave me half the gold certificates that had not burnt which was ten.
My pack was a lot heavier when we started moving. The enemy officer had already been carried out and evacuated. When we reached a clearing two Mules were landing and the captain slapped my back as we got on, "outstanding work!"
My mind kept going over everything in the tunnels. When we walked off the Mule corporal Edwards led the way towards a small vehicle waiting to take us back to our building. A young woman was beside the door and grinned when she saw us. She ran into Edwards arms and he grinned at me, "this is Pai."
I nodded as I went in and to my set of rooms. First I showered and then I cleaned my pistol and magazines. After that it was everything else I had taken. I set a Sonne aside with the ammo and then the extra pistol. Looking at the carbines gave me the idea, if I cut the barrel down to ten centimeters and removed the rear sight and the stock...
I kept thinking and remembering the loud crash of each shot, "maybe put a suppresser on..."
I finally went to bed and woke in the afternoon. I took my rifle and the pistol and one Sonne carbine and went to see the armorer. I gave him the pistol and told him my idea and he grinned, "so you want me to make the carbine into a long silenced pistol?"
He looked at the carbine, "I could shorten the barrel and tap it for the suppressor."
He touched the wood pistol grip, "sand the wood down a little to fit your hand. Maybe a metal loop where the stock connects to the receiver to carry it on a sling?"
I nodded and he grinned, "give me a day."
.... There is more of this story ...