by ExtrusionUK

Copyright© 2010 by ExtrusionUK

: This is a dark and unpleasant little tale, reflecting the dark and unpleasant space my head's been in for a while. Our new (UK) prime minister thinks we should honour our troops 'above all else'. I'm not so sure. Much use of the f-word in all but its literal sense. (New story not a repost)

Tags: Military  

The air circulates. Grasses, brown and arid in this semi-desert land, move with the breeze. Inside body armour it matters not a jot. Sweat trickles down your back, your chest ... irritatingly around your groin. So you wait. Stand as ordered, formed in a regulation square. And wait to hear what platitudes shall be offered.

Crap, of course. Total crap. We were told that we would be holding the line. A very fresh faced young officer, doing the telling, still looking rumpled from the brief helicopter flight into the forward areas, must have known — must have seen, if he'd bothered to look down — that the 'line' no longer existed. Might even have noticed, had he but eyes to see, that the men gathered so neatly around him were all on the verge of exhaustion, most of them carrying wounds of one form or another, a fair few showing signs of dysentery or worse.

Not that it mattered, really. We were going to hold the line whether it existed or not, put our all too mortal bodies up for the ultimate test, make ourselves heroes, apparently. Probably dead heroes, of course, permanently traumatised ones if not. You sign up, you do the job. So get on with it.

We regrouped as a section — we'd got rearguard point, natch, so were going to be last to pull out — and sat in a pretty fucked up trench and listened to some franker speaking from the sarge. Who didn't even attempt to pretend that we weren't completely fucked — we all knew just how much we'd done to endear ourselves to the natives, knew that the recent set of 'tactical setbacks' — neck-deep-in-blood-SNAFU's as we'd experienced them — had left the buggers as well armed — and armoured — as we were. They'd even got hold of some of our SAMs — whoever the fuck had brought them into theatre — so the brass wouldn't even commit the few choppers we had serviceable. Flew around in them themselves, of course, but help us out — even medevac us out — well, no. We got to rely on drones flown by some spotty kid in Wichita ... or wherever the fuck ... and we didn't even have the right IFF gear to stop the buggers having a go at us.

Give the sarge his due — he knew us, we knew him, we all knew the situation. So ultimately he stuck to the basics — if we hadn't been good, we wouldn't still be here. Draw a veil over the fact that what we were good at was killing anyone and everyone who got in our way. Take a bit of heart from that word: Good. Even if you had to define it really, really, carefully.

Around midnight, we finally got the sense of being alone, the last of the rest of the battalion having departed pretty much at 23:00. Our perimeter, expanded throughout the night as sentries withdrew with their sections, retracted again to cover just our own meagre positions. I found myself in the OP — nicely built by the artillery guys a year or so back — surveying the fading ground with a fading night scope. Not that there was going to be anything to see — the fuckers out there knew exactly where we were ... how many we were, by now — knew lots of places they could get us at a lot less risk than here. Not that we had the option to simply stay, of course — any resupply would have to come through the same badlands ... or by chopper ... and neither was going to happen.

So, the predawn found us collectively huddled around the two landies we could still more or less rely on, neither with functional IED kit, both now rammed with fuel and every scrap of ammunition we'd been able to salvage. Like I said, we were going to die ... probably best to go in a really big bang.

First blood was pretty much just as the sun came up over the hills. Sniper shot — either fucking good or just fucking lucky — either way, got Andy-The-Turk right through the neck. Pretty much took his fucking head off. We chucked the corpse over the side — you want us to bury the fuck or what? Here? — and I got to ride top in his place. Which meant I got to join the other pair on the roof of the truck, scanning the 'horizon' — we couldn't see fuck for dust — and longing for the chance to unload the LMGs at anything that moved.

Roof being pretty slippy with all that blood didn't improve anyone's mood.

Next kill — well, we got a couple of hours grace, you know. Grace, on account of us being Good. Landie #1 — up front — they'd blasted away a few times — blasted a goat or two, blasted the fuckers to microscopic pieces — but we didn't. We had sarge swearing volubly at us from below. So we were Good. We didn't waste a round.

Didn't help with the RPG, though. Fired from fuck knows where — probably an opportunity shot from behind a boulder or some fuck, didn't even hit the truck. Just hit the ground underneath the fucker, took the rear fucking axle out. Fuck, fuck, fuck...

So we dispersed ourselves — well, Landie #1 fucked off over the blue — or, actually, grey and dusty — horizon at a rate of knots and fucking left us to it. We, not having the option, moved off the ex-vehicle and arranged ourselves in a 'defensive deployment'. We hugged rocks, basically, sought out targets with fevered eyes and knew we were all about to die. If the truck didn't finally blow, whoever the fuck had fired that round was out there somewhere and...

Except that the shot that killed us all — maybe not there and then but — fucks sake — we were on foot and deep, deep, deep in bandit country — that shot was never was followed up. Probably a lone shepherd boy or some other fuck — happened to have an RPG to hand, had a go. Or so we reasoned as we salvaged what we could carry from the wreck, growing used to the lack of in-coming, knowing that soon enough everyone would know where we were. And how exposed we were going to stay...

We reached some sort of cover for peak daylight — sort of scrubby forest in the bottom of the valley — and lay up for a while. Even got radio contact with BHQ — fuckers — hoping the local fuckheads couldn't work the radio location gear we knew they now had. Probably knew damn' well where we were anyway, for fucks sake and not that HQ was any fucking help. Told us they'd track us with a drone, which was really nice of them — at least the Next of Kin would know exactly how we died. Might even get to see it all, eventually, in high def video ... which must be Good, right?

One thing was Good, though. We'd brought enough food — definitely not Good, just fucking army ration packs — and ammo to see us through to the end, but we also had actual, printed, paper maps. So a couple of us sat round the sarge and worked it out — ways to go, potential alternatives, anything to maintain some sort of hope. No point in reviewing the danger points — colour the map red and be done with it — but slowly a plan of action — a play for survival — came together. Come the night, we would 'take' the nearest village, liberate one or more of the fuckers 4{*}4s. Or their trail bikes or their fucking donkeys, if it came to it. Place was probably heaving with fuckheads, armed to the teeth fuckheads, from experience, but — hey — we were Good. What could possibly go wrong?

We found Landie #1 just on the outskirts. Blown to fuck — IED, RPGs, probably a combination of the two. Couple of guys catching flies round the wreck, fair number of spare body parts suggesting that rest of the lads had gone out... explosively. Sarge gathered some ID, may even have given a friendly wave to what must have been the drone fucking around over head, then we moved on. Good order: Sarge and a couple of guys up front, two guys with our only grenade launcher over on the left, me and Mickey off to the right with the MG. Could have done with a mortar or two — hell, self propelled artillery would have been nice — but we were Good.

Also, we had fuck all choice.

So we did it. Proved ourselves to be Good — yeah, even unto the historic annals, the very sacred legends, indeed, of The Army — by slaughtering every fucker that moved. And one or two who didn't. Fuck it — us or them — your know? — but we did it. Come midnight, we were in charge of the place. Or, maybe, we were the place: Every fucker we'd found was dead.

So was Mickey. Also Rob the Corporal. Omelettes and eggs and all that. Still, five of us were pretty OK. We had vehicles — couple of landcruisers, as it happened, one even with an HMG already mounted — we had more ammo, not a bad selection of guns. Left well before first light. We were more used to night-vis gear than them, probably. Or maybe we didn't want to see what the place looked like in daylight, how many — and who — we'd killed. So we stayed Good, moved out, 3 & 2 on the pair of trucks, burnt the road till sun up, no problems encountered.

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