This bit is from the Dead Six project. As regular readers know, I’m writing one half from one character’s first person point of view, while Mike Kupari is writing the other half from a different character’s POV. I recently posted a bit from mine (Sweothi City, from a few weeks back) so Mike wanted to post a bit from his end of things. In this series, history has unfolded a little differently. There are two Chinas for example. So enjoy this bit from the rough draft by Mike Kupari.
PRC/ROC Demilitarized Zone
10 kilometers west of Yibin, South Sichuan Province
Republic of China
April 8th, 2006
“Switchblade-Six-Alpha, this is Switchblade-Six-Bravo. We’re in position, over,” Tailor said, in hushed tones, into his radio. Crouched beside him, I could hear him speak in person and over the radio, simultaneously.
“Six-Bravo, this is Six-Alpha,” Ramirez replied. “Roger that. Alpha Team is still moving into position. Stand by, over.”
“Roger that,” Tailor replied. “Out.” He then looked over at me. “What the **** is taking them so long?”
I just shrugged. “We’re here ahead of schedule,” I said. “I told you we didn’t need to go that fast.” We’d hiked on foot, several miles through the forest, to get to our location.
Our target building was little more than a large house, hidden in the forest, a few hundred meters from the southern bank of the Yangtze River. We were on a ridge, looking down on the house from the southeast side. A few vehicles were parked around the building. A long dirt road led away to the south. Lights were on in the building. The moon was shining brightly in the sky, and the night air was cold.
“Are we in the right place?” Skunky asked.
“Yeah, this is it,” Tailor said, consulting his GPS. “See that big truck down there? They haul contraband down from the river to the house, sort it, load it on trucks, and then ship it off.” As if to drive the point home, a large, covered truck started its engine, and slowly made its way down the road.
The two bridges in the city of Yibin had been destroyed in the near-decade of on-again, off-again fighting that had made up the bulk of the Second Chinese Civil War. Smugglers now had to use boats to move their contraband from the Communist North China to “Democratic” South China, and vice-versa.
“Skunky, where are the sentries?” Tailor asked. Skunky moved forward, slowly, so as not to make too much noise by rustling leaves and breaking twigs, and rested his M14 rifle on a log. With his left hand, he twisted the magnification dial on his scope, zooming the Nikon optic to 10X. I looked through the ACOG on my FAL, but its lower 3.5X magnification made it harder to see targets clearly in the darkness.
“We’ve got one guy with a rifle on the third-floor balcony.”
“I see him,” Tailor said, looking through small binoculars. “There’s another patrolling the yard.”
“Looks like two more on the front door,” Skunky said. “Five more guys are loading stuff into that truck. They’re not all armed.”
“Lots of movement in the windows,” I said. “The place is jumping.”
“Tower, set up the ‘sixty,” Tailor said. “As soon as we get the order to go, light up that truck. Skunky, you stay here and provide overwatch. Both of you move in when I give the signal. Be ready to displace in a hurry. You’re going to distract them while we move in. Val, Harper, you two follow me.” Tower moved forward, resting his M60E4 machine gun on the log next to Skunky. He swiveled the gun down toward the truck that was being loaded.
I looked down to do one last check of my gear. My MOLLE armor vest was laden with magazines for my FAL, speedloaders for my .44, a medical kit, a radio, a flashlight, and miscellaneous equipment. My Smith & Wesson revolver was in a holster on my left thigh. My right thigh wore a sub-load with two more FAL magazines, in individual pouches, and my SRK fighting knife. Hiking through the woods with all of this crap had left me almost worn out.
“C’mon,” Tailor whispered, making his way around the log. Very slowly, we crept down the ridge, being careful not to rustle to many leaves or step on too many twigs. If one of us fell, we’d go rolling down the steep ridge, making all kinds of racket, and that would be bad.
After a few minutes, we were crouched in the treeline, about twenty-five meters from the south door of the house. To its right was a large garage door, but it was closed.
“In position,” Ramirez said over our radios. He was breathing heavily. It sounded like he’d double-timed it to get into position in a hurry.
“Be advised,” Tailor said, “we’re at the treeline on the south side. There’ll be heavier resistance than expected. Judging from the movement in the target building, there’s probably twenty guys in there.”
“Understood, Six-Bravo. Stand by.” We’d hit the house from the south while Ramirez’ team would hit it from the north. “Execute execute execute!” Ramirez said, his voice harsh over the radio. Skunky’s M14 barked once, and the sentry in on the third floor balcony fell. The loud roar of Tower’s M60 began to echo through the forest, as his rounds tore up the truck full of contraband. People in the yard scattered and sought cover as the three of us closed in on the house. Adrenaline began to kick in. I was excited. I was scared. I was having fun.
Weapons raised, we moved from the treeline toward the house. In that moment, my heart rate began to slow. The excitement and the fear melted into the background. The Calm was overtaking me, pushing aside emotion. Everything seemed to slow down a bit, and my senses were sharper. It felt good.
As we moved forward across the yard, I saw a man standing in a second floor window above us, his face pressed against the glass as he tried to see into the darkness. Pausing for a second, I raised my FAL. The window cracked and the man dropped in a puff of blood. An instant later, I heard the report of Skunky’s M14; I hadn’t fired.
Tailor fired two shots, dropping a Chinese man carrying an AK-47 that had rounded the corner, without breaking his stride. A moment later, we were at the back door.
“It’s locked,” Harper said, trying the handle.
“Breach, frag, and clear!” Tailor said.
“Roger,” Harper replied, raising his weapon, a cut-down Benelli M4 semiautomatic shotgun topped with an EOTech sight. He pulled a powdered-lead breaching round from his vest and loaded it into the magazine tube of his shotgun. He then racked the charging handle, ejecting the buckshot round that had been in the chamber and loading the breaching round. “Ready,” he said, pointing the muzzle of his weapon at the deadbolt lock on the door.
Letting my rifle hang on its sling, I pulled a fragmentation grenade from a pouch on my vest, and held it close against my chest. I had a death grip on the spoon, and looped my finger around the pin. I took one last glance around the yard. “Ready,” I said.
Tailor shouldered his M4, pointing it at the door. “Go,” he said. Harper fired his shotgun, the powdered lead round blowing a large hole in the wooden door. Tailor raised his left foot, kicking the door as hard as he could. His boot punched right through the thin wooden door. Losing his balance, Tailor fell onto his back, his left leg trapped in the door almost to the knee.
“****!” Tailor snarled.
“I missed the lock!” Harper said. I ducked back out of the doorway as people inside began to fire through the door.
“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” Tailor shouted, struggling to free himself before he got his leg shot off. I stuck the grenade back in its pouch, shouldered my weapon, and began to return fire through the door while Harper loaded another breaching round into his shotgun.
“CONTACT LEFT!” I said, as three men rounded the west corner of the house. Swinging my rifle around, I put two rounds into the first man before he saw me. Before he hit the ground, I’d put a bullet into the man behind him. A split second later, the third man was dropped by another shot from Skunky’s M14.
“He’s down,” Skunky said over the radio.
Tailor was still stuck. Swearing the entire time, he managed to bring his M4 up, switch it to full auto, and empty an entire magazine through the door. Harper meanwhile fired another breaching round, pulverizing the lock. I bent over, grabbed Tailor’s leg, and swore aloud as I pulled it back through the hole in the door.
“Frag up!” I said, grabbing the grenade from my vest again. I pulled the pin, and tossed the grenade through the hole Tailor had kicked in the door. Tailor rolled clear of the door as Harper and I ducked down. People inside could be heard shouting in Chinese. A few seconds later, the grenade exploded with a muted WHUMP, and no more shouting could be heard. I grabbed my rifle again and kicked in the door. Harper followed me, shotgun leveled, as I entered the room.
A man was laying in front of the door, his body ripped apart from rifle fire and fragmentation. Several more bodies were scattered about the room. None were moving.
“Clear!” I said, pointing my rifle at a door straight ahead.
“Clear!” Harper repeated, pointing his shotgun at another door to our right. Tailor entered the room a moment later, M4 shouldered, looking extremely pissed off.
“Six-Bravo, this is Six-Alpha,” Ramirez said over the radio. “We’ve breached the north door. Front room. Proceeding upstairs. Find the basement and clear it.”
“Roger,” Tailor replied. “Let’s move! Skunky, Tower, get down here and pull security on the ground floor.”
“Roger! Moving!” Tower replied, his deep voice unmistakable over the radio. The three of us pressed on into the house. Sounds of gunfire and people shouting resonated through the walls as we made our way toward the door on the right. Our intelligence on this building had been sketchy, at best, and we didn’t know the interior layout. There was a large garage door to the right of the door we had entered, so I assumed that this way led into the garage.
With Tailor in the lead, we entered the large garage. Inside, there was another large truck, laden with contraband. A man bolted from behind the truck, headed for the door. Tailor and I shot him simultaneously. Two 5.56 rounds, and one .308 tore through him. He collapsed to the ground. He hadn’t been carrying a weapon.
We crossed the room, approaching another door against the back wall. Quickly stacking the door, we opened it. Through it was a narrow stairwell. Stairways were dangerous choke-points, so we cautiously moved down, again with Tailor in the lead. The stairs cut ninety degrees to the left, then continued down. We rounded the corner, proceeding down the second flight. The stairs led to a large, dimly lit basement. Switching on our weapon-mounted lights, we tried to cover all the angles, watching for signs of movement.
“Cl…what the hell?” I said, taking in the scene. On either side of the room was a large cage. In each cage, probably a dozen people cowered against the wall, watching us wide-eyed. All were Chinese, and all looked like they had been fed little and treated poorly. The squinted and shielded their eyes as our blinding lights flashed across them.
“Human traffickers,” Tailor said. “Let’s move. We’ve got to clear that room over there.” At the far end of the basement was yet another door. We approached it, slowly, quietly. Some of the people in the cages began to talk to us. Others shrank in fear. I made a shushing gesture in an attempt to keep them quiet as we approached the door.
“In position,” Skunky said over the radio.
“Roger,” Tailor replied. “Hold the ground floor.” The three of us stacked up on the door, and we could hear voices inside.
“Prepare a frag,” Tailor said.
“No! There might be another prisoner in there!” I protested.
Tailor grumbled something. “Fine. We’ll do it the hard way. Enter and clear. Val, you’re in first.”
“Roger,” I said, pointing my rifle at the door as Tailor moved to the side, preparing to open it. At this close range, my ACOG scope provided too much magnification for fast shooting. With both eyes open, though, I could use the bright, glowing chevron reticule as a sort of occluded optical gunsight. In this manner I could point-shoot quite effectively.
Tailor looked at me. I nodded at him. He twisted the knob, and I kicked the door in. It slammed open, surprising the three men inside. The first one raised an AK-47 at me. I put a slug through him before he could get a shot off. The second one’s chest exploded as a 3” load of OO buckshot hit him. Before the second man’s body hit the ground, my rifle was already covering the third man. He’d already dropped his gun, and raised his hands in surrender.
It was then that I heard a girl crying. The surrendered man’s pants fell down, as if his belt hadn’t been done up or something. He looked down quickly at his exposed parts, then back up at me, squinting in brightness of my weapon light. Looking to the right, I noticed a young girl huddled in the corner, sitting on the floor. Her hair was matted, and hung down in her face. She covered her ears with her hands. She was wearing nothing but a long, dirty t-shirt. Blood ran down one of her legs. She couldn’t have been more than seventeen. Jesus Christ.
“They were raping her,” I said, my voice so quiet it was almost a whisper. My heart was pounding now. The Calm had failed. My hands began to shake. Then something…snapped.
I stepped forward, toward the man that had dropped his gun. I was probably six inches taller than him. His eyes grew wide as I strode toward him, unsnapping my rifle’s two-point sling as I did so. Grasping the weapon’s forearm and stock, I violently butt-stroked him in the side of the head. The toe of my rifle’s steel folding stock caught him in the temple. He hit the concrete floor, crying out in pain.
I kicked him in the stomach as hard as I could. He flopped over onto his back, trying to cover his face with his hands. I stomped my right foot down onto his throat so hard it nearly popped his eyes out of his head. Leaning forward, I stuck the muzzle of my FAL into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
His head exploded. I stood there for a moment, staring at the mass of blood and brains that had been his head. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to pop. I was breathing hard. I felt dizzy.
The next thing I knew, something slammed against me from the right. I lost my balance, and fell to the floor. “WHAT THE **** ARE YOU DOING?” Tailor screamed, leaning down at me.
“Get A HOLD of yourself, God damn it!” he snarled, interrupting me. I stared up at him, mouth open. He kicked me in the leg.
“Okay! Okay!” I said, raising my hands. “I’m sorry.”
“Get up,” Tailor said after a moment. He then spoke into his radio. “Six-Alpha, this is Six-Bravo. Ground floor and basement clear.”
“Copy that, Bravo,” Ramirez said. “Top floors clear. Any prisoners?”
Tailor looked at me, and scowled. “Negative. No survivors. We have about two dozen captives. They’re in need of medical attention ASAP. They might be able to provide some intelligence on this operation.”
“Roger that Bravo. I’m notifying the UN now. Peacekeepers will be en route. Try to corral those captives and get them into the yard for extraction.”
“Roger that, Alpha,” Tailor replied. “Skunky, Tower, secure the yard, prepare for extraction.”
“Copy that!” Skunky said. “Moving!”
I slowly stood up. My legs were shaking. I very badly wanted a drink.
“You okay, Val?” Tailor asked. He seemed less pissed off now. “What happened to you?”
“I’m fine,” I said. I was anything but.