The moment they came into view, someone yelled “Contact!” and the bullets flew. Considering the only cover that was here was made of baby bibs and Onezies along with whatever seasonal display there was in front of us full of candy, I threw myself onto the ground while regretting how I was carrying a lot of weight on my chest only to have it rock me side to side as I pulled out my XM17 and started popping off shots. I wasn’t sure I was hitting or missing, but I just pointed it at the closest enemy who tried to use the TV display as cover before it was shredded by tens of rounds.
The other soldiers turned their attention to the other five baddies scrambling to fiver actual cover before two found their way into the nail salon and four of them tried to make a break for the registers to my right. I was about to call out to the guys around me, but a few of them already were training their barrels on them before unleashing a torrent of sustained fire, sending them to the deck. Dead or alive, it wasn’t my problem for at the moment since a few guys were already handling it. I turned my attention to the enemy that took cover behind the TVs only to find that he had slumped over into the open, a large pool of blood staining Walmart’s already nasty walkways.
I looked at it for a moment, mesmerized by the fresh body. A few rounds ricocheted of the wood laminate flooring that made up the clothing section around me. That was enough to pull me from whatever daze I was in and I did my best to line up my sights on the nail salon while two of my own guys moved around to my right -laying down suppressive fire. Just as I was able to line up the sights for a perfect headshot, the pistol clicked and I noticed the slide was locked back. I quickly racked it to clear whatever malfunction had happened, but it still clicked. I lost my shot as the guy was downed by someone else and slumped over before being peppered by the other guys to my left.
“Shit!” I quickly crawled out of the way “Reloading!” I yelled regardless if they were paying attention. I found somewhere a few feet away to focus on pulling a cold one from my chest pouch while dropping the empty on the floor; sliding the new one in. I was about to throw myself into the fray again before I remembered to pick up the empty magazine and place it in the empty pouch. “Never lose your gear.” He mumbled what his brother said. Damn magazines were near 50 dollars!
When he went out, the enemy had already been finished as his guys quickly took control of the entrance way. The engagement on the other end had also ended with our side winning as well. “Good shooting!” I saw, trying to alleviate some of the jitters I had, but the guy I said it too only gave a half-hearted acknowledgement as he scavenged the enemy’s equipment. I looked around and saw that of all the soldiers that left with me, there was only three left. I looked back and saw the medic jumping from one soldier to the next to look for anyone still alive.
None of them survived.
I felt a cold grip me as whatever pride I had felt for actually helping in the fight quickly faded seeing that we still lost men. I heard footsteps coming from the right side and with a glance, I saw it was my brother sprinting over to. “Where are you hurt?!” My brother yelled before gripping my arm and checking my left side. “W-What?” I said. I hadn’t been hit, or at least I didn’t think I had been. “There’s blood all over your dude!” I looked down and saw I indeed had been soaked with blood on my left side.
I quickly felt for wounds, padding under my vest and my legs and found nothing. I looked back to where I had been laying and saw that the spot I had been prone from was pooled with blood with the edge of the puddle marred by my side when I moved away from it. One of the guys behind me had been killed and his blood had unknowingly got on me. “It’s not mine.” I said softly, unsure of how to process that as I pointed towards the spot I had been.
My brother looked at that and nodded. He went over to the dead soldiers and pulled some things off of them before he walked over to me while stuffing dog tags into his pocket and started rigging me with someone. “What’s that?” I asked trying to figure out what he was shoving down my vest. “Comms. We didn’t have enough on base since everyone was being deployed. Even the spares weren’t enough. We need to be able to communicate with everyone.” He said as he ran a cord out the bottom back and hooked a radio to my belt. When he was finished, they were a mic attached to my shoulder strap.
“Remember how to use this?” My brother said as he slapped my back while gesturing for one of his teammates to come over. “Yeah, press the black button on the side.” I answered. He nodded as his buddy handed him a headset. “Here. We lost some guys as well, So you’re going to get hooked up to our network too.” Jacob said as he placed the headset on me and his friend took my left arm with the Tactical Link while popping open an access point.
He pushed in a small chip before closing it and tapping on my screen to set in the communication’s access codes. “You’re set, little man.” The man whose voice sounded familiar. Way too familiar. ” Anders?” I asked. Their uniforms were full on black and my brother was the only one who didn’t have his face covered. Anders pulled down his mask and gave the biggest shit-eating grin I had ever seen. “looks like you are taking over the family business.” He laughed before he took point by the entrance with the rest of our group coming over. My brother took my attention away.
“Our comms are strictly for our use, you shouldn’t be on it, but if you need help – really need it- call us. Use the grunt comm there -” He pointed to the hand-activated come attached to my shoulder strap. “For call outs. Otherwise, just sit back and try not to get bloody again.”
Once everything had settled down and we cleared out the rest of the store without any more fights, we were only left with half the number we entered. 16 soldiers remained, that was including my brother’s squad of three. A few had died in the home, the rest perished in this conflict when the enemies got the drop on them since they were spearheading the group. I knew their squad was a six-man team so their team was halved.
We stacked on each main entrance – the garden center and tire center locked down – and radioed for an EVAC. “Oracle Actual, EVAC heading for the lot now. Air support in the AO, danger close.” I heard on the headset. The voice belonged to my father. Of all the things that had happened today, this was the least surprising. “All friendlies in the area converging on your position, check your targets.” The radio chirped one last time before my brother relayed the information to the officer next to him.
My brother decided I was too much of a headache to let out of his sight so now he was my mommy duck now as I stuck to his rear. The storefront windows had been blown to hell from the initial bombing of the city. With a glance at the sky, the bombings looked to have ended now that the Jets were busy dog-fighting wildly in the sky with a few crashing to the earth below every so often. Tracers rose from the sky as well as Ground-to-air missiles before a jet would soar overhead and drop a hail of rounds into that area.
Very few helicopters were flying around with the few that were had their hands full with whomever they were engaging with.
Out in the parking lot, three heavily modified F-350s sat idling with some of their doors ajar and windows down. The European Union’s emblem painted on each trucks’ white hoods. Armor plating lined the outside with a heavy push bumper on the front. We rushed the vehicles and we all quickly cleared each truck only to find them all empty. “Looks like these were those guys’ ride.” Someone said over the regular communications. “Check those fifties. If they’re operational, use them to secure the area.”
The rest of the large parking lot was sprinkled with abandoned cars with dead bodies here and there belonging to civilians unlucky enough to run into a bomb’s radius.
A few more minutes passed with everyone finding decent cover and finding a sector to cover before the first sign of movement. “Friendlies to the north-east!” Someone called out. The officer rose and called out on a radio frequency that I wasn’t on. A minute passed and a group of 17 battered soldiers appeared from across the street on the side of a looted Walgreens. They checked up and down the street before making a break across the open street and through the parking lot before they linked up with us.
At this point, another ambush was most definitely going to happen and I could tell the other men were thinking the same thing. I scan the others to see what they were doing and noticed there were a few women among us too. Not that it mattered in the end, so long as the enemy gets dead, I would be happy if Godzilla was here. Actually, Godzilla would have been a better choice to swat their air-support out of the skies.
“Oracle Actual on site, load it up boys.” I heard my father’s voice over the headset pulling my out of my wildly running thoughts. I looked around as I heard the sounds of rotors and harsh wind approaching. I managed to pinpoint it to the right of the lot as six glorious Blackhawk helicopters approached at low-altitude with the force of more than 20 F-15s soaring overhead to join the fray. Cheering and hollering rose from the soldiers who’d been beaten and shot at all morning as the sign of getting the hell out of this war zone that once was Washington DC.
The Blackhawks found empty spaces among the lot that had enough room for them to land safely. “Everyone get on.” I heard over the regular comms as tens of soldiers poured out of the Helios. We all swarmed the Blackhawks like zombies, plopping into seats with relief as the weight came off our feet. My brother took me aside and lead me towards the center hawk where I found my father dressed in his general’s outfit with an M4 slung around his neck and his favorite 1911 on his hip. “Why are you wounded?” My father looked at me with a glare like I was the dog that pissed on the living room carpet.
I was about to answer, but my brother spoke up for me. “Not his blood.” He said as he passed my father while pulling me into the Blackhawk. The bird was set up with extra chairs to carry more people so my brother sat me in the back row, facing the front. He then pulled two of the freshmen back and had them sit on either side of me to babysit. They looked at my dad, then to my brother before looking to me and then nodding to themselves as if understanding something as my brother walked off.
The survivors of my brother’s squad sat on an outer row with each sitting on either side’s edge-seat with their rifles at the ready. My father sat in between them was a makeshift stand for a computer was hastily put in. I couldn’t see what was on it since the seat was in the way.
Jacob came back after a minute and spoke with my dad while soldiers milled about just outside awaiting orders. I was only able to see his head from the mesh inbetween the seats before he went around the seats and grabbed my Tactical link. “Let me look at it real quick.” He opened up the access port facing me and stuck another chip in the last open slot before closing it. The screen then turned into a circling loading screen with “Loading A.I, please wait.” in bold above it.
He then rationed the rest between him and his men. Finally, after a few back and forths between the fresh officer and my brother, he loaded up by sitting next to my father.
Oddly enough, I was the only one forced to strap in with a bark from my dad. I felt a little mad that I was treated like a child even now by the father that was never around, but I heard one of the men mention something to me. “Damn, your dad must love you. Making a single operation to pick you up priority over everything else.” I wasn’t sure how to handle that piece of information so I decided to keep to myself.
“Oracle Actual, taking off.” The convoy of birds lifted off before they went forward to circle around back the way they came. “Why aren’t we going higher?” I asked looking out the shitty back-seat view. “We’d get in the way of the dog fights above.” My father answered with a strange soft tone. It felt alien to me that he’d speak this way rather than his usual gruff non-patient attitude towards me. “Once we’re out of the area, we can get higher and you can come up front to see.”
Invasion of the mainland? Not that weird, we were fighting a war of resources. My brother treated me like a child? Not that weird as well, I am his precious little brother. My father treated me with patience and like a child? Really damn weird. I wasn’t complaining though. No one wants to have their parent treat them meanly, so I just accepted it. Listening to the soothing muffled sound of the rotors displacing air, I was about to settle into the seat to unwind – feeling the adrenaline leaving my body weak and shaking –
After we left the AO, the procession of Blackhawks rose in altitude as they drifted off towards where ever base was still intact. I was sure my father had already made a plan of attack, that was if we weren’t in a bleak situation when the enemy attacked. I felt it was a little strange. I hadn’t heard any news impending invasion.
However, I wouldn’t get to ever find out.
I looked out the opening from the back seat, seeing a peaceful forest below look like a miniature toy set when suddenly the world turned a darkish orange like the light was being sucked away. “What’s that -“, “Brace! Brace!” I heard my father yelling at the Blackhawk shuttered as I felt something sort of a wave pass through that made me feel disoriented. Maybe it was the sudden twirling of the bird. The bird sounded like something hit it before the entire bird just shut off as it began to turn in circles as it plummeted.
I felt the world itself slow down as for a split second, I saw where Washington DC had once been; replaced by a large mushroom cloud and the fires of hell rising around it. Then the slowly spend up as the sudden turn had thrown everyone around who wasn’t quick enough to latch onto something. The bird shuddered again as someone yelled out ” Secondary systems coming up!” I was too scared to figure out what it meant or who called it out as I watched one of the guys guarding me was flung out of the bird along with Ander. Their bodies disappeared into the thick nuclear winds.