This is the second part of a "stand alone" short series introducing the characters from Fallen.
Catch the first one by clicking here.
Two men gone in twenty, but I couldn’t dwell on my losses or I stood to lose even more. I silenced the nattering in my brain.
The last time I had been ambushed had gotten me into my current situation – back in this shit hole, being ambushed. Only this time I had the black railroad tracks also known as Captain bars pinned on my lapels.
I had not been thrilled with the idea when Ryan, the Major General who happened to be my immediate boss, cheerfully told me the good news.
“It’ll be an easy in and out,” he’d told me. “You’ll be home before dinner.”
That comment alone should have raised every red flag available on earth. Home before dinner. Right. In the future I would clarify how many dinners would pass before I made it home for the one he referenced.
Brooding about it wouldn’t help the situation, I knew, and I launched back to reality as the wall I leaned against vibrated with the bullets embedding into it.
Down the line my eyes met the shell shocked gazes of almost a dozen young men. The two flanking Gates had blood spatter on their faces. Every one of them wore the grey pallor of terror. We were prey, sitting ducks with our backs against a tiny wall in a sandbox that time had neglected to update.
“Maddox, please relieve Cowboy of his duties,” I squeezed the radio in my hand until my knuckles turned white. More bullets lodged into the cement column that protected my spine. My teeth rattled through the onslaught. I needed to get my boys out of there. Cowboy could either help me achieve the goal or give the job to someone who would.
“Think Woods,” I whispered to myself.
I would send them down the wall and around the corner – to the medics building. They’d be safer there. Then I would end this as Ryan had originally requested of me.
“Maddox,” I barked into the radio. “Shoot on sight.”
“Aye aye, Captain.”
I grit my teeth. I hated when he said shit like that. It made me feel like a pirate, and I had never particularly enjoyed parrots. Although, making people walk the plank would be fun.
I slapped Davis on the leg and cocked my head to the side when he looked at me. “Rendezvous with the medic.”
His eyes widened and he fumbled with his rifle.
“Davis,” I snapped. “Go now.”
His knuckles were white against the barrel and his mouth had drawn into a grimace.
“Don’t make me repeat myself,” I commanded.
Davis nodded, stretched out onto his belly and started slithering towards the end of the wall.
“Think of it as a boot camp exercise,” I patted his shoulder as he slowly crept past me and tried to keep my voice neutral. “Stay low and against the wall.”
“Yes Ma’am,” he mumbled.
“And don’t call me ‘Ma’am’,” I muttered, turning my head towards the next sorry kid in the line and directing him to follow Davis.
One by one my battle weary troops began the slow process of snaking through the sand and blood, rounding the corner when they reached the edge of the final building. The last two shared the burden of Gates’ body between them.
A sharp crack tore through the air from above. The radio squawked with static then went dead. The barrage of bullets stopped. My ears rang.
“Maddox,” I held the radio to my ear and waited for his reply, holding my breath. I shook my head as the seconds ticked by without response. My stomach clenched as time stretched out.
“One down, Cap,” Maddox’s voice finally came across the radio.
“Thank god,” I muttered. “I need an eta on that air support, Maddox.” The shooting resumed, bringing with it the now familiar vibrations from bullets slamming into the piece of crap slab of wall protecting my six.
“They aren’t coming, Woods.” Another shot resonated overhead. “Bulls eye,” Maddox’s voice had become louder with his excitement.
“I hope you’re joking,” I spread out on the sand, my face practically in the blood that the sand hadn’t yet absorbed.
“I would never joke about a bull’s eye, Woods.”
“About the helos, Maddox.” Blood seeped through my clothes as I crept along the wall.
“Not joking,” his voice had lost the edge it had been full of moments before. “No fun in cracking jokes about things that aren’t funny.”
“God damn.” I kept crawling along the wall, away from my team and towards the hostiles. The wall flanking me reverberated at the latest leaden onslaught.
“I’m gonna need your eyes, Maddox.”
“Without question, Cap. I got you.”
I continued to creep through the sand as the bullets flew two feet above my head.
“Careful, Woods. You’re almost at the edge.”
The edge of sanity, I thought to myself, coming to a stop.
The sun started to drop, casting shadows that played on the side of the building.
“Maddox, keep on the air support.”
They wouldn’t come, though, I already knew. It would be too risky to fly so low over an area full of armed men. Nobody could handle another Mogadishu.