The First of Many

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Chapter 26

A few months later, Mike, Hunter, Viper, and Hannah all found themselves in a dark briefing room occupied by a single intel officer.

"As you well know,” he said, “we are in the process if eliminating the Taliban in this region. In order to do that, we need to get eyes on this position.”

On one of the screens, a satellite image showed of a small cluster of buildings in a deserted part of the Afghan desert.

"We need you to move into position along this cliff and report their position. After you confirm that this is the target, you will rain fire down of those fuckers in the form of an AC130 Specter gunship."

"Damn," Mike said, impressed; Specters could easily level a city.

"I like it," Viper said.

The officer ignored them. "Your rules of engagement: engage only when necessary. As for gear, pack light; it's a long way. Learn your way now, you'll be carrying no maps. They don't know where we are yet, and we want to keep it that way.”

Hannah bit her tongue to cut short a retort. Her skin crawled uncomfortably, and she knew something was very wrong.

"You're dismissed," the officer said as he left.

The team spent the rest of the day prepping their gear. Hannah carried her MK12 sniper rifle with a suppressor and a thermal scope. Over her shoulder, she had slung her crossbow, a gift from Mike and Hunter, which was never far from her. She had augmented it with a sniper/assault scope which allowed her to use it in close quarters. The others carried their usual weapons; Viper had his assault rifle with a suppressor, along with a grenade launcher 'just in case'. Hunter only had his usual R9, and Mike had opted for an R9 and a flamethrower. Hannah suspected he was a closet pyromaniac.

They made their way out of the base on foot, slogging through the desert. It was late afternoon, and the sun beat down on them, the world around them waving and shimmering in the heat.

They walked through the desert until they reached their Observation Point. Hannah covered the target, Mike covered their rear, Hunter covered their left flank, and Viper covered their right.

“All right, boys, what do you see?” Hannah asked. “Something's fishy around here.”

Suddenly, Hannah heard a dull boom.

"CONTACT RIGHT!!!" Viper yelled as he opened fire on the horde of advancing enemies. Hannah swung right, sighted up a target in her crosshairs, and fired, killing him with a shot to the left eye. The firefight was ended in short order.

There was dead silence for a moment before Viper started moving forward again. “That isn't all,” he said. “Stay ready; they'll be waiting in the base.”

Suddenly, there was a deafening explosion and Viper fell to the ground, clutching at his right leg.

Hannah was by his side in an instant, examining him carefully. “Viper, what happened?”

“Landmine,” he gasped out.

Hannah looked at the leg and promptly wished she hadn't. It was a bloody mess, torn and ragged strips of flesh hanging from the wound, dripping with slow, oozing drops of crimson.

“You lucky bastard,” she muttered. “Didn't hit a vein.”

"Guys, just go. I'm not going to make it," Viper said, his face white with pain.

“Yes, you will,” Hannah answered shortly. “You're not getting off that easy. You're not losing too much blood. We'll pack it down with sand and carry you back. A medic can deal with this easy.”

“I can't walk,” Viper answered. “I'll just slow you down.”

“Then we'd better hurry up and get out of here, then,” Hannah said. “Come on, Hunt, help me carry him.”

Hunter and Mike moved to pick up Viper. “You take point, Rosie,” Mike said. “We've got him.”

They walked for miles, but darkness was fast approaching and they could no longer see their trail. Eventually, Hannah stopped. “Enough,” she said. “We need to rest, or we'll never make it back.”

Mike and Hunter set Viper down carefully, packing the wound in his leg with sand again, to keep it from bleeding too much. Hannah made her way to him and lay down beside him in silence.

“Tell me the truth, Rosie,” Viper said into the darkness. “Am I dying?”

Hannah shook her head. “So long as we get back to base by tomorrow, you'll be okay,” she said. “You should sleep. Save your strength.”

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