Running Gun Battles
In a matter of minutes, they trod the road once again, pushing on through the forest in silence, stumbling over the melting hails. Just a quarter of a mile from the pyramid, the hails vanished and the forest only showed moderate wind damage with most of the undergrowth intact. They moved on without incident for about two hours as the road slowly descended toward the river. As they closed in on the river, Nathanael caught a scent on the air. “We’ve got company,” he growled.
Almost as soon as he spoke, Selina confirmed what he said by declaring, “It’s the General!”
“Guns up everyone,” Hannibal barked. “How far?” No sooner than he had asked, gunfire opened up behind them. Bullets whizzed and snapped around them.
“Too god damned close!” Harry snapped as everyone dove for cover.
“We have to get to the river!” Hannibal ordered as Ned, Thomas, Jonathan, and Sam returned fire. They raced down the road, fighting a running gun battle with thirty of the General’s elite guard, hiding behind trees, rocks, and logs while covering each other’s retreat toward the river. The elite guard kept up the pressure on them.
Within twenty minutes, the road bottomed out in a dense swamp that surrounded the river. The road went into the swamp, winding through it and proving to be the only solid ground in the swamp. Hannibal and his team penetrated into the swamp and were soon out of sight of the elite guards, upon whom they had inflicted heavy losses. Of the original thirty they had engaged, only eight remained, which backed off and waited for reinforcements while Hannibal and his team penetrated deeper into the swamp. Several of the team members had been wounded slightly in the firefight, but they continued until they believed they were out of immediate danger. Once about a hundred yards into the swamp, Hannibal stopped their progress.
“Okay…how’s everybody? Anyone shot besides me?” he asked, rubbing a bullet wound in his left arm near where the blades had cut him.
“I took a small hit,” Morrison said. “But it’s all right for now.”
“Me too,” Ned answered, wincing slightly in pain from a wound in his right arm and left leg. “It’s not bad though. I can still move.”
“I was hit a couple of times too,” Jonathan reported. “But they’re just flesh wounds. I can manage for now.”
As he spoke, Arabella quickly checked the wounded and putting a quick fix on them, ending with Hannibal. “Anyone else hit?” Hannibal asked and the remainder of the team stated that they were intact. “All right,” he said as Arabella wrapped his arm with a bandage. “We’d better keep moving before they attack again. How’s our ammo holding out? I’m nearly out.” Everyone reported how much ammunition remained. It wasn’t good for they had nearly exhausted their supply of ammunition in the firefight. They found not more than seventy rounds between them all with only four hand grenades left and three small blocks of plastic explosive with timers and detonators. “This isn’t good,” Hannibal admitted with concern when he heard the report. “But we can’t go back now with the General behind us. We have to keep pressing forward. Let’s go. We have to get through this swamp before dark. I don’t relish spending a night in here.” He immediately began to follow the road deeper into the swamp. “Be careful. Don’t fall in,” he warned. They followed him through a labyrinth in the swamp as they followed the road.
Initially, dense underbrush and trees grew everywhere. As they approached the river, the trees thinned out and the dense underbrush turned to saw grass that stood nearly ten feet high in the marshes around the road. Mosquitoes and flies became a problem as they closed in on the river. On the road itself, the grass grew waist high but not very thick, allowing them to see the occasional snake crawling away from them. After nearly forty minutes of traversing the swamp in silence fighting the mosquitoes and flies off, they reached the river and stopped. Hannibal looked at the river, which was almost a two hundred yards wide, and saw where the road rose sharply and bridged the river. The road continued into the marshes on the other side and disappeared into the forest a mere three hundred yards beyond the river. The bridge was no more than a three-foot wide stone path that rose in an arch as it crossed the river. It appeared that the majority of the road had long since collapsed into the river making the swamp. Hannibal looked it over and sighed.
“We have to go over that?” Thomas asked.
“I’m afraid so, unless you want to swim,” Hannibal replied.
“I’d rather not swim in that muck,” Arabella said, looking into the black murky water. “It doesn’t look safe to swim in.”
“That bridge doesn’t look very safe either. You may only want to allow one person on it at a time,” Selina commented.
“Good idea,” Hannibal said. “I’ll go first to see if it’s safe.”
“Yeah,” Sam agreed. “You go first.” Hannibal looked at him with a bit of mild irritation at his comment, and then proceeded slowly across the bridge, testing it with every step. He looked into the river and noticed it dark color and seeming lack of current as he walked. A deep foreboding seeped into his mind and heart when he looked into the dark waters. Occasionally, he thought he saw ghostly forms in the water, but he shrugged it off, paying attention to where he tread. In three minutes, he made it across and yelled back to the rest of his team, “Come on! It’s safe. But cross only one at a time.” Harry stepped forward and strode across the narrow bridge confidently. When he reached the other side, the rest of the team crossed it one at a time.
With Ned, Nathanael, and Morrison left to cross, they heard voices and footsteps advancing on their position rapidly. Nathanael slapped Morrison on the back, growling, “Go!” Morrison sprinted across the bridge. “Cover me, Ned,” Nathanael ordered and Ned readied himself to cover Nathanael with his M-60 machine gun as Nathanael removed his pack, pulling out a block of plastic explosive with a timer and detonator all ready to go. He set the timer for three minutes then re-slung his pack and weapon. “Get out of here, Ned. I’ll be right behind you,” he ordered. Ned backed toward the bridge, and then turned, running across it. Nathanael followed him onto the bridge, activating the timer on the plastic explosive and sitting it down on almost sixty feet on the bridge. He bolted across the bridge.
About half way across, Gulez and his elite troops reached the bridge and opened fire. Hannibal and his team provided cover fire for Nathanael as he raced from the bridge. Hannibal and his team briefly pinned down Gulez’s troops as the timer on the bomb ticked down to zero. The bomb detonated with a deafening roar, destroying the bridge, sending a lethal concussive blast and rain of debris onto Gulez and his troops. Half of his troops fell instantly in the blast. The concussion threw Gulez himself thirty feet, briefly knocking him unconscious, but not killing or wounding him seriously. Even Nathanael became caught up in the blast, which threw him onto solid ground as the bridge collapsed into the river. Selina and Hannibal rushed forward and dragged him to cover. “Are you okay, Dad?” Selina asked with great concern.
Nathanael smiled wickedly as he looked up from the ground. “Now that was exciting,” he crowed, sitting up while the rest of the team gathered around.
“Nathanael?” Hannibal asked with emphasis.
“I’m okay, everyone,” Nathanael replied as Hannibal helped him to his feet. “I just got clipped by the concussion from the blast…that’s all.” A cheer rose from the team once they realized Nathanael was uninjured.
“Good, now let’s get going,” Hannibal ordered, leading them on. As they followed the road through the marshes, heading for the forest, Hannibal congratulated Nathanael. “That was a masterful stroke, destroying the bridge like that,” he said in an impressed tone. “It’ll take him a while to get across the river now. At the very least, he’ll have to return to base and get a helicopter to fly across this if he still wants our scalps.”
“Yeah,” Morrison agreed. “Very well done, Nathanael; but I believe we exhausted our ammo in that last skirmish.”
“I know I’m out,” Hannibal reported. “All I’ve got left is a couple of hand grenades and three or four bullets left in my pistol. My rifle is completely empty. How about the rest of you; anything left?” Within a minute, he found out that they were almost out of ammunition. They had two automatic pistols besides his with one clip of ammunition each. Sam had two more hand grenades left. One of the pistols belonged to Arabella and the other belonged to Harry. The only good news was Thomas still had most of his arrows for his crossbow and the two packs of explosive heads remained untouched. When Hannibal heard about the lack of ammunition as they followed the road, he sighed. “This has been a good gun,” he said, looking at his HK-91. “But it is now useless, and a burden.” He walked toward the edge of the road where the marsh grass stood tall and removed the telescopic sight. “Thank you, my friend. You have been most helpful. But now we must part ways. Farewell,” Hannibal said to the gun. With a mighty heave, Hannibal slung the gun into the marsh grass where it disappeared into the muck. He removed his pack and put the telescopic sight in it.
Everyone saw what he did and Sam rebuked him. “Why did you do that?” Sam asked. “It was a perfectly good gun.”
“It’s also a perfectly useless burden without ammunition to shoot in it,” Hannibal returned forcefully, putting his pack back on. “There’s no point in carrying something we won’t have any use for. The chances of us finding ammo for it where we’re going are nil. Besides, the climb to Skull Pass is going to be a mean one. I’d suggest you get rid of anything that doesn’t have ammo for it. It’ll be less weight we have to carry up the mountain.”
“That’s very good logic,” Nathanael agreed, impressed with Hannibal’s grasp of their situation. He unslung his rifle, detached the scope, and threw the gun into the saw grass. Within minutes, everyone had shed their empty weapons into the marsh and continued as the road started to rise out of the marsh.
Meanwhile, back at the river, Gulez woke…cursing as he got up. He looked around to find himself alone amongst the dead with the rest of his elite guard fled…gone from his sight. He raised his head to heaven, cursing and blaspheming the God of heaven for his failure. His roar rose over the marsh and Hannibal, Selina, and Nathanael heard it. “The General lives,” Selina said as she walked beside Hannibal when she heard the howl. “And he’s not happy.”
“Yes, it seems so,” Hannibal agreed.
The General raged and stomped around amongst his dead soldiers. “I will have all of their heads on poles!” he swore viciously. “If I have to chase them to the ends of the Earth and into the very pits of hell, I’ll have my revenge!” He shook his fist at the sky and snarled, “You cannot stop me! I’ll have all their heads!”