Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write for the ACTION and/or ADVENTURE Genre (11/13/14)
TITLE: Special Ops
By Clyde Blakely
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“A new op came in,” Sarge picked up the plain vanilla envelope as we headed for the green room (the planning area for new operations).
As I closed the door Sarge was pulling out the orders for our next assignment. Stamped across the page was the usual TOP SECRET in bold red ink. We’d been working these clandestine missions for a year: infil, gather intelligence on the enemy, exfil via a different route, don’t get caught.
“Sarge, it appears it’s where we saw that gun ship firing its machineguns the other night.” In the distance it appeared to be a red ribbon of light weaving its way to the ground from an unseen source (lights out on the helicopter). Ascetically it was very pretty yet death was being rained below and “prettiness” was a casualty of war.
“I believe you’re right. This will be a long one. Bring me the map.” Map and compass were part of our trade (GPS was a future miracle). Planning the route in (infil) and several alternate routes out (exfil) was crucial to avoid possible ambushes. It was unusual though to go into an area which was suppose to have been cleared of enemy or at least the enemy presence reduce from an gunship attack.
“Better get some sleep, 0500 will be here soon,” Sarge looked at his watch – 0200 already after the planning and gathering of our gear. With our minds still running, trying to anticipate the unexpected, scenarios ran through our heads until 0500 came.
Animal trails leading in the general direction are often taken by the enemy and while it was much easier and quieter to take, our scanning for the enemy peaked. We moved between several paths going towards our objective, always cognizant of booby traps and snipers.
We heard them before we saw them. Officers are easy to pick out: they wave their hands while giving orders and others come and go from their position. We found a good concealed spot and made notes on the estimate of the number of troops, weaponry, any damage inflicted by the recent helicopter attack, and a special note was made of a few uniforms that did not match the North Vietnamese’s, and neither did their height or Caucasian appearances. We took pictures of these men.
I crawled my way back a few yards while he covered me, I did the same for him, leap frogging back into thicker foliage, all the while anticipating an enemy perimeter guard spotting us. We were fortunate to get far enough away to stop, check our notes, quench our thirst, and get our bearings to return to base.
Daylight was beginning to fade, jungles darken quickly but we could not rush - that could lead to mistakes. I knew we must be getting close to base which was set on a small hill with the surrounding area denuded by Agent Orange, giving the camp a large safety zone for spotting and stopping attacks. We made our way slowly along a trail I thought might be running parallel to the base as I scanned a little more often to the right in hopes of seeing the red clay of the perimeter. Tension in my shoulders eased when I initially spotted some of our lovely, Agent Oranged red clay. Lowered my rifle slightly and looked ahead to see if Sarge had seen the opening. It didn’t appear he had.
Ratta-tat-tat focused my attention to it source. So close to base and meeting enemy machine gun fire! Between us flew a covey of quail. I saw them but Sarge had not and was swiftly turning in my direction. Will he realize it was quail and not machine gun fire (tension and thoughts often merge reality into reactions), is he on automatic (an M-16 on full automatic will empty a 20 round magazine in 1.6 seconds) and am I going to be in his spray of bullets, and will I need to defend myself?
A moment before he fired he realized it was only quail, his head lowered in dismay for what almost happened. To help defuse the situation I asked, “Hey, Sarge, what’s that running down your leg?” Raising his rifle slightly, he shot me with his eyes. Hmm, at least I thought it was funny.
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