Long Time Gone Reveille Part Two: What You Live By
Posted By: fallschirmjager<email@example.com>
Date: 2 November 2007, 10:36 am
Long Time Gone Part Two: What You Live By
January 30th, 2550, the Democratic Republic of Congo, One Hundred and Thirty Three Kilometres North-West of the Capital City of Kinshasa, near the river Djouè, Drop Point Charlie, 1030 Hours
The Bachokwe Rebellion started in the year two thousand and forty eight after small intertribal fighting escalated into a brutal territory war on the border of the African nations of the Congo and Zaire. It was a conflict whose very existence was fuelled by ancient tribal rivalries that could be traced back before the existence of recorded history. Initial UNSC reactions to the increasingly bloody conflict were slow with only a small contingent of peace keeping forces deployed for the media and with little in the way of economic aid for the destroyed villages and cities left in the wake of war.
Oddly, it was this obvious lack of UNSC involvement that somehow, the fighting sides thought that this was greater than their personal squabbles and the minute civil war turned into a fanatical rebellion against the UNSC's incompetence overnight. It spread from region to region until nearly two thirds of Africa fell under the flag of the Bachokwe Rebellion; fittingly coloured a blood red.
The UNSC responded quick and harshly against this threat to their power with the deployment of over six million combat troops to quell the rebellion that at the time consisted of some ten million insurgents. The UNSC's deployment included a detachment of fifteen thousand Special Forces inserted and spread around the area of Kinshasa; where the rebellion originated from and where the main rebel leadership resided. The Special Forces were to be tasked with disrupting the rebels whilst ground troops moved from still UNSC friendly nations.
Yet even the Special Forces met harsh resistance and were nearly wiped out with surprising tenacity on the behalf of poorly trained rebel forces. So fierce was their resistance, the UNSC was forced to take the continent back one country at a time in a deadly war of attrition.
Two years later and nearly eight million dead, the UNSC finally had the rebellion all but crushed and confined near the border of the Congo and Zaire in an ever tightening ring. The rebels were most predominately located around the Congolese capital city of Kinshasa and it's heavily forested areas preventing full UNSC incursions against the rebels that remained at large while their numbers continued to grow with each passing day.
However the politics of the conflict meant little to 'Specialist' PFC Chris McAllen sitting with his shoulders hanging low in thought as he spun his rifle around in circles on the deck of the drop ship by the weapon's stock
"Tsk, tsk," sounded Lieutenant Alison Parker contemptuously to Chris from the front of the drop ship over the din of the other conversations in the troop compartment of the drop ship, or the 'blood deck' as it was affectionately known. "You couldn't even remember what squad you were in. Some Specialist you turned out to be."
"I never knew what squad I was in," said Chris feeling somewhat ashamed of his fright and lack of professionalism at the situation of not knowing something as trivial as his squad. "It wasn't like when I got here someone pinned the bloody thing to my collar and..."
"Hey that's a good idea," piped Alison bitterly, "I'll be sure to do that to the next rookie that comes along... And by the looks of things, he'll be joining us pretty soon after he replaces the rookie that's probably going to die this mission." The remark hit a sore spot in Chris consciousness and it took all of his energy to hold back his anger at his new Lieutenant. He was determined to prove his combat finesse to Parker and the platoon as a whole; maybe then he could finally find a sense comfort and not condemnation in their company for being the "rookie".
With a sudden jolt the drop ship threw back its thrusters and came to a halt in midair without a word of warning from the pilots. The craft slowly commenced a rough landing procedure as it followed the other two drop ships on approach down to a large clearing in the thick jungle foliage near the river Djouè.
Chris looked out the open rear of the Pelican and watched the thick waist high African grass become closer and closer as the drop ship lowered itself towards the ground. With a final whir of the engines the drop ship touched down on the somewhat soft marshlands of the riverside clearing.
"Everybody out!" Alison announced as she stepped out of the drop ship ahead of anyone else as was her custom and moved to join Captain Foster, as he exited his own transport. Chris got up from his seat leisurely as the rest of the squad rushed to a location near the edge of the clearing that had flashed on their HUD with the order to set up a perimeter.
"I guess I better join them," said Chris aloud as he locked a loaded magazine into his rifle and chambered the first round with several well rehearsed motions.
"What's the plan, sir?" Alison asked Captain Foster as the drop ships took off and headed back to their base of operations.
"We'll merge squad three with squads one and two for this action, Lieutenant," said Foster consulting his map of the region. "I'll lead Second Squad and take route Juliet and you take Romeo and we'll converge on objective X-Ray."
"That's still a day's hike from here," said First Sergeant Bernard examining the map in Foster's grasp, "a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of Intel about where the enemy may be hiding."
"It will be pretty touch and go, I know," said Foster before letting out a long breath, "but I think the troops will handle themselves well if there are any close encounters."
"Everyone, sir?" Alison asked; doubting McAllen's response to a combat situation.
"Oh I think the new guy will fair just fine, Lieutenant," said Foster nodding to himself, "yes, I've seen his type before. He may not look like much at the moment but there's no other soldier I'd like to have by my side if the shit hits the fan."
"If you say so, sir," said Alison grudgingly out of courtesy.
"Well if you're so concerned about him, Lieutenant," started Foster, it came across as more of an order than a request, "you take him."
"Very well, sir," said Alison once more out of courtesy before looking at the map in Foster's hand once more before noting several extra features on her own copy of the map.
"OK, you have your orders," said Foster loading his rifle, "we'll meet at objective X-Ray tomorrow evening if all goes to plan."
"Yes sir," said Alison, "I presume I'll be taking command of second squad for the duration?"
"Of course," said Foster before turning to Bernard and light-heartedly talking in a father's voice, "look after her now, you hear?"
"Roger that, sir," replied Bernard laughing at the Captain's remark, "meet you at X-Ray."
"See you there," said Foster moving towards the edge of the clearing, "alright Second Squad you're with me. Let's move!" Pre-chosen members from third squad notified via HUD broke away from their comrades and joined Captain Foster's group as they trekked into the jungle.
"Rest of you, on me," said Parker slinging her rifle for the long patrol that lay ahead, "Fenning, you're on point."
January 30th, 2550, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Twenty-Five kilometres from drop off point Charlie, 1540 Hours
Progress through the untouched jungles of the Congo had been slow as there was no one true path through the mess of the wild undergrowth. Chris found himself at the rear of the eighteen man patrol whilst the man on point was some two hundred metres ahead of the main group.
"Fucking jungle," Chris breathed as he swatted a bothersome mosquito that had landed on his neck. Other members of the patrol had similar feelings as they batted away other annoying insects that plagued them.
Alison was in the number four position of the patrol including the Scout. She had unzipped her ghillie suit to combat the humid conditions of the Congolese jungle; revealing her lack of cumbersome body armour in favour of comfort.
The troops under her command had noticed Alison had shied away from her regular self; no longer was she cheerful and flamboyant in her interactions as they had grown to love. No, now she was withdrawn and irritated, grunting in reply and yelling at the slightest mistake in formation.
Thoughts of doubt brought on by Alison's previous taunts filled Chris' mind; would he handle himself in combat? Could he pull the trigger with the intent to kill; not a paper target, but a living, breathing human being? Had the lifetime of training and commitment been worth it or would it all have been for nothing as he froze in the heat of battle?
"What the hell was that!?" Chris cried on the network in alarm at the sound of a branch suddenly breaking behind him. Immediately he spun to his rear to face the origin of the sound and walked slowly backwards.
"What was what, rookie?" Alison bitterly asked over the radio.
"I could have sworn I heard something, Lieutenant," replied Chris eyeing the jungle suspiciously, "sounded like someone moving around behind us."
"Oh come on, rookie, relax will you? Everyone's jumpy on their first patrol. It's just your nerves."
Chris by now had stopped following the patrol and looked back down the path they had travelled with his rifle drawn to his eye. "Nerves don't make noise, Lieutenant."
"Listen to me carefully, rejoin the squad, and shut the hell up," said Alison over the radio directly to Chris, "let the professionals worry about the enemy popping up."
"I'm telling you, Lieutenant, I heard something!" Chris yelled over the radio, unable to remain quiet any longer at Alison's obvious disapproval of his input.
"All I hear is a soldier who won't follow orders!" Alison yelled back, "this is your last chance! Join the squad and I promise we'll leave this out of the debriefing. Otherwise I'm placing you on report as soon as we get back to base. Do you understand!?"
"You heard the woman, rookie!" Said Bernard angrily over the network, "get back into formation before I come and kick your fucking ass in!"
"Roger that," said Chris complying to avoid the risk of a court martial more than Bernard's physical threat. His voice was laced with anger as he let out a sigh, "rejoining the squad."
"Mike," said Alison, Chambers looked over his shoulder from the number three position in the line, "get to the rear and keep an eye on McAllen before he shoots himself in the foot or something."
"Sure thing, Alison," said Chambers with a sigh of annoyance at being assigned to babysit the rookie even though he could consider this rookie as a friend.
"Oh so now you lot don't trust me at the rear of the column?" Chris remarked angrily as he saw Chambers walking back down the line.
"Parker just doesn't want you screwing up on your first patrol," said Chambers falling into line next to Chris. "Something has really gotten under her skin."
"She's probably pissed at me," said Chris with a grunt. "I fixed the scope mount on her rifle and then I sighted it back in when she went to the armoury."
Indent]"What?" Said Chambers taken aback. "A sniper's rifle is their most treasured asset, it takes untold hours to get it tailored to their personal shooting style and you resighted it in ten seconds..."
"Hey, you're preaching to the choir here, mate," said Chris looking at Chambers, "I'm a sniper too, remember? I think I'd understand the process a bit better than you do. Besides, I thought having a UNSC standard setting would be better than having incorrect settings because of something as trivial as a scope mount not being maintained."
"That's true," said Chambers realizing Chris' heart was in the right spot, "why didn't you just tell her that?"
"I didn't get a chance! She was yelling down my throat before I could even say a word. And I..." Chris paused as he adjusted his HUD glasses so he could rub his eyes before continuing, "I was nervous, alright?" He said resetting his glasses and looking away from Chambers in embarrassment, "so I thought I'd be the Good Samaritan and do it without her having to fret."
"You like her, don't you?" Asked Chambers, Chris turned his head to face Chambers; his eyes somewhat showing surprise but it then slowly faded as he bit his lip for a moment.
"She seems alright but what does it matter?" Chris sighed, "I'm not her most favourite person in the world; she'd sooner shoot me before she'd talk to me again.."
"Well maybe you should just lay low and follow her orders," remarked Chambers, "and don't piss her off anymore than you need to!"
"All I said was I heard something," Chris said ignoring the joke, "is that a bloody crime?"
"Of course not," said Chambers genuinely, "but defying orders to rejoin the squad could be classed as an offence."
"I was checking to make sure we weren't being followed."
"Don't be crazy," said Chambers with a wave of a hand, "there isn't a rebel in fifty miles, this area is too remote for them to organize anything with any hope of reaching the capital."
"But Parker told me there had been sightings of heavy rebel activity in this area before we boarded the drop ship?"
"Well I guess I'm wrong then," said Chambers with a relaxed shrug of his shoulders, "that's why she's the Lieutenant and I'm just the stupid..."
An easily heard sound of something hitting the ground off to Chris' left got his attention as he turned with his rifle at the ready. "You hear that?"
"Yes I did, it sounded like someone falling over," said Chambers removing the safety from his shotgun before keying his microphone, "Parker, Chambers here. I just heard something."
"Oh God, not you too" started Alison's crackling voice over the radio, "it's probably nothing, keep moving."
"That wasn't nothing," affirmed Chambers over the radio, "someone or something is following us."
"Don't be ridiculous..."
Chris held his rifle tightly against his shoulder as he trained it where the sound had originated from. As Chambers had been talking to Alison over the radio, Chris had been tensely waiting; looking and listening for something to give away an enemy presence.
Just as Chris was about to lower his rifle in disappointment, a man's head suddenly popped up over a bush twenty metres to his front. The dark face illustrated the same sense of surprise as Chris felt at the sight of an unidentified force.
"Contact!" Yelled Chris over the radio in disbelief as the figure jumped to their feet yelling sharply in his native tongue.
Most probably cries of alarm but to whom?
He could see the man was armed and sported an assortment of gear, from this Chris came to the conclusion that the man was a rebel, and a threat to his mission. Chris trained his rifle on the man effortlessly and was just about to take first pressure on the trigger as second figure appeared from the undergrowth and was closely followed by third.
Chris' heart nearly skipped a beat as a chilling sense of excitement washed over his body with adrenaline pumping into his veins.
All three figures saw that Chris was prepared to shoot and tried to escape into the dense jungle. Identifying them all as hostiles, Chris did not hesitate and lined up the first target; the endless hours of combat drills and thousands of rounds fired had trained his body well.
Chris found it was just like shooting at simulated targets at the range as he fired with without a second thought at the three figures. Three sharp cracks echoed through the once quiet jungle and faded away into insignificance as quickly as they had come.
"What!?" Shouted Alison over the radio as someone had yelled "contact" only for it to be followed closely by three rapid gunshots.
"Clear up!" Chris said whilst still looking down the sights of his rifle at the three bodies lying before him.
"Clear down... Wait, we've got a live one," Replied Chambers noting one of the figures was still moving, if ever so slight. With some hesitation on the prospect of the rebel was only acting he was serious injured; they advanced on the figure warily.
"Who fired? Who fired God damn it!?" Alison yelled over the radio as she ran back down the line past her troops who had also started moving towards the gunshots. "Everyone take up defensive positions until we know what's happened."
"Jesus," Chambers said amazed as he stood over the mortality wounded rebel; he had a bullet wound through the throat. Surges of a crimson liquid flowed from the wound with each heart beat; they could see the life drain from the man's face with each passing second. "That was some nice shooting!" Commented Chambers as he removed his handgun and removed the safety.
"You know the rules about prisoners, you want the honours?" He enthusiastically asked, presenting Chris the pistol. Chris only looked back with a blank face before he slowly shook his head at the offer. "Fine..." Said Chambers pointing the handgun at the man's head, before thinking of what rebels like the one at his feet had done to his father and squeezed the trigger, "... see you in Hell."
Chris looked away in disgust as the fourth and final gunshot echoed through the jungle. Once the sound had dispersed, Chris slowly turned back to face the three men lying dead in front of him where he had a chance to study their equipment. They were all dressed in various types of camouflaged fatigues, non-matching webbing systems and they also sported a variety of weapons. The radio present on one of the bodies confirmed Chris' feeling that these men had been following them and keeping tabs on them; most probably organizing an ambush up ahead.
The two men who had been killed outright both laid motionless on the ground with blood pooling on the ground with pieces of bone and grey matter from expertly placed headshots on Chris' behalf.
"What happened here?" Alison cried running over to Chambers and Chris where she was about to yell at them for not waiting for an order to engage when she noticed the groupings of the shots on two of the bodies. "Nice work, Mike," commented Alison after she noticed his smoking handgun.
Chambers cleared his throat uneasily. "He shot them, Parker," he said nodding his head towards Chris who had a drained look upon his face. Chris silently observed the death he had wrought with a shaking hand as the adrenaline begun to thin out. This is nothing like VR he concluded as he felt his stomach churn at the sight of the dead rebels. His training had taught him how to kill without emotion and without fear but they could never teach him how to live with the guilt of having killed another human being.
Alison appeared to have almost choked on air as she took in Chamber's statement. "You? You did that?" She said pointing at the three bodies, Chris slowly nodded his head as he looked at Alison making full eye contact.
Alison stared into his eyes for a second, taking in the troubled look they revealed in Chris' character."I guess I was wrong about you," started Alison breaking the eye contact and looking to the side, "I'm sorry I dou..."
Another source of gunfire erupted further up the trail and took everyone by surprise. "Lieutenant!" A voice called over the radio almost immediately after the gunfire start.
[indent["Fenning?" Alison turned towards the gunfire and placed a finger over her radio ear bud as she questioned the familiar voice of her scout, "what's going on?" Another long burst of gunfire echoed down the trail in response to the first.
"I've made contact with a group of very pissed off rebels!" Cried Fenning, "they've got me outnumbered and outgunned. I need help and I need it fucking quick!"
"Just hold on, Fenning. We're coming to you!" Said Alison already on the move, "everyone move up. Fenning is in trouble! Chambers, police these bodies for anything of value. McAllen!" Chris' spun surprised only to find her running up the trail, "you're with me, let's go!"
Needing no further orders, the men and women of Alison's squad ran through the thick foliage towards Fenning's position. As they ran they could hear the gunfire intensify. The loud crackling of a marine issue MA5B assault rifle was easily recognized over the lesser rattling fire of the rebels assorted automatic weapons.
Alison unconsciously flashed her left arm out to the left as a sign for the trooper immediately behind her to flank the rebels before signalling a group of three marines to take similar actions on the opposite side as she continued up the path towards the clearing with the rest of the squad.
Chris felt his nerves calm and his shaking hands settle as the adrenalin once again took over. He let out deep breath, flashed his acknowledgement signal over Alison's HUD and ran off into the jungle, alone.
Alison made it to the clearing that the distress call had originated from. Fenning was pinned down behind a large rock and was fumbling for a fresh magazine whilst trying to stay as low as possible. The rebels on the opposite side of the clearing to Alison and her squad were firing relentlessly at his position.
Fenning raised his head above the rock for a quick glance only for his unarmoured head snap back from a lucky burst of fire from one of the group of at least a dozen rebels.
"Fenning!" Yelled another marine in Alison's squad as he fired the remainder of the belt of ammunition from his light machine gun into the trees, "you bastards!"
"Get down you idiot, you're just wasting ammunition!" Yelled Alison at the gunner as the rebels began to fire on her squad without the suppressing fire of the machine gun.
Ducking low below the tall grass, Alison moved to a tree for cover and levelled the cross hair of her scope impulsively on one of the zealous rebels in her sight and fired. A sharp crack indicated the fourteen point five by one hundred and fourteen millimetre bullet had exceeded the sound barrier as it sped towards its target where upon impact, killed the man instantly. Only a dispersing vapour trail left behind from the bullet gave the rebels an idea where the killing shot had come from and they promptly returned fired.
"Crap!" Yelled Alison diving to the ground as bullets whizzed over her head before she even had a chance to realize that the scope was still set as Chris had left it; it had been right on target.
"What's the story with you guys getting behind them?" Alison asked the members of her squad she had sent around on flanking manoeuvres. A reply sounded from the three marines indicating they were still at least thirty seconds away from reaching the rebels due to the tangled mess of the jungle.
"McAllen!?" Questioned Alison over the radio, "where are you!?" No reply came; fearing the worst, Alison initiated Situation Awareness on her HUD.
A three dimensional image of the immediate area was displayed on Alison's arm mounted display screen. Alison noted her position on the display by the light blue dot at the edge of the clearing. Dark blue dots representing UNSC personnel showed her where her marines were and the lone yellow dot of a UNSC allied solider that was almost upon the red dots of the rebels; Chris.
Chris pressed himself hard up against a thick and aging tree in an effort to remain hidden from the rebels to his back. His heart was racing and all he could think about was killing the enemy before they had the chance to do the same to him.
"McAllen!" Screamed a voice in his ear, "where ar..."
"Shut up!" Chris hoarsely whispered to himself as he switched off his communications and remembered his training.
Sneaking a quick look around the tree, Chris noticed there were still at least ten rebels remaining. They were evenly spread along the length of the tree line and pummelling the opposite tree line with heavy fire.
Chris let go of his rifle and let it hang from the tactical sling around his neck as he fingered the pins out of two fragmentation grenades. He released the spoons with a clang - arming the grenades - and begun to count in preparation to throw the grenades around the tree.
Alison had repositioned herself around the clearing in an attempt to avoid the suppressing fire that had been aimed at her previous position. "What are you doing?" Alison asked herself as she saw Chris pressed against the tree and holding something close to his chest as he muttered what appeared to be a prayer.
From this vantage point Alison could observe a rebel hiding behind a tree but was somewhat close to Chris' position, the bullet would need to pass within a foot of his position. Knowing all too well the penetrative power of the S2 AM bullet, Alison lined up the likely location of the rebels upper torso through the tree Chris was hiding behind and fired. The bullet tore its way through the edge of the thick trunk of the tree and hit the rebel.
Chris jumped in fright and almost dropped one of the primed grenades as a supersonic bullet whizzed near him. It sounded as though it missed when it hit a tree but it was then followed closely by the cry of alarm from the rebels. The dispersing vapour trail of the bullet was little over a foot to his back.
Seeing this as his chance to throw the grenades unnoticed, Chris leant around the tree and threw his first grenade as far as he could down the lines of the rebels. He then rolled the second grenade thirty feet to his front where two rebels were firing unremittingly at the UNSC forces on the opposite side of the clearing.
A double explosion echoed through the area as Chris sprung around the tree, his handgun with Laser Aiming Module (LAM) activated and at the ready. Chris rushed towards the two closest rebels who had miraculously survived the explosion and fired relentlessly without remorse, cutting both down in a series of loud gunshots from his pistol.
Chris ran towards the next surviving rebel who had turned to investigate the source of the grenades and the loud cracks of a semi-automatic handgun. Much to his surprise the rebel could only watch dumbfounded as Chris aimed at the man's head and fired.
It was about at this time the three marines sent on the opposite flank arrived and lent their firepower in cutting down the remaining rebels near them who had survived the grenades.
Chris noticed the familiar olive drab fatigues in the jungle right as he fired his pistol repeatedly at the final rebel retreating into the jungle.
The flanking marines watched in bewilderment as Chris fired with such tenacity for the rookie they had only met a day earlier. With a final shot, the slide of his pistol flung back into the empty position. In an explosion of motion he had ejected the empty magazine and loaded a fresh one before the marines realized the weapon was actually empty.
Chris stood tall and was breathing heavily as he held his handgun tightly in his hands. The weapon was still levelled on the body of the lone rebel who had collapsed under a volley of point forty-five ACP slugs whilst trying to escape.
"Clear up!" Cried the marine corporal from the flanking party as the group moved towards Chris who still stood silent with his handgun still at the ready. "I said cleared up, soldier!" Chris remained non compliant.
The marine spun Chris around by the shoulder exposing the look of pure terror on his face and the heavy layer of sweat that covered his face.
"Whoa settle down," said the corporal with a smile, "it's alright, man, they're all dead, you did good! Let's check back with the el-tee."
Chris remained silent as the shaking in his hands resumed but this time it wasn't the adrenaline. No, the adrenaline was still present in his veins, he was shaking from fear. Not a fear that he could have been killed but an unshakable sense of fear that he enjoyed what had just taken place. He had enjoyed the conflict. He had enjoyed the killing.
Alison had watched Chris kill the seven rebels through the scope of her rifle in amazement but now stood in the centre of clearing with the rest of her squad. Chris and the three flanking marines exited the opposite side of the clearing with Chris trailing somewhat behind the three marines.
"They killed him," breathed Bernard angrily kneeling over Fenning's lifeless body as he noticed the four men approaching them, most particularly Chris' presence. "It's all that fucking rookie's fault!"
"Damn right," spat various members of the squad around Alison in a mob mentality. She knew Fenning had been a popular figure in Bernard's squad and how bad the situation could unfold if she took the wrong side.
"If it wasn't for you," started Bernard standing up and pointing at Chris with a hand shaking in anger, "and your trigger happy ways, Fenning would still be alive! You should be laying there, not him!"
Chris felt all eyes fall on him, looking around he could see the shift of attitude against him spread through the squad members. The only person present Chris couldn't see the same look of disgust in was Alison. She just stood in place with her rifle in hand, her face blank of any sign of compassion or more importantly to Chris, anger.
"That's bullshit, Sergeant!" Chris brawled suddenly feeling what had been fear turn into rage, "those first three rebels had been following us and they even had a radio. I bet this ambush would have been set long before I even killed them!"
"How would you know? You're just a fucking rookie!" Bernard countered throwing his rifle to the ground before clenching his fists and moving within a metre of Chris. He shoved Chris away with powerful arms in an attempt to provoke him, "they only started shooting when you shot the others, idiot!"
"And you call me the rookie! Are you really that fucking stupid, mate?" Barked Chris regaining his footing before removing his helmet and tossing it to the side. Chris could feel that what was to come would be a fight between First Sergeant Bernard and himself. "With their cover blown, there would have been little chance of us continuing along this path. Everyone knows that UNSC regulations state that we're to backtrack one hundred metres and bypass the location by another hundred metres to our flank. The rebels would know that from experience." Chris stepped forward and put his face right in front of Bernard's, "killing Fenning was just a means of drawing us out." Chris noted Bernard's face go blank as his mind tried to comprehend what Chris had just said. "Want me to say it a little slower, Sergeant?"
"Oh you got a big mouth," jeered Bernard removing his vest to the cries of support from his men for vengeance for Fenning, "I'm going to enjoy taking you down."
"Break his fucking jaw, Sarge!" Called one of the marines as they all stepped back leaving a circle with only Fenning's corpse, Chris, Bernard and in the centre.
"Are you just going to let this happen?" Chris asked Alison, she turned her head to the side, powerless in the group of frenzied soldiers and avoided his mystified gaze.
"She can't help you, rook, you're mine" said Bernard with a devious grin as he removed his belt and helmet. Bernard cracked his knuckles before bringing up his clenched fist in the fighting style of that as a boxer and Chris finally understood why the Sergeant's face appeared so damaged, he was a boxer.
Chris stood silent as he refrained from challenging Bernard to see if this was the real deal.
"What's the matter, rook?" Ridiculed Bernard, "didn't your pussy of a father teach you how to fight?"
Chris felt his blood boil at the comment directed at his deceased father. "You've got no fucking right to talk about him that way! He was more man than you will ever be!"
"Ooh, the rookie loves his daddy," said Bernard behind his clenched fists, "what you are going do about it? You going to make me stop, rookie?"
Chris removed his armoured vest, dropped his pack and tossed his rifle to the side. "I said," started Chris bitterly as he tightened the tabs of his combat gloves for the fight ahead, "I'm no rookie, Sarge."
"We'll see," said Bernard as he sneakily brought his right foot back for a roundhouse kick. Bernard brought his left arm back in preparation for a punch in plain view and suddenly swung.
Chris did not fall for Bernard's trick. He had noticed the Sergeant's ploy but slowly went along as if he hadn't noticed Bernard's right foot being brought back.
Quickly Chris brought up his left hand to block the punch as Bernard would expect whilst keeping his right hand drawn back just above the hip in preparation for the counter-manoeuvre. Bernard's weak punch was ignored by Chris who simply moved his blocking hand and avoided the punch, letting it fly by unopposed.
Carried on by the momentum of the punch, Bernard swung his body around surprisingly fast for a man of his stature and let fly his kick. Bernard's kick had all the energy required to break someone's ribs or in this case, knock the wind out of the victim indefinitely to conclude the fight.
This is what Bernard expected the outcome to be; start the fight quick and finish it quick; knock the rookie down a peg or two of self respect. But he also saw it as a means of extracting revenge for Fenning's death caused by this rookie's stupidity. What Bernard was not expecting was to see his crushing blow being caught by Chris' waiting right hand. Bernard froze in mid-kick as Chris absorbed the momentum of the kick through his arm.
Before Bernard could wrestle his way out Chris clasped down on the foot with his left hand; forcing Bernard to awkwardly balance on one foot.
Bernard knew he had made a mistake in underestimating the rookie's hand to hand combat ability and watched helplessly as Chris slowly started to raise and lower Bernard's captured leg at an increasing rate.
"Ready for this Sergeant?" Chris said smiling and catching Bernard off guard. Chris' smile vanished as he mustered all the strength he could to propel Bernard's leg straight up in the air.
Helpless, Bernard could watch as he was thrown off his feet and into the air before he prepared to face the hard reality of gravity as he hit the ground, hard.
There was a gasp and then finally silence from the onlookers as Bernard slowly got to his feet. "You'll pay for that," said Bernard through clenched teeth and brushing the grass off his rear as he stood.
Bernard went for the less subtle approach this time by running at Chris and swung one of his huge fists squarely at Chris' face. Caught off guard of the direct action, Chris could only move his head slightly to avoid the main force of the punch but still received a painful grazing blow along his jaw.
Carried on by the momentum of his running, Bernard bowled Chris out of the way and immediately turned around to face the soldier again. "You feeling me now?" Said Bernard with a look of amusement as Chris spat the blood caused by the impact out of his mouth and onto the ground.
"Is that the best you got?" Sneered Chris seeing the Sergeant's weakness was his pride; if he could coax Bernard to charge in once more, Chris could end this fight quickly.
This time it was Bernard who fell for the ploy, "I'm just getting started," stated Bernard drawing back his right arm for the punch to come and then, he lunged.
And Chris was ready for him; he ducked below the incoming punch and brought up his right solid plastic padded elbow into the bottom of Bernard's jaw with a satisfying crack. The effect was instantaneous; Chris felt the large Sergeant's body go limp but he was unprepared for Bernard to actually fall over on top of him.
Chris hit the ground with Sergeant Bernard's body on top of him and felt the air expire from his lungs as the full weight of Bernard pressed down on his chest with the impact. With a grunt Chris rolled the body off of him and shakily got to his feet and looked at the bewildered on lookers. He half expected everyone to cheer for him but also half expecting everyone else to attack him at once.
There was nothing, just an empty silence as everyone looked at the weary Chris and the unconscious Bernard; they did not know what to do either. They had expected Bernard to win hands down and now they all stared perplexedly at Chris and Bernard's body.
"What the hell is going on here!?" Yelled a voice from the edge of the clearing, everyone turned and saw Chambers standing at the edge of the clearing with a confused look on his face. No one answered him so he yelled even louder, "I said, what the fuck is going on here!?"
Alison finally spoke up in an intended sarcastic tone, "Sergeant Bernard and PFC McAllen here were just showing some do's and don'ts of hand to hand combat, isn't that right?"
The troops around Alison mumbled what appeared to be agreement with some offering Chris a smile whilst others continued to look scornfully towards him.
Chambers understood the statement, "well forget the messing around, I've found something you need to see Parker."
"Alright the show's over." said Alison to the squad before turning towards the medic. "Stay here, O'Neil. Wake Bernard up and mark Fenning's body for retrieval. Everyone else take up a perimeter in case there are anymore rebels about." The squad's disgruntled machine gunner spat in disgust at the injustice of it all but fell out with the others and took up a position. Alison turned to Chris and showed of a weak smile before heading off towards Chambers.
Chris watched as Alison and Chambers trekked back down the trail the way they had come only twenty minutes earlier and so much had happened since then. The rest of the squad had dispersed from the previously set circle around Fenning. Chris felt he had responded to the situation well, he did not start the fight and only acted in defence so there was no chance of a Court Marshal.
But he couldn't help but feel everyone still agreed with what Bernard had said and still blamed Chris for Fenning's death. Violence never really solved anything; it had only bought him some time for his next move.
Putting his gear back on and grabbing his weapon; Chris moved to the edge of the clearing and covered the far most left flank. He let out a sigh and checked his ammunition alone as he did not appear welcome to set up with one of the marines.
Chambers let out a loud laugh as he and Alison walked back down the trail, "wait, wait, you're telling me McAllen knocked Bernard out with just one hit? Are you pulling my leg?"
"I'm serious!" Alison chuckled.
"Oh God I can't believe I missed that," remarked Chambers, "how many times have we heard of his successful boxing career? They're going to shit themselves back at the base when they hear about this."
"He sure chose the wrong [rookie to mess with!" Alison laughed but then stopped when Chambers shot her an angry glance but said nothing.
"Well what did you want to show me?" Alison asked moving on.
"This," said Chambers removing a sheet of crumpled paper, "I took it off the man with the radio that McAllen plugged."
"Why did we come all the way out here for this?" She asked taking the note and reading it briefly, her eyes lit up in alarm as she finished.
Alison turned to Chambers with her mouth somewhat opened but the words never came. "That's exactly what I thought," said Chambers, "they knew we were coming."