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Episode 31

If the Bad Guys Don't Kill Us

“Dammit!” Ace yelled. “We gotta move!” I grabbed his arm but as we got up, THUMP! Another shell hit, knocking me on my ass. I looked back. Two tanks closing in, and at least a squad of guys coming over the top behind them. They’d spotted us and were closing in. “Come on!” I yelled, grabbing Ace and speeding him towards the woods. 20 meters, 10 meters—THUMP—CRACK! A tree in front of us blew into toothpicks, showering us with chips of wood as we closed in—and then were were in the woods. Ward grabbed Ace’s other arm as we went further in. The woods were way too thin for my liking. Mostly regrowth with lots of space in between cover.

“Over here!” Jock yelled. “Another container!”

There, half hung up in a tree was another container. Jock blew the lock off and we started yanking out packaging. Medical supplies and linens. DAMMIT!

Bullets zipped over us and leaves fell from the trees. The tanks had stopped for the moment, but I knew we were going to be joined by Corwistalians in a moment.

Jock nodded at Park and he went up a tree to watch the mottled light at the entrance to the woods. I didn’t see Jones anywhere.

I heard more gunfire behind us and whipped around. I couldn’t see anything, but Jock tagged my arm and I went back to look.

As I tip-toed, I heard a grunt from a little ways ahead, then a “Eureka!”

“Jones!” I yelled.

“Falkland—get over here!”

He’d found another container and busted it open. “Here’s the ticket!” he said, thumping the side of a long case. “120mm Mortar!”

“Run,” I said to Jones. “Get the rest of the guys.”

He ran back. I heard the rattling of guns off in the distance as I dug around for a crate of rounds.

A moment later, Jones was back, along with Jock. “Park and Ace are coming,” Jock said, grabbing one end of a crate and throwing it out of the way. A bullet whizzed past us but we didn’t dare shoot back, knowing our guys were still coming. I found a box of rounds and thanked Ares for his provision.

Park and Ace came up and Park dropped Ace next to a tree and lent his shoulder to the effort. As I pushed, I saw blood on the sleeve of my jacket. Shrapnel. Don’t bleed to death now, I told myself as I pulled out rounds. I could hear the tank engines now. Way too close! “How the hell are we supposed to hit guys this close with a mortar?”

“Horizontal fire,” Ace yelled, pain on his face. “Jam the baseplate against a tree or something, then throw the shell down the tube.”’

“I swear, if the bad guys don’t kill us you guys will,” Jock said.

“I’ll load,” Park said as we braced the mortar.

“Listen,” Ace said, “you throw that round too hard and it might take a hand off. Too light and it won’t fire.”

Park nodded as we pointed the tube towards the tank, aiming as best as we could. “Fire!” Jock yelled and Park shoved that round in—just as the tank fired—CRACK! A shell destroyed a tree behind us, throwing wood chips all over our impromptu gun team—and our round boomed somewhere behind the tank. The mortar itself jerked itself out of our aim. “Lower!” Jock said, and we set up again.

“FIRE!” Jock screamed and Park did—a HIT! The smoke cleared down range and I saw the tank had sustained damage. The tank hatch popped and two men jumped out. I nailed one of them with a burst and dropped him; the other got behind his wounded tank and stayed put. Smart boy.

“RELOAD!” yelled Jock, and we did—and just in time. Another tank appeared and we sighted in, then fired again. Way high!

The next round went down the tube—and nothing happened!

“Misfire!” Park yelled. A spatter of gunfire went over our heads and into the trees.

“Suppressing fire!” Jock yelled, but we were already on it.

Park and Jock tipped the tube and carefully ejected the live round.

BOOM! A tank round blew up a tree behind us and I heard Ace yell.

“Ace!” I said.

“It’s okay I think,” he said. “Splinters in my face.”

“Drag that mortar. Grab shells! We gotta move!” Jock yelled. We did, getting deeper into the woods as the tank closed on our position. The woods were a mix of clearings and copses of trees and we found a thick spot as we moved upward and hoped for the best. If they came in with more guys, we were toast.

“Crow One, this is Kilo One,” Jock’s radio snapped. “Relief is on the way. Sit tight. Over.”

We got behind a ridge and for the next hour Park and Jock moved around and winged occasional shells over the trees and towards the field. Men attempted to gain our position and we held them off with our rifles. The woods kept the tanks from making it up, but at more than one point as I ducked machinegun fire from below I thought we were finished—and then I heard the far-off rattle of fresh gunfire and the marvelous sound of large explosions.

“Hold your fire, Crow One, friendlies incoming on your position!” I listened. The fire was done—the field was silent.

When a half-dozen Wardogs showed up at the edge of the woods escorting a medic, I finally took a deep breath. We’d secured the supplies.

But the cost!

If the Bad Guys Don't Kill Us panel 3
If the Bad Guys Don't Kill Us panel 4
Wardogs Inc. series cover
If the Bad Guys Don't Kill Us episode cover
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Wardogs Inc.

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