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Episode 8

Heading Out

We were in the 2nd Battalion, which put us in the line of fire. That suited me just fine. I was ready to give my antique of a rifle a working-in and would rather take the fight to the enemy than pick up heavy stuff and put it down somewhere else, especially if that involved being shot at.

It was dark outside and everything was a confusing mess as we headed down the long ramp to the ground. The landing zone was a flurry of activity. Men swarmed around the bottom of the transport, pulling out crates of ammo, food and various supplies. Our surroundings looked as if we were inside what had been some sort of a resort, now turned amateur military base. Razor wire and thick armor panels were thrown up around the edges, a few large projectile guns pointed skywards, a dozen haphazardly parked land vehicles were scattered about, while men in severe black uniforms with red trim—presumably our Ulimbese allies—were alternatively shouting directions and arguing with our guys.

Like I said, it was a mess. When we hit the ground, Captain Marks lit up a baton and we followed him. He had the map, we had the firepower, so all we had to do was get stuck in where we were needed, then hold.

CRACK! A mortar of some kind nailed the side of the transport and exploded, failing to pierce the armor but knocking a half dozen men off one of the ramps. I’m sure it killed at least two of them. I’d just been standing there less than two minutes before. Damn!

When we hit the ground we only had our Katzers, torso armor, helmets, and backpacks containing ammo and basic supplies. No heavy weapons, grenades or mortars. I don’t think much more than food and ammo was jammed in the bottom of the transport. The air was cool but not cold, the gentle breeze contrasting with crackle of small arms fire and the thumping of mortars. Men unpacked and the less-than-half of Kilo company that had made it to Ulixis followed Captain Marks. As we jogged with him to wherever he was taking us, I heard the sound of a jet above, then the rattle of a massive anti-aircraft gun spitting fire from somewhere inside the enclosure. That was the last aircraft I heard that evening—for all I know, it might have been some tycoon heading off to greener pastures.

Jock told me the second transport would soon deliver our vehicles, including tanks, cannon, extra drones, additional food, ammo, mines and other goodies. Once they showed up, we’d be able to conquer the entire peninsula in an afternoon, should the brass decide to.

We got to the edge of the camp where the big metal chunks of wall stood like looming gray dominos in the night. They looked like they’d been ripped off the side of an antique aircraft carrier. One of them even had some faded remnants of numbers painted on on the side. Scaffolding had been put behind them, with embrasures, a few of which held Ulimbese snipers. Judging from the sound of the battle, we were maybe a mile or two behind the heavy fighting.

“Okay men, here’s the deal,” Captain Marks barked over the noise. “Out there we’ve got a line of battle being held by multiple Ulimbese armored divisions. They have been unable to prevent the establishment of multiple mortar teams, plus they’re telling me they think there are big guns and armor coming in for a full assault on the base itself. We’re going to go by squads and spread out, aiming for maximum damage to advancing enemy. Two in each squad will carry RPGs with two extra rounds on their person, with two men in the team acting as their support, each individual carrying rifles and four additional RPG rounds, then a sniper and a spotter, plus the team leader. Use what you can for cover, stay low, spread out and get the bastards.” We had six squads. Marks and a lieutenant stayed behind to work strategy.

Park was sniper as always, and Jock put Four-eyes on an RPG, giving the other RPG to a guy I hadn’t met before, recently assigned to our company with a stellar background in the military. Corporal Jones. Serious guy, black hair. I was glad I didn’t get a grenade launcher. Sure, they were fun to shoot on a range but were unwieldy as hell in action and gave you almost no self-defense against guys with rifles, unless you went center-mass on a guy. That wasn’t the way to win bonus bucks. Private Ward got RPG backup duty for the serious guy, and Private Leighton got backup on Four-eyes. I was a spotter for Park and Rocky—more properly called Corporal Joe Cellucci—was on machine gun. Rocky was a grinning, bald SOB who loved combat. He was never happier than when someone was shooting at him.

It took us a few moments to get our gear set, then we headed beyond the armor plate wall and into the countryside, followed by Bastard Squad 2, and Raptor Platoon Squads 1 and 2, while the remaining two Kilo Company squads—Homewrecker Platoon—got deployed from another point.

My night vision goggles worked well, despite the antique design. Just outside the makeshift walls of the base was what had been a very nice sweeping lawn and parking lot, now pocked and burnt and rutted. By the parking lot was a shattered building, broken windows and bricks. Off to the right was a tree-lined road. A sign about 400 meters out read something in a local language that looked like spitballs to me. It featured a pretty woman eating a sandwich. Restaurant ad, maybe for the smashed building. I noted she wasn’t furry. If we ever got a break, it would be interesting to do some independent field research on the local ladies.

Other teams from other companies streamed out behind us, heading for points all across the map. Jones took point for our squad, leading us quickly past the destroyed building. Glass crunched beneath my boots and I smelled rotting food. Yep, restaurant. Up ahead loomed dark woods and undeveloped country. The terrain was mostly rolling hills, the kind that loop and roll up and then down into little valleys with streams, the real shape of the topography softened and obscured by trees. We entered a patch of woods which turned out to be less dense than I’d feared once we got under the canopy. The leaves beneath our feet smelled richly of fungi, mixed with the smoke. If it weren’t for the sounds of battle, we could be completely alone here. Just some guys walking in the woods. With night vision, armor and RPGs. Damn, what I wouldn’t have given for some Wardog armor. Or a few missile crews. They weren’t even here and we were heading out.

Heading Out panel 2
Heading Out panel 3
Wardogs Inc. series cover
Heading Out episode cover
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Wardogs Inc.

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