I have to admit: looking at my best friend slowly bleeding out made me freeze up. It didn’t help that the only member of our party who wasn’t dead, injured or captured was a precocious nine-year-old engineer who had never fired a gun.
Kyle was first to make a suggestion. “We can’t continue this,” he said. “We need to surrender. The next wave will kill us.”
“Fuck that,” Sunny snarled in a vicious tone I hadn’t imagined her capable of. “While you guys were fighting up here, they were trying to negotiate with me.” I suddenly remembered that during our fight, we had heard the chatter of AK fire. Sunny must have realized what the South Korean SWAT were attempting and ended the negotiations aggressively. Another path closed.
“You didn’t…” Kyle said, realizing the same thing I had.
“I did,” Sunny said.
Suddenly, before an argument could start up, the radio chirped. “Hey,” a static-distorted voice said, “we’re about twenty minutes out from your position. Can you meet us out at the rear of the warehouse?”
“Sorry,” I said, “we’ve got a man in critical condition. Can you bring a stretcher to the second floor?”
“No problem,” the person on the other end claimed. “Besides, we’ve got a lot of firepower with us.”
“Thank you,” I said. “Be advised, there’s a sniper on a boat and another on a water tower.”
“Thanks for the heads up. We’ll keep an eye out for them. Also sounds like there’s a chopper.
I turned off the radio, new momentum flowing through me. “Ok,” I said, “what we need now is to get into a defensive position. What do we have? What’s our ammo count? Can we move John somewhere a little more safe?”
Sunny shook her head as she opened her bag. “Sorry,” she said, reaching in to take out a blood bag. “At this stage, with my complete attention, he might live. If we move him, it could break the surgical glue. Then he’d only have eight minutes.”
“So, functionally, we only have two people,” I said.
“Sorry,” Sunny said.
“That’s ok,” I reassured her, “It just means things will be a little difficult.” I noticed that Nari didn’t offer to help out. On the one hand, she’d already done more than enough and it didn’t seem like she had come out the better for it. On the other, we needed every person we could get and I was disturbed by her silence and motionlessness.
Apparently, she wasn’t the only one I should have worried about. “Ok,” Kyle said, “this is all well and good, but how are we going to survive the next wave? I’m pretty sure that this,” he indicated his MP-7, “isn’t strong enough to penetrate their body armor. And even if I could fire my rifle, I only have a mag left.”
“Then aim low or high,” I said. “Or borrow a rifle our friends have dropped. We’re getting out of here.” I paused, then said, “That reminds me, I need to refill my G-3’s mags. If you’re not using it, I could use some 7.62. Meanwhile, Nari, you should get into that cubicle. Stay down, and by that, I mean lie on the ground face down with your hands interlocked behind your neck. That’s probably the best way to avoid getting shot.”
Everyone moved to their assigned tasks, though I noticed that only one of us was really enthusiastic. Nari was dead-eye and shivering, Kyle seemed to have convinced himself we were all going to die, and even I was moving slowly due to pain. This was in sharp contrast to the grim efficiency with which Sunny was working on John.
Finally, when all the supplies had been distributed, Kyle and I were able to scavenge several mags of 5.56 from John and the dead Koreans. We also had a few grenades, mostly smoke and flashbangs, but there were a few frags and an incendiary.
Actually, I have a confession to make. When I had first walked past them, I didn’t notice it at first. However, when I was searching one of the SWAT officers, I noticed that he was still breathing. Upon seeing the rise and fall of his chest, I stood up and unholstered my Berretta.
As I stood there for a moment, working up the… well, I don’t want to call it courage… the whatever-it-was to murder a dying man in cold blood, the SWAT officer’s eyes fluttered open. He slurred something in Korean. If it had been something in anger or even if he had begged and pleaded, it would have been easier. Instead, his brown eyes and soft voice conveyed his confusion despite the fact I had no idea what he was saying.
“I’m sorry,” I said. Then I fired. The officer’s eye exploded into red goop. After a pause, I resumed looting his corpse for anything useful. He was using a small, silenced SMG, so he didn’t seem to have anything useful. Luckily, there wasn’t anything personal, like a wedding ring or a photo. I don’t think I could have dealt with that.
I sighed. Grabbing my G-3 and the two assault rifles I’d collected (I believe they’re called K-1As) I turned around to see Kyle looking at me, his expression unreadable.
I ignored his look, and said, “So, if you want, here’s an assault rifle. Also, I think we shouldn’t bother with the smoke grenades. It’ll just reduce visibility for us.”
“Right,” Kyle said. “I’ll toss them and just take the more potent stuff.” His tone of voice was as unreadable as his face. It could be anything from disgust at my actions to despair. He then stopped talking.
We then began the waiting game. It seemed like the police surrounding us had decided to drive us mad by simply waiting us out. All we heard outside was the sound of sirens and a helicopter orbiting us. I could imagine waiting like this, not expecting a ride. I could see digging down like this for potentially hours, waiting for the inevitable second attack.
Finally, we heard a loud thump from downstairs. I moved so I could look down the stairs, but still use the corner as cover. I couldn’t see all the way down, but if anyone used this stair as an entrance, I had the drop on them. As I leaned out, I heard the sounds of people in heavy armor approaching rapidly. Still, I could probably drop a few of them.
I was instantly proven wrong. Charging at me like he thought he was The Flash or something, was a guy with a riot shield. Behind him, struggling to keep up, despite lugging less weight was a line of SWAT officers with shotguns, assault rifles, SMGs and all the other bits of close-combat goodness that the South Korean SWAT carry. I was too busy panicking to get a good count.
“SHIELD!” I called out as I opened fire. Before the advancing line of death could return fire and drive me further into cover, I noticed that my bullets were bouncing off the shield. So videogames are right about something, I thought in detached horror as the damn thing kept advancing like an over-excited puppy.
Then, for a split second, I saw a red tube bounce down into the stairwell. A second or two later, and there was a hiss and screams. I moved back into a firing position. What I saw nearly made my stomach turn.
The stairs had been turned into an inferno. Most of the team that had been sent in was throwing themselves over the edge trying to get out of it, but the guy with the shield was backing down slowly, despite having gone up like a gas-soaked torch. Seeing me stick my head out, he fired a few rounds at me from a pistol. He was interrupted by a short burst from Kyle’s MP-7. There was a spray of red out the side of his head and he fell backwards.
Suddenly, from out at sea, there was the roar of what sounded like a minigun in the distance. It lasted for a second, but I could hear the helicopter start to have… difficulties. A second later, the radio crackled to life. “Hey,” our rescuer said, “we’re just about to get in here. Where on the second floor are you?”
“If you’re coming in from the sea,” I said, “there should be some stairs nearby. We’re right at the top.”
“Roger that,” he said. “You should hear us come in.”
The next few minutes weren’t exactly silent, but I’d still describe them as way too quiet. After the initial shouts of surprise that come whenever you see a friendly helicopter get hit, the SWAT outside quieted down. There was still the sound of sirens, but there was no gunfire and no attempt to make an entrance. At least, no attempt that I could hear.
After a few moments of it being too quiet, Kyle said, “I don’t like it.”
“Agreed,” I said, “but we can take advantage of this. Collect anything that we’ve brought with us. I want to be ready to move as soon as our ride gets here. Kyle, once you’ve done that, make sure they can’t come back through that window again.”
“Right,” he said. “Should I use John’s gun?”
“Sure,” I said. “Now move it. We don’t have all day.” There was a flurry of movement, but it was over pretty quickly. After all, we carried all our stuff on our backs. During that time, I decided that it would probably be better to switch to one of the captured carbines, seeing as how much ammo for my G-3 had been either spent or destroyed by a single shot. I had the G-3 in my pack and about three mags (including the one in the gun) collected for the K-1when I heard a low rumbling sound. It was the garage doors in the front of the warehouse.
I turned around to tell Kyle, just in time to see him duck back behind the cube wall. A split second later, there was the thump and a bright light. He then leaned back out of cover to begin firing from where the flash had come from.
Before I could make up my mind as to whether I should go help him, a voice came in from over the radio, “Hey guys,” he said, “We have visual. Touching down in two and a half minutes. How does resistance look?”
“Pretty hard,” I said. “I’m going to see if I can soften it up a bit.” I dropped the radio and moved into a firing position. As I went down to the landing, I took out three of my remaining grenades.
As I let the first grenade go, I noticed that the intruding groups were mostly patrol cops. A few had assault rifles, K-2s, I believe, and pump-action shotguns of some kind. Most, however, had pistols.
Luckily, they noticed my grenade before they noticed me. Someone shouted something in Korean, then there was a thump. Apparently, I had just used one of the few remaining frags. Then there was a thump and flash from a flashbang, then the hiss of my incendiary.
I quickly noticed that the garage doors were still rising. Dropping to a knee and praying to God that my grenades had distracted them, I aimed at one of the motors and let loose a short burst.
The good news was that enough of the rounds hit to make the door start falling down. The bad news is that I gave my position away. Instantly, one of the pistol-wielding officers began firing. I crouched down behind the sheet of metal on the landing as pistol rounds began hitting it. Luckily, the thin metal seemed to block a few of the rounds.
Deciding that I wanted to make sure nothing more powerful got through, I decided to aim at one of the officers with a rifle. The one I chose was drawing a bead right at me. A lucky burst must have nicked his artery. Most of the rest got their heads down after that. But a few others decided to shoot at me.
One of them got a round of buckshot off at me. Two balls shattered the left lens of my glasses, a third came close enough to my neck to burn and several dented the metal. He disappeared behind cover before I could pick him out. Then a well-aimed burst of rifle fire penetrated the metal wall, knocking me backwards.
Body armor, in this situation, is a blessing and a curse. One the one hand, I was alive. If I hadn’t been wearing armor, I’m pretty sure I’d have drowned in my own blood or died from shock when little bits of my heart flew out my back. On the other hand, my already bruised or broken ribs now felt like they were on fire.
I was debating getting up when the explosions began. Shortly after that, the gunfire started up as well. Kyle had been having his own battle upstairs, but this was different. It sounded like someone with a collection of assault rifles and heavy weapons had suddenly arrived. After a few seconds, there was a series of loud bangs inside the warehouse, followed by sound of gunfire.
Summoning whatever strength I had left, I got up and took a look down. Below me were a group of men with heavy Kevlar armor and a collection of assault rifles, shotguns, SMGs and even a machinegun. Three of them were heading towards the stairs. I began halfheartedly covering them.
When one of the three heading towards the upper levels got to me, he said, somewhat jokingly, “Let me guess, you’re the one who needs the stretcher.”
“Actually…” I gasped out, “… I’m the closest we have to full health.” Upon seeing the man’s horrified look, I said, “Just kidding. Our medic’s working on the critical upstairs. Follow me.”
I got up and moved as fast as I could. When I got to the top, I called out, “Guys, ride’s here.”
“Good!” Kyle said over the sound of his own gunfire. “I’m just about out.”
Two of the newcomers began unfolding a stretcher. The third took charge. “Ok,” he said, pointing to Sunny, “you help us get him mobile.” He pointed at me. “You get to the boat. I’ll help stand guard and kibbutz.”
“Should I take Nari?” I asked.
“Who’s Nari?” one of the medics asked.
“A VIP,” Sunny said.
“Ok,” the leader said. “She goes with you. I don’t want any more injuries. We’ve got a year’s worth of income riding on this.”
“Hear that, Nari?” I asked.
In response, she shot out from the cubicle she was in. “Definitely!” she said. Her blank look was now replaced by one of terror. Poor kid. She was going to be traumatized for the rest of her life.
“What the hell?” the lead merc asked. “She’s got to be seven at most!”
“Sir,” Nari said, impatiently, but somehow with some modicum of respect, “I’m nine.”
I ignored the interplay. “Ok, Nari,” I said, kneeling down to look her in the eye, “Stay with me. If I fall down, just run.”
She nodded solemnly. Reassured, I got up. Apparently, kneeling had been a mistake. I ignored the pain, got up and began running. The trip passed in a haze of pain. Somehow, I ended up face down on the deck of a small patrol boat, vague, yet extremely painful, memories of climbing a short ladder seared into my brain.
When my vision finally cleared, I noticed that Kyle was staring down at me. “You ok, man?” he asked as figures in Kevlar began getting onto the boat. Near the front of the boat, the two medics we had seen were taking John down below decks.
“Sure,” I said as I got up, my voice weak and wheezy. Then I vomited from pain and fell back to my knees. My hand fell in the puddle of sick I had just made. “Just… peachy. We going soon?”
In answer, there was a short, yet ground-shaking burst from the boat’s autocannon. Then, a jet of heat lit up the air. From my position on the ground, I could see that it was from a flame-thrower mounted next to the cannon. I turned to see that the cannon had blasted into where we had been holed up. The stream of napalm had been directed into the opening.
As soon as the stream of jellied fire shut off, the boat we were on, as well as two other similarly armed boats, one in front and one behind, took off like rockets.
When the acceleration got back to reasonable levels, Kyle hauled me to my feet. “So,” he asked, a tired, yet giddy grin lighting up his face as he helped me down into the hold, “does that answer your question?”
I laughed, the pain nearly making me hurl again. We were going home.