The Assault Part I

by Phillip Culliton
This story could be found in our fan-fiction section of the old Aftermath site. This section will be added to StrategyCore, but in the meantime I'm posting the story here.

Copyright 2003 Phillip Culliton


"Team 2, go"

Recruit Private John Hash stood inside the cavernous, quivering belly of the massive Chinook and watched as the three members of the group's rifle team fast-roped to the rooftop below. They spread quickly, covering the major ingress and egress points. A moment later, their leader, a sergeant, turned to the chopper and gave a thumbs-up.

The crew chief nodded, then turned to Hash. "Good luck, son," he shouted over the thumping of the bird's prop wash. "Team 3, go"

The rearguard rifleman crouching next to Hash slapped him on the shoulder and dove for the rope, sliding quickly to the rooftop and racing to cover a position marked off by the group's point team, which had gone in thirty seconds earlier. Hash, for his part, edged to the door. He had been afraid that he'd freeze, that his courage would fail him when he reached the door, but as he grabbed the thick nylon rope and jumped, he realized that all he felt was numb.

Moving too quickly to catch himself, his legs smashed into the roof of the building with a sudden jarring thud and twin jolts of pain, his weapon and various bits of loose equipment spilling onto the ground. As he gathered up his fallen carbine and gear, his knee joints moaned at the betrayal, and he reminded himself to go easy on them. He shook them out before joining his fellow Team 3 member against the south edge of the roof.

Above them, the 'Nook lifted away gracelessly, spraying redirected rain to every side, heading for a low holding pattern over a nearby riverbed. Hash watched it go, thankful for the reduction in noise. After twelve hours in the helicopter, he had become aware that his ears were compensating for the constant heavy thwop-thwop by shutting themselves down, and it felt good to hear again -- although there wasn't much to hear. He glanced down into the empty street with an involuntary shudder.

Hoping to be told what to do, or perhaps simply seeking some form of companionship, Hash turned to his fellow, a Private First Class named Kellman. Kellman had his H&K G34 at his shoulder and by all appearances was scanning the street below through the rifle's low-light thermal sight. Without turning away from this task, Kellman spoke. "Hash, you gotta watch yourself with the fast-ropes. Gonna break an ankle one of these times, and then we'll be short. Got it?"

Hash nodded, realized that Kellman couldn't see him, and spluttered an apology. Kellman shrugged under the weight of his combat gear. "No problem. It happens. You'll get used to it. Just don't leave me without a partner, okay?"

A muffled shout of "Clear! Team leads up" from the center of rooftop was followed immediately by Kellman, again without moving from his rifle's sight, slapping Hash on the arm. "Forget it. Get over to the center of the rooftop and see what Sarge wants." He then crouched lower behind the slim brick parapet of the roofing, face grim in the grey-white light of the stormy sky.

Hash turned and ran, fat drops of rain splashing down on his face. He hadn't realized just how small the rooftop was, having seen it in its entirety only from above until, in the murk and mist, he ran straight into the group leader, Sergeant Peters, who was crouched in the center of the rooftop with the leader of the point team, Corporal Evans.

Peters whipped around like a snake, shoving Hash backwards onto his ass. "Jesus! Watch it, Recruit," he whispered reproachfully. Then he turned back to Evans, gesturing for Hash to move to a better spot. "Recruit, you let Kellman know what I say here, okay?" He glanced at Hash to make sure he was listening.

Hash nodded, moving around the two men until they were both half-facing him.

"All right then, here's the deal. We're moving on an old Army base, see if we can take it away from the aliens." He glanced at Hash again. "Actually, I'm sorry to have you along, Recruit. I don't usually like to bring new folks on missions like this." He paused, glancing up at the swollen sky. "We were short, though, so..." Peters stopped. "Just stay tight with Kellman, got it?"

Hash nodded again.

"Good. So, we make an end-run for the base from here. As always we stay OUT of the buildings. You see your fucking GRANDMOTHER inside that building, calling for help, you stay the hell away, you got it?" Hash and Evans nodded. "Okay, so we swing down the fire escape. Then we turn north, movement SOP, and head for the gates. The electricity's off, so we'll have to see about getting in another way. My team will cover yours while your point team is pulling that off, okay, Corporal?"

Evans nodded, making a note on his wrist computer. Peters turned to Hash. "Recruit, you and Kellman will follow SOP all the way in, okay? Ten meters back. Be ready with your gear ... we may need a medic sooner than we'd all hope." Hash nodded, and Peters continued. "I'll re-brief when we reach the entrance. Let's go."

Evans grunted, unslung his MP5, and trotted to the fire escape. Peters stood and pulled back the charging handle of his M4. "Good luck," he said, almost dismissively, and turned to rally up his team.

Hash ran back to Kellman's position at the southern edge of the rooftop -- he'd gotten his bearings back -- and quickly told Kellman what was what, slurring some of his words in his haste to get it out. Kellman, for his own part, was very calm.

"Okay, just stay close. If something pops out at us, I want you to move for cover and look for a good spot to hit it from if it's shooting. If it's not shooting, just start putting out rounds, okay?" Hash nodded. "Good. And be sure to stay AWAY from the walls unless we're cornering, okay? You'll be dead quicker than shit. The aliens usually only move in small groups, but walls become killing zones if things really go to hell. Okay?"

Hash nodded again, and with the certainty and clarity of one who sincerely does not know, in the bottom of their soul, whether or not they will screw up, added, "Can do."

"Good to hear you talking, Recruit. Let's go."

Kellman was up in a flash and running. In five bounds he was across the rooftop, Hash struggling to keep up, racing down the fire escape.

"As you can probably imagine," Kellman shouted over his shoulder, "fire escapes are death-traps -- but like Sarge said, stay OUT of the buildings. Aliens OWN 'em."

Hash wondered briefly how Kellman could possibly have known what Peters had said, then reflected that Kellman had probably heard that same speech, only slightly modified, several times before. Which made Hash wonder how many times Kellman had been out.

"Three," Kellman shouted, again over his shoulder, as he reached the pavement, then sprinted for his next partial cover position. "Normally, you're a private until your fourth or fifth op, but I got lucky last time out. My partner got fried by a plasma launcher while she was trying to open a door. I had to do a bunch of shit on my own, got a promotion for it."

They were crouched now behind the still-smoldering wreckage of a car that had been set alight weeks before during the first fighting of the alien invasion. Kellman had his weapon up, covering the advance of the point team. He kept talking. "Yeah, she was a recruit just like you, got burned all to shit. They brought her home in a baggie, lemme tellya. Fuck," he paused, glancing up the street at the hand signals of the leading group members, "Displace, let's go."

Then they were up and running again, past the spread-out fire positions of the rifle team on either side of the street, to the cover of an overturned delivery truck. "Cover left," Kellman grunted, checking the grenades on his harness as he spoke. "Gotta watch out for those plasma launchers. Unless you get a head-shot, this armor will keep most rounds from penetrating, but the plasma rounds just burn right through it -- they hit all of you, your skin, your hair, then they melt inward from there. Ain't pretty. Fuck... displace."

They leapt out from behind the smashed truck just as the rear-most member of the rifle team sprinted by. "Point taking fire, Kellman," he shouted, "Sarge says go left."

"Wilco. Follow me, Hash, and stay quiet." Kellman turned on a dime, dashing for the alley to their left. Upon reaching the cover of a dumpster just a few feet inside the alleyway, Kellman turned and indicated the alley ahead with his helmet. "Alien cornering into the alley. Five meters. Pistol, probably can't reach us too well with it. I'll engage first, you pop out and put a burst into 'im AS SOON as I fire." He paused, listening. Then he leaned around the edge of the dumpster, firing a single shot.

As he leaned out, Hash was already coming up and leaning out as well. He acquired his target, a gray-skinned creature about six feet in height, and fired a wild burst in its general direction, then ducked back behind the dumpster.

Kellman leaned out again to check and was rewarded with a clang against the side of the metal dumpster just inches in front of his face. "Jesus. All right, didn't get him. He's moved to cover by now, I can't see him. Leave him to me. Go let Sarge know he's not getting cover on the side until we clear out the flank."

Hash nodded and surged to his feet, pistol rounds from the gray-skinned thing slapping the wall on his right. He turned as Kellman fired a burst down the alley, then re-oriented and ran out into the street. As he turned the corner and began to cover ground, Hash became vaguely aware of snapping noises around him and, momentarily confused, he dove for the pavement. A hand smacked down on the back of his harness, jerking him behind a small concrete art installation that sat half-out of its base in the center of the sidewalk.

"The fuck are you doing up here, Recruit? Where's Kellman?"

"Kellman sent me up here --"

"Recruit! Get your fucking head out of the pavement! Move between covered or concealed positions. Shit, last thing I want to be doing is dragging your wounded ass back to the LZ."

Hash nodded fervently, then tried to repeat Kellman's message, trying desperately at the same time to remove his face from the slab of sidewalk it was currently attached to.

The voice didn't wait for him to finish. "Don't tell me, Recruit. Sarge is eight or ten meters up, around the corner to the left. Watch your ass. We've got three or four of the fuckers across the way, laying down fire."

Hash nodded again, almost to himself, then pulled himself up to a crouch and glanced at the person that had been shouting at him. Evans. But why was the point team leader behind the rifle team... ?

Evans, once again, did not wait for him to finish. "Just fucking GO, Recruit"

Hash stumbled to his feet and ran for the corner, stopping to cover for a moment behind a garbage can. He heard, through the rain, Evans behind him, chastising him, in no uncertain terms on his choice of cover, in between firing aimed bursts to suppress the alien gunners. Ahead, Hash could hear the low flat cracks of the group's M4s, followed by a burst of deeper fire, maybe the rifle team's G34.

He leaned out to check his next move, bullets smacking around his position and burying themselves in his cover, which he realized belatedly was probably just as bad as Evans' curses made it out to be. He fired an inconclusive burst at the alien positions around the right side of the can, then jumped out on the left, running the last meters to the corner, where a public transportation bench provided some concealment, if not cover.

Peters was crouched there, back against the western wall of the corner, his carbine leaned across his lap, empty magazine in hand. To the right, one of the rifle team members was leaning against the shattered chassis of a late-model sedan, pouring a torrent of fire down the street. The inaccurate fire from the alien gunners catty-corner seemed to be of little consequence to the rifleman as he fired, checked his target, and fired again, repeating the seemingly endless pattern again and again.

"Got something you need to tell me, Recruit, or are you just deserting your position, and want me to shoot you personally?" Peters finished reloading his carbine and flicked off the safety, looking up at Hash.

Hash shook his head. "Kellman told me to tell you that we can't move around the flank until we can clear it. Got aliens up there at close range."

Peters considered this for a moment, chewing his upper lip before finally nodding. He spoke quickly. "Shit. Okay... I'll head back with you. We'll see if we can clear up that flank. We *really* gotta get the wireless comms servers back on-line on the Chinook. Wish I'd known this about thirty seconds ago." He shrugged and stretched his shoulders. "Whatever. Let's go."

With that, and with seemingly no regard for the firing across the way, Peters jumped to his feet and rounded the bend. As Hash stood to follow him, he felt something hit him in the small of his back, throwing him against the wall, his armor clattering violently. There wasn't any immediate pain, and Hash's training overrode his desire to reach behind him and check, but Hash knew he'd been hit. Taking an instant to catch his breath and overcome his panic, he stood again, this time firing a burst towards the aliens, and jerked himself around the corner. As he caught up with Peters, he noted that Peters' armor had also received some fresh dings.

Evans nodded as the two raced past him, then resumed firing at the cluster of aliens across the way.

Reaching the alley, Peters sliced the corner and dropped down behind Kellman, who was still crouched there in the exact same spot where Hash had left him. Hash realized that, though it had seemed like quite a long time to him, he had probably left Kellman's side less than a minute before. He made a mental note to keep a closer eye on the amount of...

Peters' voice, thick with dust and muted by the rain, jarred him back to reality. "Recruit, get your fuckin' head out of the clouds. We need to see if the enemy's displaced yet. Jump up and take a look."

Almost without thinking, Hash surged to his feet, weapon at his shoulder. He looked left, then right, then dropped back down. "Clear."

Peters patted his helmet. "Good. Kellman, take Hash and move through your originally planned route. Got it?"

Kellman nodded, then jumped to his feet, scrambling around the dumpster and quickly checking the next corner. "Hash, up"

Hash ran forward now, "sliced the pie" at the corner, and came face to face with the grey thing that had been shooting at them just a minute before. Seeing it close up, was, to say the least, a shock. Its ghostly grey skin, elongated face and the bony crested mantle protruding from its back made it look like the creation of some sadly misguided religious artist. Its eyes, silver ellipsoids, flickered in a moment of panic.

"Shit" Hash cried, jerking the trigger on his weapon and trying, vaguely, to dance out of the way of the flashes of the alien's answering pistol. A split-second later, something slammed into his head, knocking him to the ground, his cheek coming down a half an inch from a wickedly curved piece of broken glass, his body impacting on a variety of junk of varying degrees of hardness. Still struggling to turn his body, Hash felt, for the first time, just how BIG the raindrops were. A flash burst in front of his eyes.

Suddenly, someone was hauling him to his feet. "Jesus, Recruit, grenade possibly hostile corners before you take them. That fucker almost got you."

Hash tried to reply, but his words came out low and slurry. The person holding him pushed him, gently, against the wall. "What was that, Recruit?"

"Sorry, didn't see... just..."

Peters. "Fine, okay, whatever. We've got too much shit to do to worry about apologizing, okay? Just don't get yourself killed."

Hash nodded. Peters fired another burst into the inert grey form on the wet pavement, then ran back the way he'd come.

Kellman rounded the corner, looking pissed. "Fuck, man, you think I want another goddamned promotion? I tell you not to get yourself killed, and what do you do? Shit." Kellman glanced with disgust at the dead alien. "Ugly fuckers. And this one almost killed you." He shook his head. "Watch your ass, okay? Jesus." Then he was moving, running through the rain.

Hash followed.

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