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Could Be Worse

Robert Van DusenDec 7, 2019, 12:06:22 PM

Hello, all you awesome people of Internetland! I wrote a little short story to celebrate my channel reaching 650 subs. I guess it also serves as a kind of teaser...thing...for the quasi-mysterious Secret Project #2 and Secret Project #3 that I've been hinting at for about a month or so. It's set in the same world as the Secret Projects anyway...
Enjoy and if, you're interested, you can check me out on SubscribeStar here. Or if you're feeling generous you can drop a buck in the till via PayPal here. Thanks!
Anyway, enough with the boring admin stuff! On with the show!


Could Be Worse

Specialist Harry Frakes scratched at the mosquito bite on the back of his neck and stared into the night ahead as if he could pierce the darkness through will alone. They had a pair of NVGs though batteries were getting hard to come by. The tall gangling young man scratched again at the red welt, an irritated grimace spreading across his face. Could be worse. Frakes tried to tell himself. Quinn over in second squad wiped his ass with poison ivy yesterday...which, when compared with a few mosquito bites, was much worse. Slightly more pleased, the grimace faded a bit but he still kept scratching the damn bug bites. The sun had finally decided to go down which was pretty nice as well. It had been pretty goddamn hot over the last few days thought it was relatively cool in the fighting position he and Daniels occupied but they were still pretty snug in their little hole in the ground.

Alpha Company, 54th Military Police had been on their way to Fort Drum thanks to the emergency and had made it all of ten miles from the armory before hitting traffic. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seemed like they were trying to get...somewhere... It had been a fuckin' nightmare of honking horns and short tempers. Long story short, Captain Palmer ordered them to get off I-90, try to find a way around and then the forty odd soldiers dug in at some shit campground in the sticks someplace. The civilians already there greeted them like something out of the old news reels Frakes remembered from History class of Allied troops liberating towns in World War Two. Of course most of the company's Humvees and Duce and a Halfs were practically running on fumes so it looked like they were pretty much stuck for the time being. Hell, they were pretty low on just about everything except water thanks to the RV hookups and the faucets on the office building.

Frakes stretched as much as he could in the rectangular trench. The roof was only a few inches above his head so it was a little cramped for him. Though it could be worse. The fighting position had to be armpit deep to the tallest man, which was him, but at least he could see out of it. Daniels was barely five foot three so she had to stand on a tree stump when it came time for her turn to stand watch. Naturally, Army logic being what it was, Daniels was also the squad's SAW gunner so the smallest person also had to tote around the twenty two pound machine gun never mind the spare barrel and extra two hundred round ammunition belt.

Daniels returned, sitting on the edge of the fighting position and sliding down into the hole. She turned and picked up a green ammo can containing a spare two hundred round belt for her SAW. “Hey.” the woman tapped Frakes on the arm with a vinyl bag as she arranged the ammo can on the floor of the fighting position. “I miss anything?”

Frakes took the MRE, sparing a glance at the woman as she was bent over a brief look of disappointment flitting across his face. It was too dark to get too much of a look. “Nah. Nothin'.” he grumbled as he tore open the ration packet and dumped out its contents on the dirt in front of the position. The man watched the woman as she broke open her own dinner. The pair of them ate in silence for a little while then Frakes glanced across the position. “Why haven't we ever hooked up?” he mused aloud with a playful hint of a grin. Daniels was not that bad looking, after all. He liked brunettes and she managed to look pretty good even in BDUs and body armor.

“Because I have good taste and Josh would kick your head in.” Daniels quipped, flashing a small smile at the man as she scraped the last bits of fruit cocktail out of the foil packet in her hands. The pair exchanged a puzzled glance in the dark when a quiet sound reached them from the civilians' tents. It took a moment or two for Daniels to place it. Somebody was playing Stand By Me on a guitar, their voice barely carrying over the distance between the encampment and their position. She snorted and shook her head.

A different sound reached them from the darkness. “The fuck is that?” Frakes furrowed his brow as he lifted the NVGs hanging from the 550 cord around his neck and turned them on. The world turned shades of green and black as he turned his head, the concertina wire set up about fifty meters down the hill from them came into view. Daniels looked at the man then went to the SAW and took up a firing position. He reached for his own M16 as he tried to figure out where that strange groaning noise was coming from.

A few people wandered into the edge of the NVG's field of view. Then a few more. Frakes dropped the NVGs and snatched up his rifle, sparing a glance at Daniels as a hollow pop sent a trail of red gold sparks into the air behind them. The parachute flare burst a couple hundred feet off the ground flooding the area with flickering ruddy light as it floated back to earth. “...oh holy fuck...” Frakes whispered as the flickering reddish light fell upon the heads and shoulders of hundreds of slouching forms shambling toward them. A handful of sporadic gunshots rang out from somewhere and then the very air around them seemed to vibrate as all of the soldiers opened up, the red tracers flitting through the night like laser beams in a low budget Sci Fi movie.

Daniels' eyes went wide as she sent a short burst of 5.56mm toward the figures, the phosphorus on the back of the bullets skipping off into the night. Tiny flames sprang up lapping at the debris on the forest floor here and there. The woman shifted and fired, shifted and fired, shifted and fired, interlocking her field of fire with the other machine gun positions and the fifty cals mounted on the Humvees behind them. Soon the heavy thunder of the crew served weapons started to peter out as the gunners ate up their supply of ammunition...and still the groaning, fetid crowd kept coming. She lifted her cheek from the SAW's buttstock and glanced over at Frakes, her dark eyes growing wild with a growing panic.

The men and women reached the concertina wire seemingly unmindful of the razor sharp wire that shredded their clothes and skin, their bodies jerking with the impacts of the bullets as they kept right on coming. Daniels' jaw dropped when she realized that she had been trying to fire an empty machine gun and turned, reaching for the ammo can. “Aw shit...aw shit...” Frakes panted when he glanced over at Daniels who was struggling with reloading the machine gun. The people...things...were already dragging the concertina wire toward them eerily back lit by the growing flames behind them as they slouched through the withering fusillade.

Panic ran like a wave through the civilians, people screamed as they ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Horror washed over him when a fresh flare revealed a family of four complete with small children in tow run past him on the right and slap into the horde of creatures. Frakes flipped his weapon's selector lever to three round burst and fired his magazine dry at the screaming pile as the things tore at them. He reached out and grabbed the collar of Daniels' body armor. “C'mon! We gotta fall back!” Frakes roared in her ear and shoved her toward the Humvees.

Bullets whizzed past their heads as the pair withdrew, one firing while the other fell back and switching off, leapfrogging their way back to the vehicles. What the fuck...where did they come from? Daniels wondered as she tried to dig the last belt of ammunition from the carrier on her LBE. Goddamnit...fuck fuck FUCK! Her hands shook like leaves in a hurricane as she knelt in the grass trying to get the SAW reloaded. The plastic container slipped out of her grasp and fell to the grass and she fumbled after it. Something struck her shoulder hard enough to knock Daniels to the trampled earth and, for a confused crazed moment, she thought someone had hit her with a sledgehammer. Her eyes went wide when her probing fingers discovered a warm dampness under her right arm.

I've been shot. Somebody fuckin' shot me. Daniels realized, shock numbing the sensation of the wound though she was aware of a tremendous amount of blood welling inside her body armor. No pain...not yet...though it felt like she was trying to get to her feet on a trampoline after a half dozen beers when Daniels tried to get to her knees. She almost vomited when Frakes appeared and hauled her roughly to her feet, throwing her uninjured arm over his neck and half dragging, half carrying her closer to the circle of vehicles at the top of the hill.

Frakes looked frantically over his shoulder as they reached the nearest Humvee and carefully lowered Daniels to the ground. It almost seemed like they had somehow wandered into some medieval painting of Hell thanks to the yellow red light from the burning trees and smoke filling the air. A handful of men and a teenage girl were tearing at someone on the ground. A crowd of smoking forms surrounded a Humvee pounding on it with their fists. He drew his nine millimeter from its holster on his pistol belt and looked down at the woman leaning against the Humvee tire. The gun bucked in his hand. “Could be worse...” Frakes muttered under his breath, swallowing bile as he watched the toe of Daniels' boot twitching spasmodically.

Perhaps a dozen or so people slouched toward him from all sides. Frakes squeezed his eyes shut and jammed the barrel under his chin.

Could be worse...