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Writer, soldier, thinker, and science fiction lover. I just can't seem to find a way to divide my adventurous self of constant outdoor activity and exercise from my nerdy self playing games and going to conventions. So why not just be both?

 I am a young professional living out of Tallahassee, Florida for the past five years. I have been on a deployment with the United States Army and continue to work outside of my other occupations to better myself mentally and physically. My passion for writing is driven by my passion for everything I find entertaining in life, and of course by my friends and family.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A New Kind of War (The Jackal)

 Randal squirmed on the ground. Grunts of pain came and went through the icy air. A momentary amazement passed over him. Despite the pain and fear, Randal never once looked back at him, doing so would have given away his position and made him a target.
 Randal fluttered his legs, his left leg like a fish out of water as his right fought to get traction. He was trying to push himself out of the open. Clark held his breath for the death shot. It never came. He finally dared to move. He didn't know what else to do. Any decision was better than no decision.
 Clark popped up to a knee. Exposing himself. He scanned the building with his rifle. He saw nothing. Something was going to happen. His heart pounded. His sight narrowed. Still he saw nothing. Nothing came. His breath quickened. How long would it take for the sniper to acquire and kill him? From what he'd seen, he should be dead already. Nothing. He went back down, his ears ringing with blood pressure.
 He heard his radio squelch. He responded.
 "Last calling station, this is Dog 6, say last."
 "Dog 6 this is Hound 6, what is your situation?"
 "I am pinned out by sniper fire. One causality, one KIA."  He realized then that he never reported the fact he made contact with Birdman.
 "I saw the engagement from satellite. The sniper has relocated, he is no longer in your area."
 "Hound 6 can you be sure there are no other shooters in the area."
 "Negative Dog 6, you need to move, we are tracking multiple hostiles converging on your location."
 "Hound 6, advise relocation."
 "Three hundred meters around the west wing you will find the housing connexes, contact back once you've relocated. Hound 6 out."
 Clark had to breath hard. The adrenaline dump hit him and he was suddenly very numb from cold. He thought about it too much and knew he had to move. Regardless of what was told, he popped up, slightly off center from where he had been, scanning with his rifle. Randal had moved several feet. Clark sprinted to him. His gloved hands yanked at Randal's gear as he slid onto him. Randal yelped in pain.
 Clark didn't spend time looking at the wound as he tried to get Randal up on to his back. He'd fireman carry him, but he knew the round had struck deep in the hip area. He wouldn't be walking.
 "F-uck you." Randal spewed in pain through his gritting teeth.
 "Yeah, fuck us buddy." Clark had his right arm under and around Randal's right leg. It was a horrible position to be carried it, but it was the only option now. He was sure as he ran past the helicopter, towards the west wing of the facility he'd get clipped by a shooter, that a round was come flying out tearing through his flesh and bone. But the shot never came.
 He huffed, heavy thick breathes came from him in the rigid brisk air. He rounded the corner of the west wing and saw the stretch of connexes the General had referred to. There were four rows, each row contained several hundred of the containerized housing units which were built back to back on each other to utilize the full length of the connex container. On the far right, in the distance, along the heated walk way moved a four man fire team of the goggled soldiers.
 Clark began to move down the walk way, he could get to the other row before the fire team converged on the west wing. Clark turned and began to huff his way down between rows three and four, or that's how he rationalized it in his mind.
 He thought he was growing warmer from moving with the added weight of Randal, and a wet chill dripped down along his back. The realization that he was soaking up Randal's blood had to be pushed away.
 "Can this ride get any rougher?" Randal spat at him.
 "I'm getting you into one of these things."
 "T-that'd be smart." Randal went limp, and then jerked back to Clark's relief.
 Clark tried a unit on his left, the door was stuck locked. He could try and break in, and leave himself exposed longer while making noise. He tried another, damn it, locked. He went further down, locked, locked, locked again. Motherfucker, one of you don't lock your door and I know it. Locked, and once again, wait no, unlocked. The door opened, Clark swung his rifle around widely in the short room with his left hand. No one was inside. He leaned over, and Randal slid off his back with a gritted groan.
 Clark shut the door behind him, and checked outside the window on the door through the paper blinds. He saw nothing.
 Turning back, the heavy repugnant aroma of coppery blood had already engulfed the room. Randal was quite, his breath shallow and his eyes were fluttering.
 "I got to see what we're working with here." Clark pulled a knife off his kit and began to cut away the pants and undergarments around Randal's wound. He pulled back the clothing, exposing the bloody flesh to the warmth of the heated container. The wound was not in the leg, but higher, where the hip met the leg. Blood came out steadily, heavy bright crimson.
 Clark touched Randal's hip to steady him.
 "Argh! Don't." Heavy labored breathes came out Randal. Clark had yanked his hand away faster than a child does to a burning stove.
 Clark had only touched Randal momentarily, but had felt that the hip and probably the femur were shattered on his left side.
 Randal's breath was labored, but shallow again.
 "That was too fast." Randal said low in a wet voice that smacked the warm air. Clark stared at him dazed, thinking at first he meant how fast they got to the container, but that's now what he meant. It was fast to Clark, the shots from the shooter came fast, precise, especially for the distance between the two targets. It was almost super human, but he knew in his clear mind things came off that way with adrenaline going, with fear, with getting your ass kicked. "It's warm here."
 "Better than in the snow." But then Clark saw the drooping eye lids heavy with the burden of life.
 "It doesn't hurt." Clark had put his hand behind Randal's head in time to feel the limpness as if he'd fallen asleep. Clark sank down to his knees, his forehead pressing against Randal's arm, his face pushed into the cheap fabric covering the simple stranger's bed.
 He heard his radio clicking, someone trying to raise him, and he ignored it. He swallowed hard, a hard try lump slithering down his throat. His nose began to leak, he felt his eyes watering. He mumbled an apology. An apology for his continued failure. For his lack of resistance. For the entire ordeal.
 The radio clicked again.
 It boiled inside of him. He pulled up with a ferocity which had no target. He keyed the radio and with no discipline called back.
 "Dog 6, report."
 "Causality is KIA, completely mission ineffective." He almost outed the General at that moment but just let go of the key.
 "Negative Dog 6, you are trained to operate independently and will do so until the main force arrives." Clark's mouth hung open. Did he hear it correctly? Did he not understand the reality of his situation? He was cut off, with his entire team wiped out. This wasn't some training exercise or problem solving situation. Even more insulting was the General maintained his flat monotone voice, there was no hesitation, or inflection. Like he was reading a gaddamn script.
 "Hound 6, I say again, my remaining operators were wiped out by..." He refrained from swearing, "... sniper fire." There was a longer pause, just static after his transmission.
 "Captain, I understand your situation, your mission has not changed. Said sniper is believed to be a renowned sniper from Chechnya, the Soviets nicknamed him The Jackal." There was a drawl, the first he had heard. "We have satellite visual, he is moving in on your position. Captain, aside from being a well known sniper, the Jackal operates as an officer for the SoA. Captain you will need to eliminate this threat and HVT before you can continue your mission." Clark waited. That was the end of the transmission. He wouldn't mind at least putting a bullet the bastard who claimed Randal and Birdman from him.
 "What's his position?"
 "We are tracking you being in B sector. The sniper is moving along F sector of the billeting, he is unaccompanied. Captain, if there was a time to strike, it's now."
 "Clarify, these sectors, I'm in B, that means the other side if A correct?"
 "Correct, move quickly, our satellite footage is lagging by several seconds to a minute."
 Clark threw aside his remorse and guilt. He forgot about how ridiculous the mission was and suicidal. He would get his opportunity for at least one thing that made sense. Clark checked the chamber on his rifle before bursting out the door, plunging back into the cold. With his head on a pivot scanning for threats and rifle at the low ready, he moved from what was B sector to C sector in a single bound.
 His headset clicked and the General spoke to him.
 "Use caution Captain. This sniper is renown for his abilities. Rumors from Soviets who survived encounters claim he's so good he's able to stop his heart to take a shot." Clark shook his head as he came to a corner and began to pie around the 90 degree corner.  "Of course this is just over excited rumors, but you don't get a reputation like that with lucky shots."  The next side was clear as well, meaning no one opposed him between D and E clear. "Captain, stop."
 Clark took a knee down between two of the containerized units looking down the clearing between D and E.
 "The Jackal is about to round the corner of F now."
 Clark moved his sights to the corner of the container at the end of E. It would be roughly a three hundred meter shot. The weather and suppressor working against him.
 He slowed his breathing.
 A lean dark figure rounded the corner moving low. Clark's sights went slightly higher than center mass. No sooner he squeezed the trigger he a snap from the sniper and a flash. He could feel his eyes widen, his pupils grow, his body tense. He swore he could see the bullet coming right at him. He slid back. The heavy round slammed into the container behind him.
 "Jesus..." Clark blurted. How the hell did he acquire me so quickly? Clark had the drop on him, and they fired at almost the same time.
 "Captain, the sniper is moving, towards the D sector side."
 The bastard was moving in and changing positions at once. He had to do the same. He back tracked and came out on C sector. Moving west in hopes of closing the distance.
 "The Jackal is coming out on your side."
 Clark moved between containers he'd wait for the sniper to move out and then catch him with an angle.
  "Tell me when he's out."
 Clark began to pie the corner he had just taken back out to C sector. Staying away from the cover as much as possible while slicing the corner into smaller manageable pieces.
 He saw the flash first. He ducked back in hearing the heavy round pierce the container behind him. He felt a tugging at his shoulder. He had sliced it perfectly, and just as he saw the first glimpse of the sniper the round had been fired. Jesus how keen are his eyes? That was about a 200 meter shot at a target less than three inches exposed for only a second. He looked at the tugging in his arm. His winter jacket was frayed. The bullet had passed right next to his arm and just about tore the arm off the coat.
 "Captain, the Jackal is prone."
 Clark tore at his jacket, the sleeve came off and he tossed it aside leaving his left arm's BDU under clothing exposed to the elements. He moved swiftly down along D sector to close the gap between him and the Jackal. He went what he thought was about hundred and fifty meters.
 "General where is he?"
 "Still prone, he hasn't moved."
 Clark came back cutting towards C and B sectors. He knew the rough location, that the Jackal was closer to C sector. He knew how he'd do it now.
 Clark didn't stop to breath or pie the corner. He took a long stride out and fired in the rough estimation of where the sniper was. He saw the dark figure to off to the left. The first round missed, slamming into concrete. The sniper was turning. In a blaze it muzzle was towards Clark. Clark squeezed the second round, knowing this would be his last if he missed. The correction was made.
 The Jackal curled up. The rifle dropping between the heated concrete and snow. Spasms of pain caused the Jackal to sputter away. For a moment the thin figure stood up trying to gain his balance. Clark almost fired again but saw the heavy stumble of a death throw. Clark closed the distance. He could see on the dark grey uniform where two blossoms of red velvet sprung.
 His shot from earlier had landed the mark. And his third shot had sank into the Jackal's shoulder.
 The Jackal stumbled back, the pain from both old wound and fresh seizing him. He fell back onto his ass.
 Clark put himself between the Jackal and fallen sniper rifle. The Jackal stopped struggling, shivering in pain, looked up at him through the balaclava. Clark centered his rifle on the Jackal's face, but in the soft light but jaded eyes he didn't see the anger returned. He didn't see fear. He only saw acceptance.
 The Jackal kept one hand wrapped around his abdomen where the most blood pooled from an old wound. The shoulder wound steamed but was left unattended as the Jackal moved to remove his mask.
 Clark tensed, his finger nearly involuntarily squeezing the trigger.
 A soft narrow chin was first exposed by the slow removal of the mask. Plush lips, and a curved nose, the first strands of short choppy blonde hair came until the face was fully exposed.
 Clark lowered his sights off of her face and but kept the rifle trained on her. Her face quivered in pain, and the a pale ghost of a former face stared back up at him.   
 "You look, just, like, him."
 A soft accented voice slipped through the pain, and before Clark could respond, the Jackal was no more.

 A snow flurry moved in as Clark stared down at the body of the former sniper. A twinge of relief washed over him. The realization that the sniper had still performed amazing with a bullet lodged in her guts made him consider, if briefly, how it would have ended had he not fired when she first rounded the corner at E sector.
 Clark began heading for the center research portion of the facility. He ducked in between two containers and keyed in his radio.
 "Hound 6, target neutralized."
 "I saw, impressive work. Did you get anything from her?" Clark keyed back a to respond but said nothing. He stared down at the ground, breathing heavily before letting go of the key. "Captain are you alright?"
 "Yes, I, she, she said I look like him, I didn't get anything from her."
 "She likely was delirious in her last moments. Captain, you stopped a murder to a ruthless terrorist organization. The Jackal, as she was known, was targeted by several Soviet special police agencies and special forces groups. The age old tension between Chechnya and Russia was suspected to be her motivation to fight with the insurgents across the land."
 "You sound as if that's not the answer."
 "Obviously she joined the Son's of Arms, they have never been known to have a large presence in the brewing conflict in Chechnya."
 "Then why was she here?"
 "We'll never know for sure now. But your mission remains. You must find Gregory Joseph. It appears you're heading to the research wing first. The doors are magnetically sealed, you'll need to find another way in."
 "General, I need to know more about what I'm facing here. Aside from the SoA, who is this unit here? Their gear looks American, but it is nothing I have seen."
 "Like you, they are the next generation of thinking towards special forces. They are specifically here for equipment and advanced experimental weapon testing. They then use this gear in the field in covert operations. The weapons you see them carrying in is based off a German assault rifle that failed due to NATO standards. It fires a case-less projectile electronically. It seems they used the armory to outfit themselves with them when they took over."
 "I thought there was only two groups of ten in the Hound Unit."
 "In the Hound Unit yes, but a split in military thinking created this unit, as of yet they have no official designation. They specialize in destabilization of regions through direct action, as opposed to your training of building and creating a local resistance force within a population."
 "The two mentalities from Vietnam never figured out who was right then, huh?"
 "Doesn't seem so. Back to your mission, Captain. Hound 6 out."
 Clark sank onto his knee. All his training, and even all his years of experience had not prepared him to fully conduct an operation alone. Yes, they were trained to operate as individuals, something learned from centuries of espionage, all put to a practical application on the modern battlefield. But it hadn't prepared him to lose his whole team in a single gap of only a few hours.
 He pressed back up. No one quits.  He remembered his instructors at selection saying. If you quit, you stop fighting, if you stop fighting, you're dead and we don't train the dead. He wasn't dead, far from it. He switched out his magazine for a fresh one before stepping back out towards the objective.
 As Clark moved towards the research wing, of all the burdens and troubles in the world that faced him, all that floated through his mind was, the General has an unusal monotone voice on the radio.  

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