Author : Roi R. Czechvala

It was just a routine patrol. Twelve men. Whitcomb was on point; I was bringing up the rear. He had just forded a narrow stream when they hit us. Claymores blew hell out of the main body. Seven died instantly. There was no mistaking that. When chunks of bodies fly, somebody wasn’t going home.

A couple of guys returned fire, shooting blindly into the jungle, the others were too stunned to move. Whitcomb splashed back across the creek. He emptied mags and reloaded as fast as possible; shooting randomly.

Green tracers ripped out of the dense brush. One tore through Mock’s head, still burning bright when it slammed into a tree behind him. Damnit, we were from the same home town. Now, suddenly, he was face down in the muck. Dead. It could have been me.

I pumped my 203 as fast as I could feed shells into the breech, lobbing grenades everywhere. I could hear the muffled “crump” of their explosions. They did little damage. Their blasts were absorbed by the thick foliage and mud.

I was protected from the hail of bullets by the roots of a tree I had fallen behind. The barrage was relentless. I winced at the screams of rage and pain as the guys fought back, furiously spraying the jungle; chucking frags everywhere. All I could do was pop up and fire a burst wherever I saw a muzzle flash. I jumped up and squeezed off a short burst. A searing pain ripped through my arm. I fell back into my hole, cowering like a frightened rabbit.

The firefight seemed to last for hours, but it had been only minutes from the first blast to the final round that whizzed past. I could hear the muffled voices of gooks in the forest. I eased up just enough to see them slowly emerge from the mist. I watched the bastards viscously stabbing the bodies of my friends to make sure they were dead.

One started yelling in that tinker toy language of theirs, motioning the others to Walker’s body. They prodded him, then were silent for a moment. A fierce argument broke out and they beat feet back into the undergrowth. I waited for hours before leaving my sanctuary. I wanted to be sure the slopes were gone. I had to collect the dog tags, the little metal tokens that proved my friends had once lived.

I couldn’t see very well in the growing gloom, but I finally managed to make out a blood smeared piece of aluminum on what had been Walker’s chest. I tried to pick it up, but it wouldn’t budge. What the hell? I grabbed and pulled…his body moved with it. It was a rib. I fell back in horror and stumbled over Mock’s body. The back of his skull was a twisted wreckage of metal and wire. I turned my head to vomit. I saw a thick silvery rod poking out of Shavers leg where a femur should have been. What the hell was going on?

Horrified, I crashed through the brush. Tripping over an exposed root, I was sent sprawling. I pushed myself up, got to my feet. I glanced down at my forearm where the bullet had grazed me, the glint of metal caught my eye. Confusion left me, and was replaced with a wave of realization.

I chambered a grenade in my 203, and slapped in a fresh mag. I headed back to the fire base. Somebody had some explaining to do.


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