By Robert Corrado
The two men crouched in the foxhole in silence until the younger trooper drew a blade and began loudly fitting it to the end of his assault rifle. The other trooper looked at him with a mixture of embarrassment and incredulity.
“Man, what do you think you are doing with that knife?!”
The younger man looked up from his project at the soldier addressing him, sporting an incredulous look of his own he opened his mouth to speak before being interrupted.
“I know exactly what you are doing so don’t even bother. You think that toothpick attached to the end of your rifle is going to save your ass if the sissies bushwhack this position?”
The younger man looked back down at his rifle and the bayonet laid beside it on the foxhole’s earthen floor. He looked back at the older soldier and quietly shrugged.
“Yeah, you don’t know do you?”
He looked at the ceiling of the foxhole and shook his head as he spoke.
“I can’t believe I keep pulling perimeter watch with the damn rabbits. How long you been in the infantry kid?”
The younger soldier answered immediately.
“Two months! Just got transferred from CampLacerta.”
The older soldier chuckled to himself, and began shaking his head again.
“So they send me a fresh off mama’s tit rabbit to help keep the platoon cozy tonight. You just got here from boot? That means you ain’t even been in the infantry yet, today is your first day.”
The younger man frowned, looked away, and then back to his weapon.
“Alright, I guess I better show you some tricks of the trade so we don’t get our butts blown off tonight. You just keep your mouth shut and listen up, you can do that at least.”
The younger man looked back at the older intently. The older man hefted his assault rifle, holding it in one hand by the forward grip and resting the stock on the front of his thigh.
“You may have heard of this in boot but here is a refresher course. This is the Vegan Arms VLT-29 Assault Rifle. We call her ‘Velvet’ for short. I am sure you know the basics of how it works but there are some tricks too.”
The younger man interrupted the soldier speaking with a question of his own.
“Why do you call it the velvet?”
The older man nodded in frustration before speaking again.
“I told you just to listen, I was getting to that part. One reason we call it the velvet is the VLT prefix but more importantly we call it the velvet because its smooth.”
“What do you mean smooth?”
“The velvet has a high rate of fire and due to its design, very low recoil. So it shoots smooth and it shoots fast. She can be temperamental though so you have to watch out.”
“Exactly, velvet don’t like to be dirty you understand? You get any dirt or grime in the chamber and show’s over you got a jam and by the time you got it cleared some sissy has his hands on your throat. So whatever you do make sure you strip and clean velvet once a day. Got it?”
The younger man nodded but kept his gaze focused on the assault rifle.
“Good. Velvet also doesn’t like being fed too many bullets. You load in a magazine with all 40 rounds in there you are going to jam her up. When you get your mags from supply you always take the first three rounds out of the top of each mag. Keep them handy though in your rucksack cause getting extra rounds from supply is a whole different kind of head ache. You understand all that?”
The older soldier shook his head again in frustration.
“Don’t yes sir me man! Do I look like an officer to you? You’re making me sniper bait kid! Now keep sharp and stay quiet, but don’t fall asleep, and pray we don’t get bushwhacked tonight…”
The two soldiers hefted their rifles and took up their positions in the small foxhole. Two hours passed before one of the men spoke again. It was the younger of the two.
“How long do we have to wait until we know if we are bushwha…”
“Shut the hell up I am picking something up on the motion sensor! It’s faint but its beyond the perimeter about 30 meters out. Grab that thermal scope and check it out at eleven o’clock. Hurry up for god’s sake man!”
Dumbstruck the younger soldier fumbled around the foxhole for a large set of well-worn thermal binoculars and clumsily raised them to his eyes. He slowly swept to his left and back again, his mouth formed a frown of frustration halfway through the second sweep.
The soldier shrugged.
“Not a damn thing man. Must have been an animal.”
“Well if its an animal then he is big and he brought some large friends along. They are moving slow but I am picking them up. Six blips in cover formation and if they arent putting off heat then we have a serious problem.”
The younger soldier’s face began to contort.
“I may be fresh from boot but if you are telling me I don’t know how to read a god damn thermal scope then you can take your years of experience of shove them up your puckered…”
The older soldier dove from his end of the foxhole into his younger comrade, both of them falling in a heap on the earthen floor of the foxhole. Before they had even hit the dirt the foxhole’s well-camoflauged roof and ceiling erupted into flame and splinters as over a hundred red tracer rounds blew through it. The burst propelled most of the burning debris completely off the foxhole. Suddenly the younger soldier was shoved against the wall of the foxhole, he looked up to find his partner speaking loudly in his face, helmet off, blood issuing from a cut above his right eye.
“GRAB THAT HANDSET! SQUEEZE TWICE, THEN WAIT ONE SECOND, THEN TWICE AGAIN! KEEP DOING THAT ITS FOR THE CLAYMORES!”
The older trooper then backed away into a crouch, bringing his rifle up to his shoulder he began to release bursts of fire in the direction of the tracer fire. The younger man was terrified but he did as he was told. Squeeze, squeeze, hold. Squeeze, squeeze, hold. His eyes were transfixed on his partner’s face. Teeth gritted in desperation, and lit only by the muzzle flash of the booming VLT-29 at his chest he looked every bit an angel of death.
At the end of a delayed fuse the claymores erupted, tearing foliage apart and setting it aflame. The tracer rounds had halted in the wake of the blasts. The veteran had ceased firing and crouched low in the foxhole, breathing heavily. He looked over at his younger comrade and shook his head. The younger man spoke through a hoarse, dry throat.
“Why didn’t they scream?”
“Because only live targets scream rabbit…”
The radio squawked at the two men.
“HQ TO DELTA 121. STATUS? OVER.”
The adrenaline had exhausted them. The older of the two hesitantly took the handset and responded.
“Delta 121 to HQ. We’re ok. Over.”
“HQ TO DELTA 121. SATREC CONFIRMS LARGE TROOP MOVEMENT FROM THE NORTH. YOU MAY BE SEEING RECON ELEMENTS SHORTLY. HOLD YOUR POSITION. OVER.”
“Delta 121 to HQ. Roger. Over and out.”
He slowly set the handset back on the receiver, began reloading his rifle, and whispered under his breath.
“Thanks for the advance warning.”
White knuckles gripping his rifle the younger man cut through the silence in the foxhole.
“What are we going to do?!”
Cradling his rifle in one hand, the veteran tossed the young man the motion sensor.
“We are going to follow orders. Use motion to track them, they wont give off any thermal. When you spot them call them out. Tighten that strap on your helmet.”
He frantically tightened the strap and fumbled with the sensor’s dials, then wiping sweat from his brow with the back of his arm he settled into his position. Ten minutes passed in agonizing silence, the jungle, like the men, held its breath in anticipation.
“I’m not picking up anything.” The young soldier whispered. The veteran didn’t respond, eyes keen and focused down the sight rail of his velvet. Another five minutes and the younger soldier’s whisper broke the silence for a second time.
“I’m firing a flare.”
The veteran looked up from his rifle in shock and began shaking his head and whispering.
“You’ll give away our posit…”
The crump of the flare launcher resonated through the dark jungle. At the apex of it’s flight the flare would detonate and burn, bathing the area in its eerie green glow.
It burst high and without an audible sound, dimly lighting the shredded ground in front of the foxhole. As it neared earth the men crouched with mouths open, aghast, they surveyed the monstrosities before them.
They moved with an alien gait, boxy in form with a dull metallic sheen that answered the flare’s glow. Camouflaged in the manner of the jungle they waded through, they advanced ponderously slow.
The veteran mouthed a silent prayer and squeezed the trigger.
The first target’s chest crumpled like tin foil before the onslaught. The attackers reacted quickly and tracer rounds lit up the night as the flare’s life ended. The younger soldier flung a grenade into the hungry darkness and was rewarded with the stark, silhouetted debris of his victims flying in all directions. The veteran yelled to his comrade in the maelstrom.
“TOSS ME A GRENADE!”
His comrade tossed him a grenade and he scooped it up with his right hand as his left continued to fire the assault rifle at the advancing figures. With his teeth he pulled the pin and wound up for the throw. He felt a sharp pain in his hand and his arm felt light. Suddenly, he couldn’t hear anything.
The soldier’s arm from the forearm down, still clutching the primed grenade, was blown against the back wall of the foxhole. The younger soldier didn’t think of what he was doing when he dove onto the severed limb and explosive. The veteran fell back against the side wall of the foxhole, gritting his teeth, he watched as his comrade was lifted a half-foot from the floor by the grenade’s blast. The only thing he could hear now was the handset at his side squawking its orders as his reality exploded. He lifted it to his bloody lips, his voice as calm and cold as ice. His eyes transfixed to his comrade’s mangled form as he spoke.
“Delta 121 to HQ. Over. Position is overrun by hostile forces. I need sat bombardment on my exact coordinates. Repeat, I need sat bombardment on my exact coordinates. Expedite. Over.”
“VEGA BE WITH YOU 121. OVER AND OUT.”
A boxy figure loomed over him like an angry god. He reached for the Viper sidearm in his harness holster before his good arm was gripped by frost-cold steel. It stared at him with a single red eye as it crushed the bones in his wrist to pulp. The pistol pattered innocently on the foxhole’s earthen floor.
The old soldier spoke his last words through a white-toothed grin before fifty yards in all directions were incinerated by a column of fire from the sky.
“Let me teach you rabbits how to call in artillery!”