“Delta 3-3. Form up in the muster area in 5,” The Gunny’s voice boomed out into the converted warehouse that the Marines had been assigned as their temporary housing.
MSgt Donald “Corleone” Lewis looked up from the digital copy of Playboy he had been perusing on his flatscreen reader and groaned. And he was just getting settled in for the night.
As the NCOIC, or Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge, of Delta 3-3, it was Lewis’ job to corral his unruly Marines into a somewhat disciplined-seeming, at least, group of fighting men.
Oh, his men were good at the fighting portion of being a Marine, no doubt about that, or they would have never survived on the front lines this long -- but they were a little lacking on the discipline and whole "respecting the chain of command" part of being in the military.
Kind of like their NCOIC, in fact.
Muttering to himself, Don Corleone stripped off the silk kimono he had been relaxing in and quickly dressed in his Marine-issue BDUs, which he had managed not to get stolen by another unit quite yet.
Just another one of the problems with today’s mostly conscript military -- things seemed to end up being community property a lot more than when Lewis had originally joined up as a wet-behind-the-ears 18 year old back in ’01, after the first September 11th attack.
He’d been fighting in one shithole or another pretty much nonstop since then, in the Middle East till 2015, then to the Asia when North Korea started their shenanigans.
And now this. His RM (Regular Marine) Delta team, scheduled to be rotated back to the States for some R+R, had been re-routed here to Russia instead.
No rest for the wicked, indeed.
“Delta Three-Three, you heard the man, now shag ass. Time’s wastin’ and there’s a war on people.” Lewis grumbled out, wandering though the area where his men had just bunked down, shaking most awake, kicking the cots of a few others, and completely upending those of two of his heaviest sleepers. “C’mon princesses, up and at ‘em. Beauty sleep is a wasted cause on you shifty bastards. Why are you not dressed and out that door yet?”
“Chill, Sarge, no need to go all FMJ on us. We’re movin, we’re movin,” One of the Corporals in 3-3 muttered as he walked by MSgt Lewis, still buttoning his BDU shirt before pulling his plated flak vest over his head.
“Oh, I’m not even close to pulling a Full Metal Jacket on you yet. Besides, we’re the kindler, gentler US Marines, asshole,” came Lewis’ response.
Long before the five minutes was up, Delta 3-3 was assembled in what the soldiers jokingly refer to as the “courtyard,” the open area between two still-standing structures where the units tend to congregate before a mission. All the units on the makeshift “base” were gathered there, awaiting orders.
Finally, one of the main men from Intel arrived with a loudspeaker to tell them why they had been rousted in the pre-dawn.
“Troops, as you may or may not know, we’re under-armed and under-equipped here, and that is a main reason we have been getting out-fought."
“Fact that the area is crawling with five billion Chinks doesn’t hurt, either,” One of the men from an Echo unit added.
Muffled laughter wove its way through the assembled soldiers.
The Intel man flashed an annoyed look in the general direction of Echo.
“Be that as it may, the powers that be have decided that if we can take the airfield at Neryugn, we will be able to start landing reinforcements and some of the freshest tech straight out of the States to help us even out the odds a little bit.”
Nearby Lewis, someone groaned.
Neryugn's airfield had been captured by the Chinese in a major offensive months before, and the place was rumored to be crawling with Chinks, Russians, North Koreans, and mercenary scum from everywhere on the planet.
What the Intel weenie was describing was basically a suicide mission, and everyone knew it.
“Our one orbiting satellite has confirmed that the Chink presence on the airfield is light at the moment, that the troops there are just a skeleton force of two hundred on guard. We don’t know why the main garrison forces there withdrew, but if we strike now, we can recapture the field with a minimum of loss.”
Yeah, maybe to you and your group, who will never get within twenty miles of Neryugn, Lewis thought, mentally growling at the Intel operative.
“Echo 4-7, you’ll be the tip of the sword. Take your men and secure the control tower. Delta, secure the northeast side of the field and clear the runway. Charlie and the remainder of Echo, perimeter security. Let no one in.”
The Intel man looked around to be sure everyone understood their assignments.
“All of you hit Weps before mounting up. Vehicles are at the gates, we need to be mobile yesterday to pull this off.”
And with that, the Intel guy walked back to where he came from, effectively dismissing the group of soldiers.
Lewis headed for the Weapons Depot, knowing without looking that his team would be right behind him.
Once they have arrived at the Depot, each of the men in his unit was handed whatever weapon the quartermaster was nearest at the moment.
He handed Lewis a Tokarev SVT38 automatic rifle.
Lewis just stared at the man for a moment.
“Really? Are you serious? My great-grandfather probably used newer equipment than one of these. You have got to be shitting me.”
The supply man just looked at him and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say, "Hey, I’ll give it to someone else and you can throw rocks at the Chinks for all I care," before slapping a grenade belt and a Daewoo DP 51 pistol with holster on the table in front of Lewis.
It was obvious to Lewis that the men are now being equipped with whatever castoffs combat units have managed to scrounge from the battlefields.
What’s next, bows and arrows? Battle axes and broadswords? Lewis grumbled internally.
Once the rest of his team was outfitted with equally archaic firearms to his, they managed to squeeze themselves into five of the stealth-equipped Razors, of which there are twenty to be split between Echo and Delta. Charlie would take the normal Razors, tanks, Jeeps, and whatever else runs in the area.
Once all of his Delta 3-3 was loaded into the Razors, Lewis personally drove the lead vehicle out of the compound, heading towards Neryugn, following the slight dust plume kicked up by Echo 4-7’s Razor ahead of them.
Less than an hour later, Lewis pulled to a halt near the ghostly image of Neryugn’s tower, backlit by the sun just starting to rise. As he was pulling his vehicle into position to unload his troops, Don Lewis saw a quick staccato flash from the top of the tower, and knew that Echo 4-7 had started their offensive.
Since this wasn’t exactly the first time Delta 3-3 had taken air airfield, or even the twenty-first, Lewis didn’t even have to do much more than point out positions to his troops with hand gestures for the unit to get into position and start advancing across the field, checking for mines and ever wary of snipers.
“Delta, UAVs incoming," One of the Echo team in the tower called down. “Might wanna find cover.”
“Belay that, Delta, UAVs are being handled. Help inbound from the west,” A voice crackled in Lewis’ ear from the command frequency.
He and many of the others in Delta 3-3, looked west, and could see a smoky haze on the horizon as something moved their direction, and fast.
Within moments, the haze was close enough for MSgt Don Corleone Lewis to notice that the haze was actually a mixture of engine smoke and dust being kicked up by the low level the fifteen jets are flying at.
When they got closer, Lewis could tell that they were a motley assortment of older tech, running through the early dawn at extremely low level with no anti-collision lights on.
As they got nearer still, he could make out four Su-47 Berkuts, three F-15 Eagles, six F-4 Phantoms, and two F-16 Fighting Falcons, all painted in a black and charcoal gray paint scheme.
He recognized the camo.
Shadow Wing. Great. He thought, watching the jets approach.
He flicked his gaze to the east, and could see the Chink UAVs approaching from that side. Just by looking at the two groups, he was pretty sure they would meet up right overhead.
Shadow Wing were a multinational group of mercenary pilots that had ended up falling on the side of the US in the opening stages of the war. Lewis knew there were a few dozen groups like them fighting for the Americans, but he could never bring himself to trust them. Their loyalty was only as good as the highest bid.
That being said, though, he knew that the members of Shadow Wing were among the best and most ruthless pilots that money could buy.
He also knew, from past experience, that they had all their radios and radar equipment, ECM, and jammers off, so that the Chinks couldn’t get a lock on and scramble them.
This was the reason the US couldn’t send their UAVs into battle against the Chink unmanneds, because the Chinks had better signal-intercept and override capabilities. They'd only had to lose about a thousand UAVs before they figured that one out.
Like watching a tennis match, Lewis’ head swiveled back and forth between the ground-hugging Shadow Wing jets and the much higher-flying Chink UAVs.
Out of his peripheral vision, he had also noticed the rest of Delta, Echo, and Charlie move in and surround the airfield.
There had been very little actual opposition.
“All teams, once the Shadows have taken care of the hostile UAVs, the C-5s will begin landing. Delta 3-3, perform tight-in security once they have landed,” Command crackled into their ears.
“Delta 3-3 copies. Out,” Lewis replied, looking behind him at his troops and shrugging. He took another look at the approaching Shadow jets and yelled out “Everybody DOWN.”
No sooner had the troopers hit the ground than the Shadow Wing aircraft rocketed over their heads, less than thirty feet off the deck, afterburners blazing before they pulled up into a steep climb, angling in on the Chink UAVs from below.
Within seconds, it was all over, and debris from the shattered drones was raining like lethal hail upon the airport’s southern side, the pilots of Shadow Wing headed back the way they had come, unscathed.
“Look alive, people. C-5s inbound,” One of the men in the tower called down, and, looking west, the men and women of Delta 3-3 could see the massive cargo aircraft coming in, setting up for a straight-in final on runway 27.
Suddenly, Lewis was worried.
It had been too easy. It was almost like they had been given the airfield by the Chinks and their allies.
Despite Lewis’ fears, the three massive C-5s all landed safely and disgorged their troops, adding an extra three hundred and sixty troops per aircraft to the forces on the ground, or nearly doubling the size of the presence at Neryugn by adding an additional 1,080 combat soldiers on the airport.
The next ten C-5s due in would be hauling equipment, but they wouldn’t be on-scene for another hour, giving the men on the ground enough time to get the Galaxys on the ground re-fueled and ready to launch again.
While he was checking on the defenses his troops of Delta 3-3 were putting together along the edges of the main runway, 27-09, MSgt. Lewis got a creeping feeling at the base of his skull.
He turned to look south, right into a sight to chill a man’s soul.
Coming right out of the ground itself, some ten thousand Chink soldiers were emerging onto the airfield grounds, already behind the perimeter forces that Charlie was providing in that area.
Instantly, Lewis knew what had happened. The Chinks had dug tunnels and underground staging spaces for their troops, just like the Japanese in WWII and the Vietnamese in that conflict. How Intel could have missed that was beyond him.
Don Lewis put his hand over his ear to call Command, only to hear static.
Of course. Their comms had all been jammed. Wonderful.
“Deltas, on me! 3-3, we need runners. Get ahold of anyone you can in Echo, Charlie, the new arrivals from the C-5s, and the rest of our Deltas to try and form some organized resistance. Brennan, I need you to figure out a way to override this Chink jamming. MOVE!” He barked out his commands, and the members of 3-3 scattered to the winds on their assigned tasks.
Many of them hadn’t gotten more than fifty yards before they were cut down by a fusillade of bullets fired by the Chinks.
The NCOIC of Delta 3-3 slammed the bolt home on his ancient Tokarev SVT38, firing and re-working the bolt until all twenty of the 7.62mm bullets in the clip were gone. He reached to his belt for the next clip, but by then the swarm of Asiatic faces was upon Lewis.
With few options left, the big man swung the rifle like a baseball bat, crushing skulls and clearing a small area around himself before the stock of the rifle shattered.
It was then that he realized these men hadn’t been firing at him at all, but were coming at him with knives and shovels.
They, too were scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Dropping his useless rifle, MSgt Lewis whipped his Daewoo from its holster, thumbing the safety off as he drew it and firing almost before he could aim it.
After he drops a dozen of them, the pistol clicks empty, but the Chinks were giving him a newfound respect, regrouping before rushing him again. He popped the old clip out and slid a new one in.
All around him, his fellow American soldiers were being slaughtered, and the soil is turning red with the blood of battle from both sides.
In the near distance, Lewis could hear the screams of some of the female American soldiers, and could only shudder to think at what abuses these heinous bastards were subjecting them to -- even here, in the middle of a battle, he knew they werenot above torture and rape.
Backing off from the swarm of Chinks ahead of him, Lewis stepped on something and slipped, falling to his knees.
While he was getting back up, he realized that it was the severed head of one of his own Delta 3-3 team he'd tripped over, staring sightlessly back at him, his face frozen in a rictus of fear and rage.
If Lewis remembered right, the kid had been nineteen.
Pushing his grief aside, “Corleone” Lewis stood back to his full six-five height and unclipped two grenades from his belt, pulling the pins with his teeth and throwing them into the massive crush of bodies ahead of him as he backed swiftly away.
The twin crumps of the pineapple grenades detonating was satisfying, the ground erupting and bodies lifting into the air from the force of the explosions.
To his left, one of the men of Charlie was being hacked to pieces by the angry swarm. Lewis fired the last of his bullets from the Daewoo in that direction, dropping Chinks in his way, and fired his last bullet straight through the man from Charlie’s brain. He then threw the useless pistol to the dirt.
Looking around, Lewis could not see a single friendly uniform still standing. Everywhere he turned his head, his vision was filled with Chinks.
If I’m going, I’m damn well taking as many of them as I can with me, he thought, unhooking another pair of grenades from his web belt.
Seemingly realizing the same thing that Lewis had about the likelihood of reinforcements coming to his rescue, the sea of Chinks closed in, even as he lobbed the two grenades.
They don’t fly as far as he had expected, and he was hit in the face by a flung disembodied arm when the latest grenades exploded.
Stunned, Lewis reached for his last two grenades to toss into the massed enemy.
After these, he'd be down to fighting with fists and teeth.
© 2009 Brian Kupfer