Book One Chapter Four

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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CHAPTER4

 

The ocean was gently rolling; the deck was hardly pitching as a lone VTH-32 sat on the pad having received the approval to take off.  It was 2245 hours precisely as she took off, the 32 would linkup with her escorts as she closed with the coast.

The men were seated in the aircraft, hurtling towards China at wave top level; the ocean was but a flat black blur lit by the small amount of moon light. The men sat in stillness within the VTH-32.

Gunny sat staring at the red jump indicator light.  The only sound that was heard by the planes occupants was the roaring of the engines.  Since the troop transport plane was not as well insulated as a commercial airliner, the men were subject to a significant amount of more noise. It would be nearly two hours before they reached the landing zone. The pilots were purposefully flying low to avoid Chinese radar that would be on the look-out for any new incursions into their airspace.  One hour into the flight, the aircraft abruptly leapt up from the top of the waves to tree top level as the pilot declared they were now feet dry; they were now over land. The pilots scanned the forest for dangers, the odd tree that was taller that the rest or for the flock of birds that may fly into their path.

“Ten minutes ‘till the lz. Captain,” the pilot called to Diesel after another hour of flying. “Crew to your stations,” added the pilot.

Diesel did another quick check of his equipment and pulled back the charging handle sending one round into the chamber, but keeping the weapon on safe.

The co-pilot glanced over his shoulder to see Diesel and the men.  A red light started to slowly blink on and off in the cargo area of the aircraft signaling to the men that the ride was almost over and their real work was about to begin.

“Thank you captain,” Diesel replied to the pilot and signaling to the co-pilot with an o.k. sign that he understood that it was quickly approaching the time that he and his men would be departing. Diesel flashed with both hands the signal for 10 minutes to the men. The men were re-checking their own gear and were checking over the gear of the man to the left and right of them, making sure that the man next to him had nothing missing or loose that could move around and make a noise that would give away their position. The aircrew hastened to their allotted places and readied their weapons, should they be needed if there was hostile fire when they got to the landing zone.

“Five minutes,” informed the pilot, his voice was calm and steady. The flashing red light began to blink faster now. The men finished loading their weapons and put the weapons on safe.

“Two minutes,” came the pilot’s voice once again. The red light ceased blinking and stayed fixed.  Diesel relayed this information with hand signals, causing the men to rise and began to line up at the ramp. Diesel removed the headset that linked him to aircrafts internal communication system and put on his bonny hat. The men wore an expression of grim determination.  The air was filled with tension, as the clock ticked down the last one hundred and twenty seconds.  The men glanced at each other and readied themselves, weapons and gear for the last time.

At the one minute mark, the crew chief held aloft one finger.   The men were one minute away from earning their paycheck.  The crew chief moved to the ramp door control and opened the ramp. As the men edged closer to the ramp, their hearts were beating hard and fast inside their chests, yet each man appeared quiet and composed. As the aircraft touched down, the unblinking red light changed to green and the men charged off the aircraft and kept low to the ground. The men of the three fire teams spread out in circle aft of the VTH-32 and fell into a prone position, facing away from the aircraft. The aircraft was on the ground for less than six seconds before it was quickly rising back into the air.

The insertion site was located in the Hue valley about one mile from the crash site.  Due to the possibility of enemies in the area, the decision had been made to land close to the where the downed jet was estimated to be located.  The men were in a small, grassy clearing within fifty feet of a small, gentle flowing river.  Surrounding the clearing was forest that was moderately to heavily wooded, with towering trees and plenty of scrub brush on the fringe of the forest.

Diesel lay on his belly with the men of third squad.  The earth was dry and slightly cracked; it had obviously not rained in some time.  The grass surrounding the team was tall enough to just cover their heads as they lay on the ground, it too showed signs that rain had not fallen in a while, as it had turned a shade of pale brown at the tips and rustled in light breeze that remained from the VTH-32’s jet wash.  To Diesel’s left was the radioman, Sergeant John Whitmore who everybody called Tex.

Diesel looked over to Tex and held out his hand, silently requesting the handset for the radio.  The handset appeared quickly. He depressed the switch, and waited for a second as the radio’s double encryption package synced up with the satellite and the ship’s radio before talking.

“Anvil this is Hammer, over,” he said in to the handset as quietly as he could, not knowing if there were unfriendlies in the area.

There was a small burst of static before there was a reply from the ship’s communication center.

“Hammer this is Anvil, we read you five by five. How do you read us over?” inquired the voice from the ship’s communication center.

“Anvil we read you 5 by 5, over,” Diesel replied after a short pause.

“Hammer what is your sitrep, over?” asked the communication technician.

“Anvil, we are at the alpha insertion site, no contact at this moment.  We are heading to site bravo. Any word from the wayward sons yet, over?”

There was a short burst of static, followed by “Hammer, no word as of yet, over.”

Diesel took a deep breath and depressed the switch. “Hammer copies, no contact with wayward sons at this time, out.”

Diesel handed the handset back to Tex and motioned to the Gunny to bring in the squad and fireteam leaders. Damn, this isn’t good.  The downed pilots are either dead, badly wounded or in enemy hands already. He reached into his combat harness and pulled out a map marked with the position of the crash site. The map also marked the insertion site along with four possible extraction sites. He then placed his compass on the map and began to get his bearings as the squad leader and the fire team leaders crawled up to his position with their bodies low to the ground.  The men formed a small circle around the map, each man holding a smaller copy of the same map. Once Diesel had assembled men and he proceeded to get his men oriented to the terrain and maps and give procedural orders to the team leaders.

“This is where we are now,” Diesel said as he pointed to a position on the map.  “This is the crash site,” he said as he showed the men another point on the map. “Since the wayward sons have been down, there’s been no contact,” Diesel looked over at Ssgt. Olson, “I want you on point, with Sgt. Burnell and first fireteam 25 meters behind you in column formation,” He then signaled to Sgt. Baker and Sgt. Gilbert. “Cookie I want you on the left flank and Domino I want you on the right flank, ten meters out in line abreast formation.  Have the second and third teams online with first fire team. Remember to keep your spacing and keep a sharp eye out for signals from point.  Command section will follow first fire team by 15 meters in column formation. From this point on, no rank use only call signs, clear?”

Each man nodded indicating they understood their orders.

Diesel looked over to the Gunny with a grin he pressed his throat microphone and said, “Head ’em up.”

The Gunny smiled back as he too pressed his throat mic and replied, “Move’em out.”

The rest of the men of the unit all whispered, “Rawhide.”

The team leaders returned to their men, crawling low the entire time as they made their way back to the rest of the men who were on look out and anticipating the next move.  Then as a cohesive group the whole squad, on the command from Gunny, began to make their way to the tree line, keeping to the ground.

The men spent the next ten minutes getting their camouflage in place, breaking off twigs, leaves and grasses and weaving them into their clothing to breakup their profile.  Once their impromptu gillie suits were completed, the order was given to move out.  The men knew what was expected, almost as if by instinct they moved steadily, smoothly and yet quickly.  With every footstep through the brush and undergrowth the men were cautious, they knew that suspicious noises and sudden movements could jeopardize the mission and get them all killed.

After about thirty minutes of moving through the woods Nightstalker’s voice unexpectedly came through the squad radio’s ear bud punctuating the quietness. “Contact, twelve o’clock.”

The atmosphere changed immediately, the men were anticipating that danger lay just ahead of them.  All the men halted in mid-stride and slowly lowered themselves to the ground in a crouching position to get cover at a painstakingly slow pace.

“Nightstalker this is Diesel, what do you have, over?” inquired the Captain.

“Diesel, I have sounds of a transport of some kind.  No visual yet. Want me to check it out?  Over.”

“Affirmative Nightstalker. Report back ASAP over,” Diesel held up his closed fist signaling to his men to halt and wait for word from Nightstalker.  He whispered “Squad standby,”  The assembled men waited for what seemed like an eternity to receive word from Nightstalker as to what his mini-recon mission had uncovered.

Finally Nightstalker replied, “Diesel this is Nightstalker, over.”

“Go, Nightstalker.”

“I have one military transport with five regular Chinese troops and five other men.  All are armed.  All five of the regular Chinese troops seem to be assembling two devices that look like lawn mowers with video screens.  Four of other five men seem to setting up a table with food and drink and the last one seems to be collecting fire wood.  The five other men that are not Chinese, beyond the men and the truck is some sort of grid pattern with string on the ground.  I’ve got their GPS position marked and I have some pictures.  There appears to be a dirt road off to our right about 100 meters or so, over.”

Diesel spoke as quietly as could, “Squad this is Diesel, everyone stay low, we are pulling back 200 meters and then we will swing around these guys to the left and once we are past them we will resume our original track, out.”

The men fell back 200 meters on the Diesel’s command and formed the squad into a circle configuration.  Diesel was pulling the map out once again as the rest started to show up. “Nightstalker plot us a route that will keep us at least 200 meters from the contact.  I want to keep them to our right.   Let me see those GPS coordinates.”

Nightstalker handed the Diesel his note pad on which he had scribbled his observations.  Nightstalker began developing a new route the squad would take hashing out the fine details with the Gunny and others in the team.

The drop off point the men were in was a shallow valley dotted with large grassy clearings to the east, intermingled with huge areas of deciduous forests to the west.  There were areas of scrubby vegetation with craggy rocks nearer to the peaks at the higher elevations of the valley.

The weather was unseasonably warm and humid and the men were dressed in full camouflage uniforms which added several extra pounds of weight.  The corpsman, Static, knew that the last thing they wanted was a heat casualty.  Static came over to the Captain and expressed his concerns about the men becoming dehydrated

“Diesel, I think it’s a good idea if everyone drank up some water before we get on the go.  And if we can, get the men to top off their canteens and camelbacks from the river.  I’ve got water purification tablets to go around.”

“Okay Static, inform Nightstalker to make his way to the river and we will rehydrate there.  Tex, I have a call to make,” he said holding his hand open for the radio’s handset.

Diesel called the communications technician aboard the ship and obtained the latest report regarding the missing pilots and received additional information regarding the incident which led to the downing of the U.S. plane.  This last piece of information just confirmed his thoughts from earlier aboard the ship. The Captain quickly briefed the men with the most up-to-date information. Diesel turned to Nightstalker.

“Are we ready Nightstalker?” he asked.

“We’re ready to roll.”

“Good, if you would be so kind as to lead us out.” replied Diesel.

“With pleasure.” quipped Nightstalker with a smile.

The Gunny came over to the Captain and quietly said, “I don’t like this, not one word from the pilots.”

“Neither do I. I think all we’re going to find are two broken bodies and some mangled computer disks.”

“Gawd, I hope not.  I got a bit of the skinny from the guys in the communications center before we took off,” said Gunny.

“You did.”

“Yep and he said that these guys got jumped and them someone tried to hack into the onboard computers to download their computer files and photos.  I’m sure the brass at the Asylum would like to know why and who.  Maybe they took pictures of something the Chinese don’t want us to see.”

“Let’s just hope that both pilots have radio problems,” said Diesel with concern in his voice.

“Yeah, let’s hope.” remarked the Gunny.

The men commenced moving out under the watchful eyes of the Diesel and Gunny. Before too long they reached the small, yet gently flowing river. The water was crystal clear and icy cold, having come as runoff from the higher elevations.   The river was flowing north to south with a few large boulders found sporadically throughout the riverbed. The trees grew right up to the waters edge, providing shade for when the sun would be much warmer later that day.  The river bank sloped up at a steeper grade on the eastern side compared with the west bank.  Here at the western bank only tracks of animals could be found in the dried mud up and down the course of the river. Off in the distance on the left side, a herd of some type of deer could be seen casually strolling and grazing.  The men were surrounded with the sounds of the river bubbling and crickets nearby.  The leaves rustled slightly with a slight summertime breeze.

The men of the fireteams took turns drinking the contents of their canteens then refilling them and their camelbacks from the river.   Static dutifully put a water purification tablet into each canteen and camelback and handed each man an envelope of powdered sport drink mix to add to the water to cover the odd taste of the dissolved tablet.

Nightstalker collected the empty envelopes and buried them in the dirt and rocks near the river bank, hiding any evidence that they were ever there.  Some of the men remarked in hushed voices how this spot would be a great place to go camping and spend the day fishing or how it was a great spot for a house in the woods.

“Squad, this is Diesel lets form up and move out.

The chatter stopped abruptly and the men continued on the revised route Nightstalker mapped out to avoid contact with the Chinese.  It took the men thirty minutes to circumvent the Chinese and in that time they came across two other sites where the ground was staked out with string in a grid pattern and had evidence of recent human activity

“Diesel this is Bunker, over.”

“Go Bunker.”

“Those devises that Nightstalker saw, I am willing to bet a month’s pay that those devices are ground penetrating radar sets, over.”

“What makes you say that Bunker.”

“Well it didn’t click ‘til we passed the last site but I have seen them used at archeology dig sites.  One team maps out a grid pattern on the ground using stakes and string as a second team goes behind them with the rolling radar gear, to see what is in the ground.”

“What sort of things does it find?” asked Diesel with curiosity.

“Well that varies depending how deep you set the scan for, but you can find buried foundations, voids in the ground, metal object, and bodies.  My dad uses them a lot.”  Bunker responded.

“How big would you say these things are Bunker?” inquired Diesel. He like the rest of the men were wondering just what the Chinese troops and the other men were doing here.

“I have seen them as small as a handheld metal detector or as large as a dump truck.  The larger ones are normally used by water or oil companies to find underground deposits, over.”

Without even having to ask, Tex had the handset out and into Diesel’s hand.  Diesel passed this information on to the people at the command center aboard the ship and checked again on the status of the downed pilots.

The squad was now working back towards its original track to the crash site. Ten minutes later Tex’s ear bud buzzed indicating an incoming call. He quietly took the radio call and handed the hand set to Diesel. Gunny saw Tex handover the hand set and he halted the squad as Diesel slowed his pace as he took the call.

“Anvil this is Hammer go, over.”

“Hammer, we just got contact with one of the wayward sons, no voice transmissions but he activated his locator beacon.  He is located 250 meters from your current location on a heading of 273 degrees magnetic. Signal is strong and steady, over.”

“Anvil, Hammer copies 250 meters on a heading of 273 magnetic, over.

“Hammer, be advised that the locator beacon is on an open frequency. You’ll have unfriendlies in bound to your position, over.”

“Anvil, Hammer copies, over.”

“Anvil, out.”

Diesel pressed his throat mic. “Nightstalker this is Diesel over.”

“Go Diesel.”

“I want you to take the second fire team and head out on a heading of 273 degrees magnetic for 250 meters.  We have a locator beacon from one of the wayward sons. Find him and shut it off.   It’s transmitting in the open and the bad guys will come and investigate. Second fire team form up on me and wait ‘till Nightstalker gets here before moving out, over.” He turned to Static and instructed, “I want you to go with them they’ll probably need you.”  Then Diesel pointed at another and ordered, “Loki I want you on point to replace Nightstalker.”

“Understood,” replied Loki and moved up to the point position.  Nightstalker by now had joined with the second fire team and together they approached the Captain.

“First fireteam this is Diesel, I want you on the left flank in line abreast formation.  Command section is moving up to take your position, out.”

With the Sun climbing higher in the sky the temperature in the valley rose with it. Gunny flipped the cover open on his PDA, the air temperature read 87 degrees Fahrenheit. The men were wet with perspiration.  There was hardly any breeze in the wooded part of the valley, making the air seem stifling.

“Gunny to squad, I want everybody drinking their water. If you don’t have to pee, you’re not drinking enough.” He looked around as several of the men near him took a long drink of water.

Each man moved to his new position smoothly and without any fuss. With a quick glance to either side the men ensured that the man next to them was in position also. As soon as the men had been repositioned they moved out. With the threat of enemy forces now possibly moving inbound to the pilot’s locator beacon, the men were forced to move more rapidly. The fireteams were now leap frogging towards their objective. Second fireteam reached the first pilot before the rest of the squad arrived at the crash site.

“Diesel this is Nightstalker, over.”

“Go Nightstalker, over.”

“We have found one of the wayward sons; he is about eight meters up a tree.  Static and the Saint are climbing the tree now to retrieve him.  He looks pretty busted up, over.”

“Nightstalker, the other wayward son should be nearby.  Send someone aloft to have a look see, over.”

“Diesel, will do, out.”

At that moment Diesel received another transmission as Loki joined the conversation. “Diesel, this Loki, over.”

“Go Loki, over.”

“I have made it to the crash site.  This thing is a mess; we need to keep everyone away from it till I can figure out why the self-destruct charges didn’t blow.”

“I copy Loki.  Squad this is Diesel, no one is to get anywhere within a 50 meter perimeter of the aircraft, clear?  Over.”

The fireteam leaders confirmed with their men, who nodded that they heard and understood the order. Diesel collected the responses from the team leaders indicating that all the men understood.

Diesel was behind Gunny as they approached the wreckage. “Gunny I want you to set up a defensive perimeter around the bird and start setting some claymores on the more likely approaches to the site,” instructed Diesel.

“Will do,”  barked Gunny.

“Diesel, this is Static, over.”

“Go Static.”

“Pilot one is in bad shape.  Both legs are broken, the right arm and the left shoulder are broken also. His jaw is shattered and he has some internal injuries as well, over.”

Just then Tex looked over to Diesel and said, “Anvil reports that we have enemy troops on the way.  They say that they are about an hour out and moving fast.”

“Static, can you move him here?” asked the Captain.

“Only if I have to,”  remarked Static

“Static we have hostiles inbound.  ETA one hour, stabilize him and get him here, out,” Diesel said as he glanced at the men around him as they were getting in place..

Time was running out and Diesel wanted to make sure his squad met their objectives.  He checked in with Loki who was working on demolishing the remains of the XSR-28.  “Loki, what is the status of the wreckage and the charges, over?”

“It appears that the wiring harness for the demo charges melted away in a fire of some sort. The cockpit is a mess but the computer disks are not here, I repeat not here, over.”

“Nightstalker, this is Diesel, can you check to see if the pilot stored the computer disks in the seats storage bin, over?”

“Diesel, I’m checking now.”  There was a pause then he came back and spoke, “Negative, we have no disk in here. I sent the Saint higher up the tree to see if he can spot the other chute, over.”

“Loki, this is Diesel, can you rig the charges to blow?”

“Diesel, I am already working on it.  I’ll need a hand, over.”

“I’m on my way.” Diesel proceeded to where Loki was attempting to devise a way to detonate the remains of the aircraft.

“What can I do to help?” asked Diesel.

“This plane had one of those new fuel jelling systems. When the pilots ejected this chemical was released into the tanks. It make fuel cleanup easier after crashes. But the important thing is, it stills burns. It burns hotter than normal.”

“Okay.”

“Fuel tanks are in the wings. Slice into the exposed tank there and stick this block of C8 into the tank as far as you can,” Loki said as he handed Diesel a prepped explosive package.

 

Static successfully stabilized the pilot and readied him for transport; he had inserted an IV line and administered a sedative and a strong narcotic to help with the pain.  He then splinting Commander Atlas’ broken bones and applied pressure bandages where there were some deep gashes caused by sharp tree limbs on the pilot’s way down from the heavens after ejecting. The corpsman did not have a stretcher available but was able to fashion a stretcher out of two small tree limbs and poncho liners.

The Saint, who was high above the ground still in the pine tree where the first pilot was found, located the other parachute and called it into Diesel.  Upon arriving at the location of where the second pilot could be located, the fireteam found him dead, impaled on a broken limb of a tree. The team searched in the storage bin of Commander Whale’s seat and found the computer disks. The men respectfully placed the pilot’s remains in a body bag and gently made their way over to the rest of the squad, taking much care so as not to disturb the body. The rest of the squad received the report of the pilot’s death with a pang of sadness that they quickly swept aside.

 

“Diesel the cockpit is rigged to blow. I have also set up a secondary system to blow.” Loki said out loud, not using his radio.

“Good, I’m working on the claymores.” He looked around and found Gunny. “Gunny, I need another claymore and whillie pete,” he said aloud.

A claymore is a molded package of explosive and 600 steel balls. Encased in a plastic body the overall weight was just less than one and a half pounds. The mine could be set to explode by remote, tripwire, or motion. The term whillie pete was an old nick name for the white phosphorous grenade.

With the cockpit and the fuel tank of one of the wings rigged to explode. The 28 was ringed with claymores and white phosphorous grenades rigged with tripwires. The marines started to fall back along the path of destruction the 28 had made when it came down in the woods.

Tex, had been on the radio with the ship giving them constant updates as to what was happening and how things were progressing. He was also in communication with the squad’s air support and transport.

The transport showed up with three minutes to spare before the enemy transport vehicles could unload troops. The gunners within the aircraft strafed the vehicles as they came in to pick up the marines and downed pilots. The strafing run had the wanted effect of stopping the trucks. Several of the trucks were burning. Chinese regulars leaped from those trucks not destroyed and made a mad dash through the woods to close with the marines.

The gunners of the aircrew weren’t taking any chances. The pilots flared the 32 to land the gunners opened fire on the woods. The massive amount of fire from the chainguns ripped through the trees and pinned the Chinese troops down. Diesel and his men used the covering fire to board the 32.

The crew chief throw the lever to close the rear cargo hatch as the last of the men ran onto his aircraft.

“Last man aboard,” said the crew chief to his pilot.

“Good, we are out of here,” the pilot said as he applied power.

There 32’s crew continued to fire as the aircraft climbed into the air. The air support of the squad reported when the XSR-28 blow up, the blast took out about 50 troops.

The VTH-32 hovered briefly before it shot out of sight. This time the plane did not take a winding path getting back to the ship. The pilots flew straight back to the ship at full power taking less than an hour to complete their flight.

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