Friday, August 7, 2015

Short Story: R-Point


R-Point


Day 160

The General entered the tent.

“We've cleaned it up a bit, sir” the Corporal said as he motioned his superior over toward the notebook computer. “Listen to this.”

He hit the button and the recording plays, there was a lot of static but someone was talking through it, giving out coordinates. Finally and more clearly “This is the 4th E-platoon, we are still holding on, just barely...”

“You heard it?” the Corporal said

The General nodded. A Major in the communications unit came over. “They've been missing for 6 months, and presumed dead.”

The General thought about it. “Do we know where those coordinates are. Can we send a drone to see if there is anything there?”

The Major scratched his head. “Well, our forces are so badly mangled right now, I'm not sure we can spare a drone. I'm inclined to think they are either dead or captured, maybe the enemy is laying a trap for us.”

“That's an E-platoon! If they are alive, we need them.”The General said “We need to put together a team, a squad to find them and extricate them if possible!”

The Major nodded. “I can't promise much, I can send one special forces operative, a sniper and a couple of rangers. We're really in bad shape.”

“Just get it done, Major!” The General said “If we can get the E-platoon out, we might still have a chance to win this war.”

The General left the tent. The Major sat and shook his head. “I don't know. It doesn't look good for the human race at this point.”

The following morning a lightly armored vehicle left the secret base toward the coordinates heard in the message. They hid whenever they detected movement of enemy forces, it was good that the area was heavily wooded. The location they were headed to seemed to be on the edge of a swamp.

“Sergeant Stephen Wald sat in the passenger side of the vehicle watching the navigation system on a tablet computer, they were getting closer. They parked in a densely wooded area. The spot on their map was across some water.

“Could be gators.” one of the Rangers said. The other seemed startled by this idea.

“Get it together.” The sergeant told them. Then he looked at the corporal, the sniper, who seemed calm and had done a good job driving them. “Get your gear, I hope it's waterproof. We need to cross this, unseen. Once we get to the other side, you find a good nest fast.”

“Yes, sir.”

He led them into the moss and leaf-covered water slowly, so as to not disturb the surface or create ripples that might be seen by the enemy. All the way across they were able to keep their feet on the muddy bottom, no sign of the enemy or gators. Once they got out on the other side, they quickly moved to a dirt berm and used it as cover. A thick fog had rolled in.

“We should be able to find them quickly. I want you, corporal, to move toward those trees and find a sniper nest. Can't see much more in this dense fog.” he told them in a whisper as they huddled. The corporal moved away, initiated his active camouflage device and bent over to get as little attention as possible.

The Rangers pulled out their Mark 5 battle rifles and attached V-Scopes that should be able to see a ways through the fog. The sergeant pulled on a pair of goggles that had the same technology and a small Mark 4 sub-rifle. The three of them started up their active camouflage and moved over the berm with Rangers covering left and right while the sergeant covered straight ahead.

A few steps later they found themselves at the food of a stone stairway, something large was close to them, towering over them. The sergeant adjusted his goggles, it looked like some kind of building. There was no known building of this size in the area. It was quite large, a mansion.

“Why would there be a mansion here?” One of the Rangers asked when the fog thinned a little. The other Ranger looked a bit skittish.

“I grew up not too far from here. There were stories of an insane asylum in the swamp. Inmates who got out were killed by gators or snakes or something.”

The sergeant hit him on the shoulder. “Pull yourself together. This place looks abandoned. No sign of anything or anyone.”

“Something sent that signal.” The skittish Ranger said.

The sergeant opened a local channel to the corporal. “Looks like we might need to search this building. The survivors might be close, keep an eye open.”

“Yes, sir!”

The sergeant headed up the steps with the Rangers on either side of him. He keenly felt under-manned and under-gunned but with the war situation, it couldn't be helped. The double doors at the top of the stairs were warped and rotted and easy to push open. They turned on the lights on their guns and the foyer was dusty but abandoned. No footprints they could see.

There was a stairway going up and doors to either side, plus a corridor behind the stairs. The place looked very large from this vantage point. The left side turned out to be a dining room with several tables and then a kitchen.

The pantry had been stripped bare, there were boxes and cans all over the floor. It was messy but they didn't find anything. To the right side of the foyer there were offices, some of the paper files had been scattered everywhere. In the largest office the desk had been turned over, the chair behind it ripped to shreds, even the curtains thrown down.

“Okay, let's check the upstairs.” The sergeant said.

“Can't we go back and say there was nothing here?” The skittish Ranger said “This place is not right, I get really bad vibes here.”

The sergeant grabbed the mans helmet and pulled him up the first couple of steps. Once at the top there were corridors right and left and then right and left again in the opposite end. They pulled the first doorknob and the door disintegrated on contact. All 3 of them nearly fell down and backed up quickly at the sight of a mummified corpse still on its knees, mouth open in a silent scream and arms as if banging on the door.

“Oh my god!” The quiet Ranger said.

“Let's get away from here.” The more skittish officer said, panting for breath. The sergeant got his own breath under control and used his gun to push himself onto his knees and stood. “There's nothing we can do for this guy. Let's keep looking.”

“They aren't here! Can't you see that?” the quieter Ranger said “There would be footprints and items they used scattered about. There are no survivors here, sir”

The skittish Ranger scooted over the mummified corpse. He moved cobwebs aside and pointed.

“This was them. This was the 4th E-Platoon!”

The sergeant dropped down and got a close look at the dog tag around the neck of the remains, his breath deepening. He rubbed his eyes. “Where are their E-suits?”

Truth was, they were sent more to retrieve the E-suits than the soldiers. With the E- armored combat suits they could possibly exploit a newly discovered weakness of the enemy. The problem was this weakness had been found too late. No more of the powered-armor battle suits had been left and more could not be built.

“The enemy might have captured them.” The quiet Ranger said.

“Search every room. Search the garage, attic and everything else. We need to find those combat suits if they are here. We don't leave until every stone is turned over.”

Then the corporal broke in over the radio. “You guys don't need to look. They are outside. They are across the swamp looking at the vehicle, dragging it to the water.”

“The enemy?”

“Yes, wearing the E-suits.”

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This is sort of an homage (loosely) to a Korean film of the same name.

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