Chapter 12: Stand and Fight
Jack pulled back the charging handle on his AR, verifying that he had a round chambered. The brass casing glinted in the afternoon sun, ready for action.
“All right Mike, here’s the plan: you’re in charge of getting the women and children out of the house. We prepositioned two of the cars about a quarter of a mile away from here—Fiona can lead the way. Get there and keep a low profile.”
Mike looked at him starkly.
“Are you sure?”
Jack nodded and tossed him the keys to his Tacoma.
“Don’t scratch it. I’m going to make sure the others get out of here alive. Probably cause some trouble for the bad guys, too. We’ll meet up with you. We’ll contact you via the walkies if you need to leave without us.”
Mike drew in a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, man—I brought this on you guys. We needed a place to—“
Jack held up a hand.
“Not now. Get moving!” he said, shoving Mike towards the house.
Jack broke into a run, leaving Mike behind and heading to join the others at the neighborhood’s entrance. He half expected to hear another sniper’s shot ring out, but had to remind himself that their neighborhood, secluded as it was in thick Southeastern forest, would have total cover from whatever enemy forces waited on the county road.
He keyed his radio.
“I’m on the move, approaching from your rear,” he called. He hurtled down the road, gravel crunching underfoot and battle gear rattling as he went. Dead ahead lay the ambulance, not moving.
As he ran, Jack realized that it was highly unlikely the attackers were aware of his group’s presence—at least until they recovered the self-proclaimed ‘Will of Allah’ and he set them on the war path in their direction. Bowman had never said “I’m with a group of well-armed civilians” during his radio transmission. The only thing that could have really tipped the enemy forces off the limited walkie chatter that had taken place since the sniper’s shot rang out.
If the enemy guerillas were unaware of Jack’s group, then they had both the element of surprise and a slight time advantage. If and when the enemy recovered their wounded comrade, that advantage would be greatly diminished.
The group’s two guard positions were on opposite sides of the road, with Amy’s post staggered back about twenty yards from the entrance, and Tex’s position just behind the tree line at the entrance, with decent line of sight to the main road in both directions. Both positions were located in raw, untouched forest and both had been placed behind a natural rise in the ground, which gave good cover for a person lying prone.
They’d discussed plans to improve upon the position, but hadn’t had time to get any of that work done. Each post did have a .30 caliber ammo can with seven extra loaded magazines, which was to be used up first before the defender went to the magazines carried on their battle gear. That was meant to insure that the defender had a full complement of magazines if they did have to leave their position. Each defender also had a single lifeboat smoke signal, to be used to mask movement.
Kyle had joined Amy in her position—due to their multicam fatigues, Jack could barely see them, even though he knew exactly where to look. Jack threw up a quick wave to them, and powered on to join Tex at his position nearest to the road, where he would have the best vantage point.
Engines rumbled down the county road, moving in their direction. Jack put another ounce of energy into his pace, dashing to reach Tex as the enemy forces moved in.
“It’s Jack!” he half yelled, half whispered as he closed in on Tex’s guard post. He slid into place next to the big former linebacker, sending dried leaves and debris flying. Tex had his AK-47 at the ready, finger poised to disengage the safety. Jack was thankful to see Tex had his AKs 75-round drum in place and ready to go.
Jack rolled into the prone position as two big Ford Expeditions rolled into view. They were brand new vehicles, probably stolen right off the lot, Jack guessed. The lead vehicle was dark green, the other brown. They had no visible modifications to the exterior, and the cabs of each were well occupied, though Jack could not see clearly enough to get an exact count. As the SUVs raced in, a man emerged from the sunroof of the lead vehicle, wearing the same style of clothing as the man from the ambulance, plus a black ski mask and shooting glasses. He hefted what Jack recognized as a Soviet-era RPD belt-fed machinegun into place with him.
“Aww crap,” Jack groaned quietly.
“Decided to join the fun?” Tex joked, but the strain came through clearly in his voice.
“Wouldn’t miss it. Let’s not get killed, ok?”
“Sounds like a plan. No signs of movement from the ambulance. Shot came from the north, but I can’t spot the guy.”
Adrenaline pumped full-throttle through Jack’s veins. His heart beat on overdrive. His hands trembled ever so slightly in nervous anticipation of what may lie ahead.
The SUVs sped in towards the ambulance, the green vehicle with the machine gunner leading the way. It braked sharply, skidding to a stop so that the vehicle angled in between Rourke’s street and the ambulance. A covering maneuver, Jack guessed, though he and Tex still had relatively clear fields of fire. The vehicle was stopped roughly 20 yards from their position, the passenger’s side facing towards them.
The brown Expedition screeched into place seconds later, stopping in between the green SUV and the ambulance. Jack cursed, realizing that the big SUV blocked their line of sight to the back of the ambulance—exactly what the guerrillas likely intended. They were using the combined bulk of the green and brown Expeditions to provide cover for the rescue of their injured comrade.
With the vehicles up close now, Jack could see that the green SUV carried four men—the driver, gunner and two in the rear passenger’s row—while the brown carried three men—the driver and another pair of men in the rear passenger’s row. Seven enemy fighters in total.
Doors on both vehicles flew open almost simultaneously as the guerrillas moved into action. Two man teams exited from the driver’s side of each vehicle—the side facing away from Rourke’s street and any potential threat that it contained. All wore the RealTree pattern camouflage clothes and ChiCom chest rigs, and sported dark hair and bushy beards similar to their wounded comrade. One of the guerillas wore a boonie cap heavily laden with strips of burlap and vegetation and carried a scoped AK-variant rifle spray painted green and tan.
“There’s our sniper.”
The other three men carried folding stock Kalashnikovs, handling them with familiar ease.
The sniper moved into position behind the green SUV’s front end, ready to provide backup fire to the machine gunner. Two of the other men moved to the ambulance’s rear doors, and the third man angled towards the cab of the ambulance.
“We gonna gun these bastards down or what?” Tex asked.
A trio of shots broke out, startling Jack. The third guerilla fired into the ambulance’s cab to either finish off Bowman or ensure he was dead.
Had the police officer been alive? Had there been something they could have done to rescue him?
Jack swore—he would never know.
He took in a deep breath, considering their situation. The enemy had essentially waltzed right into a trap, unaware that they might find American civilians hiding in the woods and ready to strike. They had the enemy lined up in their sights. If they let the guerillas escape with their wounded comrade, then they would have that threat hanging over them. The group would need to evacuate his home and head off on the unknown journey to the hunting lease. And, the guerillas would be free to wreak mayhem and murder on others in the area.
If they launched an ambush and wiped out the guerrilla force, then they would remove that threat from over their heads. They could likely remain at home. And they could rid the area of a deadly menace.
Jack said a quick, silent prayer for guidance and felt confirmation surge inside him, along with an additional burst of adrenaline and healthy dose of fear. Jack let out a breath, prepared to act.
“Let’s take ‘em out. You take the sniper, I’ll take the machine gunner, then open up. On three. Ready?”
“Hell yeah,” Tex said, disengaging his AK’s safety lever down.
Jack flipped his AR’s three times magnifier into place, the optic giving him an up-close view on the machine gunner. He steadied his Aimpoint’s red dot on the man’s upper chest, flipped off the safety and began to apply pressure on his carbine’s trigger. He breathed slowly. At twenty, maybe twenty five yards, it would be an easy shot.
He took a deep breath this time, telling himself to calm down. His heart thumped loudly in his ears. He started the count.
“One. Two. Three.”
Jack pressed his trigger to the rear, breaking the shot smoothly. The gunner shook from the impact but did not go down. He yelled in rage and surprised, firing a wild burst down Rourke’s street. Jack cursed in frustration.
Tex’s AK roared to life, firing a volley in the sniper’s direction. The bullets skipped across the Expedition’s hood and the sniper dropped from view.
“Think I got ‘im!” Tex called triumphantly.
Jack let his red dot rest on the machine gunner’s chest a second time and triggered a quick pair of controlled shots. A spray of blood appeared on the far side of the man’s chest. He fell back through the sunroof, disappearing from view. The RPD slid from his grip, clattering to the road, dragging the long ammunition belt with it.
Gunfire ripped in their general direction, sending both men ducking to the dirt. The guerrilla who had finished off Bowman was returning fire, firing rapidly. The shots zipped overhead, whistling through the trees.
Gunfire echoed out from Amy and Kyle’s position as they entered into the fray.
“Keep shooting!” Jack yelled. Tex responded by unleashing a steady stream of fire across the county road, a stream of hot 7.62x39mm casings pouring out onto the forest floor.
The guerrilla dashed for cover behind the green SUV, bullets skipping around him, narrowly missing. Jack leveled his red dot on the man, firing quickly but seeing no effect. The guerrilla slipped behind the back of the Expedition.
Tex shifted his fire, ripping into the SUV’s tires and tracing a line of fire up to the driver. Panicking and possibly shot, the driver floored the accelerator, jumping forward, leaving his comrade stumbling frantically in pursuit. Jack snapped off a quick burst of shots at the now exposed guerrilla, cutting him down to the road.
There was sound of doors slamming shut as the remaining two guerrillas piled into the brown Expedition. The SUV rocketed forward, racing down the county road, leaving the open and empty ambulance in its wake.
“They got their guy!” Jack yelled. Both men fired at the SUV, rapidly squeezing off shots as it disappeared from their line of sight.
The bolt of Jack’s AR-15 locked back, magazine spent.
“Dammit, don’t let ‘em get away!” he yelled, grabbing a magazine from his plate carrier and dashing from his firing position. He slammed the mag in and pressed the bolt catch, chambering the top round.
Jack ran out onto the road, giving him a clear view of the fleeing vehicles. Out of his peripheral vision, he saw the unmoving bodies of the two downed guerrillas—the sniper and the other. One hundred and fifty yards down the county road, the green SUV had come to a stop, too shot up to drive further. The brown SUV accelerated in for the rescue.
Jack dropped to a knee, steadying his aim. The door of the bullet riddled SUV flew open and the driver emerged, clutching a hand to an injured neck and waving to the other vehicle for help.
Jack let out a breath and squeezed the trigger, the shot hitting the guerrilla fighter square in the chest a split second later. The man fell limply, smashing to the pavement, life suddenly torn from his body.
The final Expedition raced past their fallen comrade, not even slowing. Jack fired off a burst of shots into the rear of the fleeing SUV, with no visible effect.
“Jack!” shouted Tex’s warning voice, gunfire echoing out.
Jack instinctively lunged away, breaking his sight picture on the Expedition to see bullets tear into the sniper—not dead but injured—who had a pistol out and leveled in his general direction. In his death throes, the sniper fired off a pair of shots right where Jack had been kneeling. The salvo of gunfire from Tex’s AK tore across the sniper’s chest, finishing him off.
The brown Expedition disappeared around a bend in the road.
Jack scanned his surrounding, looking over the two fallen guerrillas, dead on the asphalt in gradually expanding pools of blood. Neither moved. Satisfied that there were no imminent threats, Jack checked himself for injuries—no blood—and then scanned over Tex—again, no blood or visible injuries.
“We’re clear,” Jack called into the radio.
“We’re good too. No injuries,” Kyle called back.
“Thank God. We are safe, too,” came Esmerelda’s voice over the radio. Jack felt a wave of relief spread over him—his group was safe and well.
He performed a tactical reload, swapping the partially expended magazine in his gun for a fresh one from his plate carrier. Tex followed Jack’s lead; at some point in the fight, he’d replaced the drum with a regular thirty round magazine.
“Now what?” Tex asked, scanning up and down the road.
Jack had trouble thinking—he felt shaky and a little bit light headed as he was coming off the adrenaline and emotional dump of combat.
“We’ve got no wounded. We took out at least four of their guys, maybe more, though they got away with our injured buddy ‘Will.’ If their group originally had eight fighters—the seven we saw, plus Will—they’re down to a max of three uninjured guys, plus Will, and maybe the seriously injured machine gunner.
“They got away, though. Probably headed for help from buddies in the area, medical attention or both. We don’t know how many more of them there might be operating in the area. I can’t imagine there being hundreds of Muslim extremists running around here—we aren’t exactly Al-Queda central—but there could be another squad or two of those guys out there. They know we’re here, so we won’t have the element of surprise anymore. That’ll be in their favor.”
“Agree, but why would they come back here for another round? Revenge?”
“Wouldn’t you? Someone mows down your best buds—aren’t you going to want to make ‘em pay in kind?”
“Probably,” Tex acknowledged.
“So, I think we probably need to move somewhere else ‘till this blows over.”
“What about all this mess? What do we do if they show up? Do we just leave the bodies here in the road? The wrecked vehicles? The ammo? The guns?” he asked, gesturing to the battlefield around them. He walked over to the RPD, lifting it off the road, the big gun fitting his linebacker’s frame well.
“And what about this thing?”
“Looks good—but we’ve also got to consider the cops, too. The guns were probably all used in the ambush at the Interstate. And the cops will probably eventually send someone over here to check things out when Bowman never shows up at the hospital.”
Jack paused, surveying up and down the county road, quiet once again after the deafening sounds of battle.
“But, we’re probably going to have traffic on this road within the next few minutes, so we might as well clear the bodies and gear out of the way. Let’s call in to the others, have a quick pow-wow and figure out what we do next.”