And we march on

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Chapter one

The day was dark and dreary. The field today felt gray as the sound of boots stomping hard into mud filled the surrounding silence. The rain filled every crevice in our clothes, soaking each soldier to the bone and through. Even the most positive men were feeling the unbearable march tugging at their muscles and their wet clothes only added to the weight.

  The base was now in front of us, and you could feel the collective sigh of everyone in the march. In total it was about three hours long, but the mud pulling at our boots and the unrelenting rain had made the struggle seem like an eternity. As soon as I got to my cot, I pulled off my mud-stained boots to reveal that my feet had turned to prunes underneath the mixture of rain and sweat. My hands were in the same condition from being sealed away from my thick fabric gloves. I let out a sigh and started to dishevel myself of the gear I was crammed In since early morning. Everything was unbearably wet and it took extra effort to peel off the clothes as they stuck to my skin, making a shlurp sound every time they would finally unstick. Once all the heavy outside gear was off it was time for the underclothes, I made my way to the locker rooms still dripping and with a spare change of clothes in my hand. I pulled the waterboarded clothes off and patted myself down with a cream-colored towel. More girls around me were doing the same, just trying to be dry for the first time today. My bra was flung to the ground and the unrelenting pressure around my chest and shoulders finally dissipated. Another sigh of relief.

 I walked out of the lockers with sleep clothes on and eyebags weighing on my eyelids. The big communal tent wasn’t spacious, but it wasn’t small either. I laid down on my assigned cot next to the wall of the tent which was shaking in a strained way against the harsh weather of rain and whipping winds outside. It was okay, I’ve slept through worse. I fished a sweatshirt from my clothes stash and pulled it over my head acting as a blanket and I finally started to doze off.

 The next morning was a blur of noise. All that was heard was yelling, so much yelling. God, how has no one’s vocal cords launched out of anyone’s throats yet? I got up despite the soreness and ache left in my limbs from the day before and started to put my gear on. I reached for my plate carrier that still smelled like rain hanging off the edge of my cot as well as my helmet. I got myself assembled quickly and carried on with whatever was being shouted at the tent occupants. Something about moving our asses, but that wasn’t really out of the ordinary. From what I gathered from snip bits of conversation was that we are doing a brute force attack on a secluded location that was harboring drugs for the cartel. We were briefed on the terrain and the buildings layouts, but other than that and the objective to take possession of the housing sight, us foot soldiers aren’t really told an earful. I slung my rifle around my shoulder and removed myself from the early morning chaos. 

 I was put in a squad of four other soldiers. My code name was per usual, snake eyes, and I would be the calm before the storm. This meant that I was to be the sneak asset of the operation, entering the building through the side window and assessing the enemy equipment and number of drugs that were in the building. The brute force role was handed to a taller man with a small scar going across the bridge of his nose. He had blonde hair and a big, muscular frame. He would be the one to enter the confrontation first and start the commotion, the juggernaut of the operation. Code name: Big man. A woman smaller than me with her long brown hair slicked back into a uniform bun and a guy about the same size as her would come around the back side of the warehouse while the enemy was distracted with Big Man. Code names: Deadshot and Gonzalas. Finally, was the fifth member who was a little shorter than Big Man but was still taller than my 5’8 stature. He was in charge of the medical supplies and coms back to base and would follow Gonzalas and Deadshot through the back side. Code name: Ghostwriter. He insisted that Top Gun was the best movie of all time.

 We acquainted ourselves on the humvee to the drug stronghold, although I don’t really talk to strangers all that much. It was actually Big Man who spoke up first. 

“Nice to meet you all. I hope things go smoothly.” His voice was muffled through the bulletproof mesh of the jug suit he was geared up in. Deadshot let out a chuckle and spoke next.

“Things never go according to plan on missions like these. They may seem simple but you’ve gotta watch your step.” She rested her elbow on the car door and dropped her head into the elevated hand. 

“Oh c’mon Deadshot” Gonzalas whined “You don’t have to ruin the hype!” She scoffed back at him

“The ‘hype’ won’t matter when your cold body gets stuffed into a wood box and shoved six feet under.” She snapped back. Each of them let the reality set in that they might not come back from this operation, and the chatter ended at that.

  The humvee stopped at its designated location and it parked, tires screeching. Each operator hopped off the tactical car, shaking it a little with their departure. The team put their MOLLY backpacks on and checked over their equipment twice. A rifle, a secondary pistol, rations, extra plates, first aid, ammunition, backup comms, and other essentials. Ghostwriter had the most piled onto his back, and seemed unsure of how long he could bear the extra gravity. Either way, once everything was checked over, the march to the warehouse began. 

    I scouted a few clicks ahead of the group to be the first to give myself time for the evaluation process. The hourly recon process began when my comms started to crackle in my ear.

“Snake eyes this is Ghostwriter. How Copy? Over.” I clicked the tab on the small box on my chest to connect to the radio. “Snake eyes to Ghostwriter, solid copy. Over”

“Any Tangoes? Over.” I smirked as I reached up to my radio box, a little disappointed not to see his reaction but oh well. 

“Negative Ghostwriter. Over” A few seconds passed and the static of the cheap comms crackled in my ear again

“Keep it professional Snake Eyes. Over.” I was only a few paces from the warehouse at this point, now crouching under the bushline and watching my step.

“Snake Eyes, going dark.” One last crackle for the time being.

“Copy that. Proceed. Over” Now that comms were dark I couldn’t send reports, and the only thing coming through would be intel and hourly recon.

    The only guards in sight were two men who looked like they had only been in petty gun fights and somehow managed to survive, making the guard recruit list. The guard on the left side of the door was lighting a cigarette and wearing a floral button down, no pads or plates anywhere to be found. The only scary thing about the man was the gun slung around his shoulder that was not on safety or being held properly. The one on the right, closest to me, was watching the birds in the trees flutter around. He had headphones wired to his phone that was kept in his back pocket. This one did have a plate carrier on, but it didn’t look like it had any actual plates in it. He had his gun on safety and held it properly so I’m pretty sure this one knew how to actually shoot a gun. He didn’t, however, look in the slightest battle hardened or asshole-y enough to actually shoot a person. Too easy.

    I started with getting out of their direct line of sight, crawling low in the bushes to not alert the bird-watching man or the one busy with a cigarette. Then once I was on the side of the building I was clear. No guards stationed on the side. The window let out a small creak when I pulled it outward, but it wasn’t loud enough to be noticeable. The small window was a tight fit, but I managed to squeeze through the small opening, and I landed on the cement floor of the building with a thud. According to the layout, this room was supposed to be a meeting room that the base only used on special occasions, making it rarely occupied. Right outside of the room was a hallway shaped like a U, being that either way you go would lead to the same main garage of the warehouse. I put my ear to the door listening for any signs of people coming my way. Nothing.

   I slipped out of the office room, immediately scanning the hall for other places to hide away from people. I turned the bend of the hallway to the right and was glad to see wooden doors with small glass panes on the upper part of each door. A perfect place to view what was happening and stay hidden. I made my way to the doors and looked into the space. It was a big garage-like room and it had the drugs piled into a mound in the middle of the room. Some stray pieces of cash were lying around on the floor, and better trained guards seemed to be watching over the million dollar pile. A crackling sounded in my ear again.

“Snake Eyes do you copy? Over” It was Ghostwriter doing his recon. I reached up to my radio without taking my eyes off the scene. 

“Positive. The drugs are in the middle of the room and 8 trained guards are blocking it. Two fools are blocking the front hanger. Over.”

“Copy that Snake Eyes. Big Man will be entering in >5 minutes. Over.” 

“Copy. Over.”

   I stood at my perch behind the doors and one of the guards started to leave their positions. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but they were definitely checking out the garage door. A few seconds later the metal door was blown open, metal shards flying all throughout the building. Big Man was taking heavy steps into the new entry point and sprayed the remaining guards with 100 rounds per second with the minigun he was slinging around his waist. The first to enter the chaos from the back door was Deadshot, helping Big Man out by flanking the guards with PGU-14/B Armor Piercing Incendiary rounds, designed to cut through plates and heavy armor. I also burst out of my hiding spot, controlling the people without guns but were still with the cartell. Gonzalas popped into the commotion behind Deadshot, Ghostwriter following close behind coming my way. Most of the unarmed people had their hands up but others were a little bit more feisty. One guy grabbed a paperweight off a stack of documents and hurled it at my face. It crashed into my nose, but I was quick to recover, restraining the man with blood dripping onto my lips. I licked the metallic blood up and spat it into the side of the guy’s face. He writhed under me, but was unable to escape my death grip I had on him. I zip tied him to a pole and pointed a shit eating grin his way, blood still dripping off of my chin. The rest of the group had shuffled close together and kept quiet, some of them having different expressions painted across their face at the scene behind. 

   The gunfire was over within only a few minutes, the lightly trained men no match for the jug and four other professionals. We corralled the rest of the group into custody and secured the drugs. The mission was a success, and the drive back to base felt amazing. My limbs sagged into the seat of the Humvee as it drove us off the site at the evac point, and other professionals came in to haul off the mound of drugs we had secured. Some victory chatter started up as Big Man started to finish taking his jug gear off. This time it was Deadshot starting the conversation.

“Can we all give a round of applause to Big Man over here?” The guys started to hit the car wherever it would make noise like a drum. I clapped and smiled, and Deadshot, sitting next to the sweaty giant, punched his shoulder and she got an elbow to the side back from him. 

“It wasn’t all me. You guys helped too.” He whined at the attention.

“Oh hush it Big. We got the drugs, no one’s dead, and you were the one soaking the attention of the confrontation, meaning 8 trained guards worth of rounds.” I nodded at the statement and he opened his mouth to argue, but before any sound came out Deadshot slapped her hand over it.

“I told you to hush, not complain.” She swiped her hand back from his mouth and wiped the slick of sweat left behind on the car seat, then handed him a water. He took it and downed the thing all at once.

“We have more water in my bag if you need it, Big Man.” Ghostwriter said, already reaching to his bag bulging with the extra materials he had to carry.

“Please. I need it.” Big Man groaned, but Ghostwriter was already handing him water, knowing his reply. Most of Big Man’s jug gear was already discarded onto the Humvee floor, revealing how much he was actually sweating under the heavy gear onto his underclothes, and he looked like he had been rained on. Sweat was dripping off his chin and hair like the now dried blood from my nose was. The said-blood was now starting to crust off of my face in chunks, and flaking out of my hair like red snowflakes. 

    When we got back to base I immediately made my way over to the lockers where the communal showers were. I pulled off my clothes slowly from the exhaustion from today and the soreness from the day before. When I finally had everything shoved into my locker I stepped into the showers and turned the cold water on. It chilled my skin, the frigid water flowing around my hot flesh. I let out a shiver into the stale air and watched the blood stream down my limbs, carried away by the water. I pushed the tips of my toes into the small cracks in the tile, letting the skin turn white at the pressure of pushing the limb into such a small space. They were just as cold as the water raining down from the faucet above. It felt more good than bad though, being able to wash the mud and blood from a days’ operation away. 

  I got out of the water, shivering over to my locker with a towel wrapped around my chest, not needing or wanting to expose any more of my skin than necessary. I slipped on the same sweatshirt I was wearing from the night before, long gone from the warmth that used to occupy it. It smelled like the cheap army detergent that every base camp was provided with mixed in with the gasoline and gunpowder smell that replaced most of the fresh air. Next I pulled on a pair of sweats and went straight from the showers and lockers to my cot. The sheets were still littered with the messy wrinkles of the early morning wake up call, but I still had to pull out the thin blanket from where it was tucked under the similarly thin mattress, if you could even call it that. When my back layed on the supposed-bedding material a large squeak escaped one of the cots’ springs, leaving an unpleasant noise fresh in my mind. It only made more noise as I moved around, so after a couple adjustments to my position I just gave up and made myself bare the uncomfortableness rather than enduring any more of the wretched squeaking noise. 

    The next morning, I popped out of my cot, having to hear the dreadful squeak ring out from the innards of my mattress again. I stretched my limbs, getting ready to face the coming events on the day to arrive. After taking a big stretch and looking like I had been possessed standing up, I started making my way to the canteen for breakfast. I slid on a pair of nike slides I had brought with me from the base we usually are stationed at and put them on before I went out to the separated tent. 

    A few steps toward the exit of the tent and I could already see that many of the waking soldiers had been bottlenecked at the only exit or entrance, all trying to all go to the same destination. At the back of the forming group I spotted Deadshot trying to push her way forward, and I came up behind and tapped her on the shoulder. She jumped and whipped her head around in one jagged motion, and I saw my error or accidentally scaring her.

“Ay! If it isn’t Snake Eyes? How was your rest after yesterday?” She seemed animated in her motions, either trying to play off the fact she got scared or just being a completely different person from on the battlefield. I shook my head in defeat at her question.

“I’ve got a squeaky spring in my cot and it makes sleeping horrible. Every move I make is a horrid screech from under me and I wake up to it every time.” Deadshot was holding her mouth, stifling a giggle. 

“Well you’re in good luck soldier! I got Humvee duty today and I can save some WD40 if you’d like.” I sighed in relief.

“Please, that would be amazing.” Deadshot chuckled again, not trying to hide it this time.

“You owe me one of then Snake Eyes!” 

“Roger that.” I made a lazy salute to her with two fingers and a slouched back and she just laughed at me more, standing at attention.

“At ease soldier” She said through a grin, now distracted from pushing her way to the canteen. The group that was bottlenecked at the only exit had become smaller and the struggle to get food had died down a lot. I pulled deadshot by the arm to the exit and she followed along, not resisting where I was pulling her to. When we finally set foot outside into the slightly muddy slightly dried out terrain the sun was only just starting to rise, casting our shadows down on the dust in front of us.

    By the time we made it to the canteen most people were sitting down with food and were either chatting with teammates or eating alone in peace. Still pulling along Deadshot by the elbow, I grabbed a plate and made sure she got one too. I put some of the cheap hashbrowns and the scrambled eggs that were probably made of some weird powder and water onto my plate. They were still warm so they would do. Deadshot wiggled herself free of my hold and started shoveling some food onto her own plate. 

   We sat down together at an unoccupied table and started to quickly eat our food before we were called off to do other tasks. The food wasn’t bad as long as you considered the taste of dusted cardboard to be bearable. She would make crap jokes, the food mostly being the butt of the joke, and we would laugh at the sheer shit we considered to be okay food. The canteen tent was slowly losing more occupants than it was gaining until our laughter and stupid jokes made the majority of the noise, surrounding observers laughing along. We cleaned our plates of the substance that was a supposed to be a stand-in for food and put the plastic dish into the dirty bin, filling over the rim from other dishes. 

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