Jon headed for the entrance to the Nest. At first he just walked, but then thought better and began to run. He felt a knot in his stomach as he dodged sagebrush bushes. Something wasn’t right. There had not been any reports of a chopper in militia hands, and he had no reason to believe that the corporation that hired them would be coming. Jon’s mind raced through the possibilities. Why did French just walk away like he knew who they might be? Was their a rat in his squad? Who could it be? The only appropriate action would be caution.
Just as he was about to reach the trapdoor to the Nest, it opened. Out climbed Phil looking anxious and excited with his backpack on followed by the rest of Jon’s squad with packs and their guns slung over their shoulders.
“Everyone, get back in the Nest!” Jon said.
“What for?” Phil asked.
“Hear that chopper coming? I don’t want any surprises, so all of you get back in the Nest. Now.”
“I’m not going back. We are finally getting out of here.” Phil said.
“Relax Jon. That’s our pick up.” Sarah said.
Jon looked confused, “What? We’re not done here.”
“Phil got orders from HQ this morning that plans have changed.” Sarah said, “We tried to find you, but you must have been philosophizing with French again.”
“This is all against protocol. I am the commanding officer here. All orders go through me.” Jon’s frustration was beginning to show.
Phil smirked, “It’s too late for any formalities. Our job here is done.” Phil began to walk away, “I don’t know about you, but I am ready to get out of this fucking desert.” Craig and Sam followed Phil.
As Craig passed he told Jon, “Come on, lets get off this rock.”
Jon turned to Sarah, “I don’t believe this. I haven’t had my overlay communication since we left the border. How is Phil communicating with HQ?”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders, “He said they woke him up this morning. Kinda freaked him out at first. He was apparently dreaming when the message came through. He had to rewatch it to make sure it wasn’t part of the dream.”
“This is all wrong. I’ll go get my stuff, but you should come with me.”
“I don’t know what you’re worried about. They needed to reach us for some reason, and you even said your overlay hasn’t worked since the border. Why wouldn’t they send Phil the order? I think you are overreacting. I’ll wait for you with the others.”
“I didn’t say my overlay wasn’t working. I just haven’t received any messages.”
“Who cares Jon? The helo’s are coming whether you like it or not. Get your shit and come join us.”
* * *
Jon ran through the smooth walled sandstone corridors of the underground tunnels that linked the various rooms of the militia’s hidden community. Blue light panels in the roof lit his way. The halls were strangely empty as he searched for the room they had allowed Jon and his squad to stay in. Jon came to a door with a window that looked in on the community kitchen. He saw movement in the dark corner by the pantry door. Jon opened the door and walked in.
“Don’t move an inch.”
Jon turned to his left. There was French with a glock pointed directly at Jon. He had a backpack laying in front of him on the kitchen island.
“Your friends close behind?” French re-tightened his grip on the gun.
“I liked you Jon, but I can’t tolerate bought men. Your a bought man aren’t you?”
Jon didn’t like the sound of that question, “I don’t read you, French.”
“Of course you don’t.” Frenched grabbed his backpack with one hand and tossed it over his shoulder. “Take care Jon. I hope you fare better than your choppers.”
“I didn’t call the choppers in.” Why did he feel the need to say that, Jon thought.
“Well, it doesn’t matter now. I suggest you avoid my men. They get in a nasty mood when they hear choppers coming.” French transferred the gun to his left hand keeping it trained on Jon, then adjusted his backpack over his right shoulder. “Oh, and don’t fucking follow me, or I will have to put a bullet in your head.” French turned and headed out the door.
Jon stood dumbfounded in the middle of the kitchen. Apparently he didn’t know French after all. He waited a moment for French to be well on his way, when suddenly he heard muffled gunfire.
Jon ran for the door and raced down the hall to his room. He grabbed his backpack and M16 and headed back towards the trapdoor. The gunfire continued, getting louder as he closed in on the ladder. leading up to the trapdoor. He hurried up the ladder then collected himself before slowly opening the heavy iron trapdoor.
The sound became deafening. M16 gunfire was coming from every direction. To his left he saw a three militia soldiers with M16’s firing towards two AH-6 Littlebird helicopters laying down chain gun fire that was tearing through the sagebrush and ripping apart the militia’s camouflaged solar panels. To Jon’s right he saw a soldier loading a rocket launcher then getting shot down by the choppers. Behind the Littlebirds a UH-1 Iroquois support Helicopter rose over the Mesa cliff edge and poured down support machine gun fire, and began firing a rocket barrage into the the small camouflaged buildings that held the power equipment for the militia.
Jon scanned the horizon looking for his squad. He spotted them 100 yards away shading their faces with their arms to keep the dust that was being kicked up by the helicopters away from their eyes. Phil started to wave his hands above his head signalling to a support helicopter that just crested the mesa cliff’s edge. Phil began running towards the helicopter expecting it to land. Sarah, Craig, and Sam followed close behind. But it didn’t land. Instead the soldiers manning the .50 caliber guns open fired on them. Phil was the first to go. He slumped onto his face without so much as a twitch. Sarah in horror began running to the left looking for cover. The bullets tore into her back and sent her sprawling awkwardly into the dirt. Craig and Sam crouched down on one knee and began returning fire. The back of Sam’s head blew out and his body fell over his gun. Bullets ripped into Craig’s arms and chest. He dropped his gun and began to stand, but more bullets tore into his legs, and cut them out from under him. His hulking body crashed in a cloud of dust.
Jon dropped down on the ladder a bit and let the trapdoor close. The sounds of screaming guns muffled for a moment. He looked down the ladder, the wall, then at his gun. Horror filled his mind, and anger fueled his heart. His face twisted into a saddened rage before Jon caught himself and composed his face in stern resolve.
He threw open the trapdoor and crawled out on his belly towards the nearest row of solar panels. He got to his feet and ran down the row underneath the large tilted panels. At the end of the row a militia soldier reloaded his gun.
“Can you cover me? I am going to head for the powerhouse.” Jon asked the soldier.”
“Careful. They just dropped troops on the other side.”
“Got any grenades?”
The soldier grabbed a grenade from his belt and handed it to Jon.
“Ok, Got me?”
“Lay down fire.”
The soldier reached around the edge of the solar panel and and let it rip. Jon gave it all he got. A full sprint. He had only thirty yards to go, but it felt like a hundred. Bullets began flying into the dirt right behind him. Jon could see the support helicopter lifting off with the gunman tracking him with his .50 cal. Jon made it to power house as the bullets slammed into the corner of the building.
The Littlebirds were now turning around for another sweep. He knew he had a few seconds to act. He ran for the far corner of the building. The troops that were dropped off by the helicopter would be just around the corner. He pulled the pin on the grenade and tossed it around the corner. He lowered into a crouch, and raised his rifle pointing it at the corner. The explosion shook the building, and a dust cloud spilled around the corner. Jon immediately moved forward around the corner and fired into the dust. The dust began to clear and two bodies in fatigues lay in the dirt. Jon checked their fatigues and found the familiar eagle head patch of the army that had been his life these past five years. Why had they opened fire on his squad, and why were they here in the first place? What had Phil told them?
The Littlebirds had made another pass and now turned straight towards Jon. Jon quickly scanned for cover. Nothing except to climb over the Mesa cliff edge. Jon didn’t waste any time. He ran as hard as he could for the Mesa cliff edge perpendicular to the path the Littlebirds were taking. The guns began to scream as they spun into motion. Bullets were flying everywhere. Then in the corner of his eyes he saw one of the Littlebirds explode in a ball of fire. The Littlebird that was left began firing rockets after him. He heard the hiss of the rockets leaving the helicopter. He was almost to the cliff edge. He fell into a slide, trying to catch the edge of the cliff, but a rocket smashed into the ground right behind him. It exploded sending him careening over the cliff edge. Forty feet and two seconds later Jon met a world of blackness.