Alpha, p.11
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       Alpha, p.11

           Daniel Schmidt

  Chapter 11

  A week later, Walter violently threw open my door, turned on the light, and said, “The Prophet has spoken again.”

  I sat up quickly and looked at my watch – It was two in the morning. I wondered why the Prophet couldn’t speak at a reasonable hour. Carlos and I quickly donned our gear and rushed down to the garage. Walter checked us out, and I wondered how I was going to figure out where we were going.

  Sergeant Barnes joined us after a while. He sat on top of the SUV hood and held up an overhead photo of a group of houses. I counted six houses total and what looked like a small park in the lower left-hand corner. After looking at the photograph for a couple seconds, my heart dropped. I recognized where this was. I recognized the park, its unique triangular shape with half a basketball court and tables. I had met some of my contacts there several times and knew it was only a few miles south of where we were. I couldn’t believe my luck. I wouldn’t have to do anything risky to find out where the house was. I already knew exactly where it was.

  Barnes pointed to a house near the park and identified it as the target house. Next he pulled out a closeup of the house and pointed out the doors. Barnes then went over a basic concept of how we were going to hit the house. He said we would approach using forest service roads, coming from the north. He pulled out the picture with the six houses. He pointed to the target house and said one team would form a perimeter and guard against any surprises. He pointed at the top of the page and ran his finger down to the house, showing us our route. He explained we would use the walkway in between the houses to approach the target house from the rear. We would enter through the back door, and my team would be going in second this time. He explained once we secured the package we would exit the same way and make our way back to the vehicles.

  Christine gave us the same medical brief as before and went around checking all our tourniquets. Sergeant Barnes said that we would be operating on channel 6. He told us the challenge was ‘elephant’ and the password was ‘smoke’. We all synched our watches and he told us to be ready to go in fifteen minutes.

  Walter quizzed me on what Sergeant Barnes had said, and when he was done I told him I needed to use the bathroom. David said he needed to do the same. He told me to hurry and I rushed to my bedroom washroom while David headed for the one in the weight room. Once there I pulled out my cellphone; it didn’t take me long to find the target house using an Internet map. I copied the address and then prepared to send Luke a text message. I paused before I did, wondering what was going to happen to the squad. I felt sick to my stomach and to my surprise I didn’t want to send the message. I cursed, sent the message with the address of where we were going, and then I exited the bathroom and rejoined the squad.

  Walter, Carlos, and David were already in the truck and I quickly joined them. I didn’t want to look at them, but Carlos, who sat next to me, tapped my shoulder. I looked over at him, and he nodded and held out his fist. I bumped his fist with mine and he looked away. I hated myself for liking Carlos and the sickness in my stomach intensified. I wondered what Luke would have waiting for us. I doubted the squad would go down without a fight and I knew people would die on both sides. I would be right in the middle of it all.

  The two other vehicles tore down the road and we followed. I had no idea how long it took us to get to our parking spot as I was too lost in worry and anger. Like our first mission, we formed a protective circle around the vehicles and Sergeant Barnes went forward to place the perimeter team around the target house. He returned and we quickly followed. I was relieved our team was in the rear, following in the footsteps of the other team. We moved from the woods to a sidewalk that ran between the backs of houses. I nervously eyed the men in front of me, expecting at any moment for Luke’s men to come jumping out at us.

  To my surprise we made it to the target house. There was no back fence and the other team quickly entered through the back door. The door was unlocked and I held my breath as they rushed inside. I saw their rifle lights come on, searching the darkness, but I heard no shots or shouts. Sergeant Barnes waited at the door for a brief moment and then disappeared inside. My team knelt low outside, waiting for the signal to enter. Sergeant Barnes appeared in the doorway and told us the other team was going to clear the basement and we would have to clear the second floor. I followed Carlos and the rest of the team inside.

  As I passed the threshold of the door I heard shouting coming through the radio but it was too garbled to understand. As I got inside I saw the other team throw open a door and descend down a staircase, heading into the basement. As they disappeared from view I saw smoke billowing out from the door they had just entered. Something was wrong, very wrong. More screaming came over the radio and the tone made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

  “Barnes, this is perimeter, Legion are here!” an anxious voice said over the radio.

  I heard Sergeant Barnes respond, “Roger, hold them off.”

  I wondered if it was Luke’s men and not the Legion closing in. There was a brief pause and as Walter led us up the stairs, another radio transmission came over, just as anxious as the last.

  “Barnes this is perimeter, we have contact, multiple Legion advancing on our position!”

  Another radio transmission came, this time from someone else on the perimeter team, “Contact at the park, Legion coming from everywhere!”

  My heart, already slamming in my chest, felt like it was going to burst. We made it to the top of the stairs and Walter lead us into the first room. I was last in, and as I activated my light I saw something slumped against the far wall. It was a person, but they were covered in a white sheet. The person was seated, back against the wall, with the head unnaturally bent to one side. Blood soaked through the sheet near the head. I kept my light on the figure and realized there was something written on the sheet in black marker.

  You’re all going to die

  I knew in an instant this could not be the work of Luke. Carlos and David cursed. Walter got on his radio and told Sergeant Barnes to come up stairs quickly. I heard members of the perimeter team saying they were breaking contact back to the house with Legion on their heels, their voices full of panic and fear. I knew we needed to get out of here. Sergeant Barnes sprinted into the room and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the figure under the sheet. He cursed and then pulled the sheet off.

  The man had been shot multiple times in the chest and head. Sergeant Barnes pulled out his smart phone device that analyzed retinas and carefully opened one of the man’s eyes. He scanned the eye and a few seconds later the device beeped. Sergeant Barnes cursed again.

  “He was an Alvar,” he said to us. Sergeant Barnes then yelled for the other team leader.

  The leader from the team that had gone down into the basement, a man named Smith, sprinted up the stairs and knelt down next to Sergeant Barnes, and Walter joined them. Smith said there was a fire in the basement and it was spreading fast. I looked out the door and saw smoke starting to fill the house. Sergeant Barnes started to speak but didn’t get two words out before bullets came smashing through the window behind him.

  Bullets tore into his hip and right arm, some of them passing through him and hitting Smith, who slumped over backwards. Sergeant Barnes fell forward onto his chest, grunting. More bullets started ripping through the window. The rifles the bullets were coming from were not silenced and a steady roar built up outside. There was no question now, the men shooting at us were not cops. Cops didn’t set up ambushes to kill people like this.

  I moved to Smith and saw brain matter on the floor under his head – he was gone. I moved to Sergeant Barnes who had rolled onto his side, clenching his teeth and his wounds. I yelled for Christine who appeared in an instant. She immediately started working on Sergeant Barnes. I moved out of the room and looked downstairs. I saw the remaining members of the other team crouched on the ground, bullets tearing thro
ugh windows around them. I saw the perimeter team come crashing in the back door, dragging someone and blood trailing on the floor behind them. Everyone shouted. I looked back and saw Carlos trying to bandage the team leader’s head while Walter and David were helping Christine with Sergeant Barnes.

  I yelled down to the men below, asking who had been hit. Several of them screamed it was the team leader for perimeter team. Bullets rained in through the windows and I choked on the smoke billowing out from the basement door. I stayed crouched near the doorway, looking back and forth between the upper and lower floors, waiting for someone to tell me what to do before I realized three out of four leaders were dead or wounded.

  I wanted to tell people what to do but I hesitated – the last time I had been in charge, men had died. The last time I had gotten men killed and lost a huge piece of myself. I didn’t want to lead. I didn’t think I could anymore.

  Bullets snapped right over my head and I suddenly screamed at Christine.

  “Christine! Christine! Can we move Sarg?”

  She yelled back, “Yes!”

  “What about him?” I screamed, pointing to Smith.

  Christine moved to him, and as soon as she saw the brain matter on the floor, she looked at me and shook her head.

  “Walter! David!” I yelled.

  Both men looked at me, “Get Sarg downstairs!”

  Walter and David dragged Sergeant Barnes while Carlos took Smith’s body and I grabbed the deceased Alvar. Bullets tore into the room, kicking pieces of wood and drywall into our faces. Sergeant Barnes groaned in pain as he was dragged down the stairs.

  The smoke was less intense at the lower level but the bullets were more numerous. They came from every angle, through every opening in the house. Everyone was crouched, huddled behind whatever they could find. Panic was everywhere. Everyone was yelling, some were trying to render medical aid, others were trying to figure out what to do, and everyone was scared out of their minds. Flames licked out of the basement door.

  I yelled to Christine, but she couldn’t hear me over chaos. I crawled to her, shook her, and pointed to the perimeter team leader, a man named Anton who lay in a pool of blood.

  “Tell me if he’s going to make it!”

  She crawled to him and after a quick evaluation she looked back at me and shook her head. The flames from the basement began to find their way onto the ceiling, bullets continued to crisscross through the house, and everyone was still yelling.

  I yelled for everyone to listen to me but no one seemed to hear. We needed to get out of here fast. I pulled out my pistol and unscrewed the silencer. I stood and walked to the center of the room, positioning myself where I thought I would be safe. Bullets snapped past me on all sides. I fired five rounds into the ground. My standing up and the firing brought everyone’s attention to me.

  I pounded my chest.

  “Everyone shut up and listen! Everyone shut up and listen!”

  I pointed to three men from the perimeter team. “You three, on my signal put rounds on the house behind us,” I said, pointing out the back door.

  I pointed to the other team. “When they start firing, you establish a foothold in that building. I’ll lead!”

  I pointed to Walter, “You carry Sarg. Once we have a foothold follow us in!” I pointed back at perimeter team. “You guys follow Carlos and David and bring our KIAs!”

  Everyone started shouting again.

  I fired my entire magazine into the floor and everyone quieted down.

  I moved to the perimeter team guys and physically moved them to where they could fire at the house behind us. I pointed out the windows and yelled. “Fire on that house! After we secure a foothold, you follow us in and bring the KIAs.”

  I went to each guy that was going to be securing the foothold, and physically moved them near the door. Bullets continued to rip through the house but I stayed upright while moving, trying to exert some outward confidence when in reality I wanted to lie on the floor and curl up into a little ball.

  I stood near the doorway and saw everyone was looking at me. I pointed to the perimeter team and yelled “Fire!” They rose as one and fired at the house behind us. I looked to the other men. “Let’s move!” I yelled. I bent to a low crouch and ran out the back door, heading straight for the house behind us. I could hear bullets snapping past me. I didn’t dare look back; I just ran as fast as I could. When I got to the house I ran along the side and saw a door about halfway down. I angled out away from the house, and then dove back towards the house and the door. I hit the door at a full sprint, shoulder first.

  The door crashed open, much easier than I anticipated, which caused me to lose my balance and fall. I slid across the wood floor into the house, the door coming along next to me. I had no idea if anyone had followed me – I could only hope. I turned onto my side, bringing up my rifle and searching for a target. I saw several Legion positioned near windows, some still firing at the house we had come from, others waiting for us. I raised my weapon up but before I could fire the other squad members stepped in front of me.

  My heart lifted as all of them, all still close together, barged into the room. They immediately moved towards the Legion, firing as they went. I clamored to my feet as they finished off the last of the Legion and moved to clear the rest of the house. I moved towards the door we had come in and was nearly knocked over as Walter barged in carrying Sergeant Barnes. They were followed by David, Carlos, and the rest of the squad who were carrying the KIAs.

  I grabbed Walter and several other men and led them to the other side of the house. I gave each man a window to fire out of. I pointed to the next house and told them we would do the same thing as before. I took a group of men and charged the next house. When we broke in, the Legion were too busy firing into the original house to notice our arrival. We killed them quickly and the rest of the squad joined us. I set the men up just like I did before, except this time we moved across a street, moving away from the burning house. Luckily we found no Legion in the next house, or the next. And our final move brought us into the woods.

  I kept half of the men facing our rear, covering the others as they rushed back. One group would run back fifty or so yards and then turn and cover the other group as they ran back. Everyone took turns carrying Sergeant Barnes, the two deceased team leaders, as well as the Alvar. We did this three or four times and got ourselves some distance away. By this time the original house was totally engulfed in flames.

  As I looked back, I saw a crested helmet, silhouetted against the flames. I could tell the Alpha was facing our direction and I saw him pointing and turning his head – he directed his men towards us. Somehow he knew we had slipped out and I guessed he knew where we were headed.

  After a few seconds the crested helmet disappeared and I turned to rush back as the other part of the squad covered. I ran the short distance and saw something glowing in the distance. I yelled at the squad to keep moving back and I sprinted towards the light. It wasn’t long before it was blatantly obvious; all three of our vehicles were engulfed in flames. We were on our own.

  I sprinted back to the squad. Several of them yelled at me that the Alpha was out there, along with ten to fifteen Legion. I halted them by raising my hand; I brought them in and put them in a protective circle. There was no more shouting. Fear silenced the men and brought their eyes out into the darkness, searching for the source of their fear. I too stared into the darkness with terror. I heard a deep-throated yell, one almost too deep for a man, and guessed it belonged to the Alpha. He was coming for us.

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