Alpha: Chapter 16

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EVERYthing happened. And there there was nothing. That’s all I wish I’d have to tell you but it would be a disservice to all of my brothers as well as me too of course. One and for all, and all of that stuff no matter who it is taking the charge.

 

We’d do a lot of joking about if they wanted to do us in they better do their homework. Maybe that was fate or it was just dumb and blind coincidence, but it was a doozy for us. Maybe it was a little too much here and there, but that’s just how we rolled- literally I mean.

 

Compared to the other patrols, we’d roll a little bigger off the books from time to time. Sometimes it was for a good reason since we’d have another extra vehicle to scare away anyone who might be planning for one scenario and then getting another. Puts a little crimp in the plan if you know what I mean. If you expect three and get four, sometimes it can be enough intimidation to retreat or it can also pop the question if the intel being sniped from a rat was lying or being deceptive. The slightest bit of doubt can shake the strongest stuff apart and I know it.

There’s another reason we would pick up extra people. There would be some boredom fierce, so we would pick up some stragglers now and then let’s say. Some other reasons may be there also but I don’t want to get into that. We took our job seriously but we maybe had a little extra swagger in various departments that people were drawn to. Enough said.

 

Maybe things about us made us a larger target but I’m way sure we repelled more than attracted. We know the fine art of being seen only as much as we had to. I may look like the guy who doesn’t know his own voice level, but I can be stealthy. Makes no difference when behind a vehicle patrol out on the routes of course. If the sheer about of noise pollution from the engines don’t grab notice then the snake of dust coming out from behind us. The dusty tail of our suicide trail.

 

I’m not getting into all the specifics of things. If I give a step by step then I’m going to worry what that information is going to be used for. There’s so much stuff as it is that people know now that never would have been public knowledge the last time we rocked the sand trap of the Middle East. This time it’s way crazier. These insurgents just stewed in their own juice and wanted to do nothing more than grief us like any other wannabe haxx0r that knows he can’t win in a fair fight online. Cheating and screwing around while knowing in their hearts there’s no real victory, just some hollow ass shouting about being the best.

 

They should have been able to take us all out if they were worth their Wheaties, but America’s just too good I suppose. I remember most of what went down, but It’s not like I was 360 of what was happening. I do know this: it was a triple threat and nobody ever saw such a thing.

 

Really, we weren’t supposed to go out on this patrol but something got swapped up. There was a rumor the original group had different orders so we were kind of a last minute setup; or kind of a PUG (pick up group online slang).

 

Three. It took a triple attack from a lousy bunch of cowards. Of course none of us knew it at the time since it really was a gank kind of move but what else could I expect from where we were.

 

Originally we had to stop the group. I’d say it was a suspicious package but this was far beyond driven. It glared to be something bad and ominous beyond suspicion. I’ll never forget coming up on that. I felt the vehicle stop and I looked the best I could towards the front. This thing looked like it rolled out of a corny black and white movie. Literally it was a package. Brown paper and carefully wrapped with twine. Just like it was from a corny movie with the paperboy and milkman riding down the street in the morning. A package like this was suspicious beyond belief. There’s been some really boneheaded things I’ve seen in the past. Real slacked jaw droppers. Wrapping stuff in the flag and other things which scream out trouble. We weren’t taking chances since it looked so strangely clean and just out there. Brass out just sticking for us. Sometimes people are that dumb. You can’t have brainiacs wanting to blow themselves up though so you have to work with what you got. Too bad this guy was a bit smarter than the average.

 

Truthfully this thing was odd in more ways than one. It was not just sitting in the road like most. It was on a post and leaning at it diagonally. Usually a suspicious package is on the ground and covered up a bit also, or even under a piece of metal like a car part. Their whole game is to get you to bump it and set off the detonation or just get close enough and it’s set off remotely. They put it flat of the ground usually and have a set of wires running that’s covered up with the dirt and sand as camo to cover the tracks. It’s gnarly stuff and this one was about to get even worse.

 

Since it’s so dang obvious we’ve got something sinister on the path, we halted and our boomers got on out there. That’s one of names our guys have for the detonation technicians. We probably have a million of them or a thousand or so. Mostly corny stuff we make up while we’re bored out of our bones and waiting for our next assignment. Rhythm and booms, the boom boom goons, bangarangs. It’s a lot. You have to have a pretty messed sense of humor to adapt, so I’m not the only one. Even the quiet guys can be some sick little goobers when it comes to the jokes but we all have the respect and that’s the only reason. You gotta claw their backs up so you know they’ll have your back another time. That’s the code.

 

So there it is. This slanty package wrapped up pretty with a bow of twine just out in the open there for us. The techs know it’s balanced there for the sake of tipping out going off its kilter if it has a switch inside. Some crafty guys just sit around all day and have no entertainment so they need to think up ways to screw with our mission instead of just chilling the heck out and taking some of our generosity. Being as careful as they could, they went to see what was doing over there.

 

Our eyes were on that package and that’s when the situation broke bad, but it wasn’t the package. Kablam! Everyone got on the defensive since we all knew that package was bad news. Now I was the second vehicle back and I was just sneaking a peek from my spot by the front. All I know was the package was still there just as it was.

 

The bomb guys were reactionary. Times like that call for instinct. They leaped away and dove to the ground to shield themselves from the blast. Wrong move. They didn’t know it but that wasn’t the bomb they were working on.

 

Somewhere was another one. Any other day I would have seen it. Heck any of our guys would have seen it but all we could do was look at this stupid brown paper parcel thing. First the looks of it and then the way it was balanced on there. There was a decoy and we all fell for it. That’s not saying we’re a bunch of dummies.

 

Somewhere off on the side of the road to the left was a little explosive landmark. We weren’t looking for it but I saw it a moment. It wasn’t something I did let go through my mind later. I’m not trying to make myself up as some superior guy but I played a little ball in high school so I can explain better how I know what I know.

 

I was playing JV (Junior Varsity) football as a quarterback actually. I was an alternating starter with another guy. Just so you know I have my ego on lock, I never made it into Varsity but I played a full JV season. I was doing basketball and just making it through that year. But here’s how I know the way I think.

 

When I was playing I’d put up average stats but never had any shakedown nights. No roof raising, but I had moments I got us a clutch. We always had the game tapes and we’d all have to crowd in and see where we did wrong and the points we made the right choice also. The bad always took dominance over the good since a lot of the JVers got bumped up to Varsity. So that left us with… Well with our mouth guards in our hands. One of the QBs I originally rotated between got bumped up to Varsity and that opened up a little more game time for me but that didn’t mean such an improvement. I’m not the kind to go hard and say I’m good when I know I don’t possess the skills. I got us out of scrapes and wasn’t the one that blew it before the playoffs. I ain’t pointing no fingers here but it wasn’t me who played that night.

 

Highlight films (or we called them the lowlights behind the backs of the coaches since it was more what we’d take a reaming on) reminded me of missed opportunities. I wouldn’t think of them at the time or see them afterwards, but then I could see it in total recall I think it’s called. I would see it all from my view once I saw the first second or two on the screen. Just like inside a game, I could see where everything was and remember it all. It just takes a flash or a word and I know it all.

 

In case you were wondering about my high school career, I decided not to come back to the ranks since I wanted a social schedule my last high school year. Things were ok enough so I didn’t need football to help my popularity anyway. At least I knew I could join the green brigade since I could follow orders in a team. And I did small bit of ROTC (well I call it like “rotsie” but I think everyone does) but it conflicted with some other things in my schedule. Long story short, I know what I know, and that’s how I know. Hah.

 

My “lowlights” moment was as soon as that explosion went off. It rocked the whole first vehicle as far as I saw it. Shook it like a van at the drive in movies. After the blast I looked out of instinct and the stupid assed package was still there. So I suddenly just knew even though I wasn’t thinking about it until a second after the explosion.

 

Off that road was a sketch mass of debris. It wasn’t a lot, maybe it was a lot of little rocks and dirt made into one rock or dirt clod looking thing. I knew it was there but it didn’t look fresh with the way the soil and earth was laying. Everyone else in the group that noticed the package still tilted where it was against that piece of a branch dug into the edge of the side of the road thought it was a rocket attack, and scrambled themselves up to take position for a firefight. It wasn’t an attack and nobody opened fire on us. It was an IED offensive all along.

 

They pelted us with rocks and garbage with the detonation. It was far enough away and the blast was directed to flank and surprise more than finish the job. It was a distraction and it worked like a charm. Since the techs had the package in tunnel vision they dove to the ground to avoid as much as they could from the brutality of that bomb in the brown wrapper.

 

It was a bomb indeed, and it had the techs where it wanted them. They were basically at eye level with it when they literally hit the dirt- and it hit full blown. The package detonated in the commotion of us getting into position for a firefight. Staring down the barrel through off the line of sight and it toppled more people from their position. The enemy knew what they were doing this time.

 

Another blast shot the package and we lost both bomb guys from it. I thought one of them was showing signs of life but that gear is only gonna help someone at a bit of a distance or more for feeling safer. I won’t kid you. It sometimes has success at minimizing some of the effects versus just wearing a jumpsuit and gloves, but you’re a gonner if the bombmaker jerkoff is determined to make something just a bit beyond standard even. That bomb gear really does help and it saved a lot of lives, but for the most part it’s like the one empty chamber in a revolver in a very serious odds against version of Russian Roulette.

 

By this point it was two explosions that already went off. Things were going haywire and you can’t blame the men for not knowing what was going on. Everyone fell back to the vehicles for additional cover. I couldn’t see anything from all the haze since the debris kicked up and was everywhere. Just saying it made me cough because I can still taste the dust and smell it when it engulfed my nose. That sort of smell is the rawest thing I hope I never have to ever catch a whiff of again. Ordinance, dirt and human. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

Besides the usual was a rear vehicle. Let’s say it was similar to a jeep but kind of a frankensteined up job. Basically it started as one vehicle but all the additional armor and metal working made the thing almost unrecognizable. This stuff may be what people think went on with painting hot chicks on an airplane or something but really it’s a mess that’s for keeping men alive. It may not be stuff seen in war movies but it’s very functional. Almost every vehicle has some sort of welded on part whether you see it or not. Mostly it’s on the bottom but some extra tricked out vehicle has it for some sort of reason.

 

I wasn’t so close with all of these guys. And certainly not the last vehicle- the ones in the welded up jeep kind of thing. They must have figured they could make a quick get or pull up close. I really don’t know what they wanted to do but all of a sudden this roar comes up from their engine. I could hear some gear crunking even with all the commotion. Maybe it’s from hearing all the diesel engines in my time or the back of my mind just knowing some serious gear stripping was going on. Whatever the heck it was, I heard it loud. Like it was a robot cracking a metal egg.

 

Whatever it was, I’m sure it made sense for these guys. I can’t imagine they would turn around and run even if they were not officially with us… More along for the ride and extra support if there actually was cause for suppressive fire. I’ll never know now. When I thought I heard the wheel spin the tires to one side, round three of holy hell.

 

All this was on my ears. I tried to perk up and see what was happening, but at this point I was still looking more forward since my view was obstructed for the sake of safety. And I’m glad since my eardrums almost popped out. The jeep vehicle got thrashed by another blast. This must have been placed for cutting the road off behind the convoy for an ambush but it didn’t really work as intended for them, and that’s our small miracle I guess. A small one.

 

I didn’t see the way it all went down, but I knew enough from the sounds and what I saw after. The vehicle in front of it was moved from the force but the frankensteined caboose lifted up entirely. Maybe it finally saw something and that’s why it tried moving but I’m not sure. What I do know is another IED ended up as the cause.

 

Something like this is really rare and I don’t think anything like this happened again. I’m praying it didn’t. When I am totally beat I give my kudos out to the worthy opponent but this was some buster kind of stuff. Maybe I’d have a little respect if these guys even had a real sniper but it’s all just some ass grade malarkey. We used to joke about bombing places back to the stone age as a figure of speech, but here we say it’s not possible since it’s already the stone age. It’s a paradox or something.

 

Our vehicle even rocked and I can only guess this thing was supposed to me what took everyone else down or took the road completely out. This IED wasn’t on the other side of the road or anything like that but actually dug underneath the crappy dirt ass path of our patrol. It wasn’t such a ginormous feat but it was done rapidly enough between patrols since nobody saw it in the last pass through, and the same for however long it was wedged up inside that road.

 

Most of the time patrols are fast enough to see what’s going on if it’s some dugout garbage since it’s very hard to disguise what’s going on with a freshly dug part of road, and the other reason is because patrols are often frequent enough to keep an eye on that or keep anyone away from trying to pull anything as disruptive. Sometimes they bomb the road to try to ambush soldiers or just cause grief and think it’s chaos. Or pick an area to poorly place an IED to make it look like something dug out but just some half ass job of slapping it down and covering it with sand and fresh dirt. We like to sometimes call those “mashed potato bombs” since it reminded us of being little kids and trying to hide vegetables we hated or sneak the food off our plates but trying to wedge it in our mashed potatoes and praying our parents weren’t looking too closely.

 

This time it wasn’t no potatoes. It was a sneak attack without the real punch. I just wished it was a real kind of blitz since I could have really shown what we were made of instead of only reacting. I maybe never got to take my anger or revenge out that happened but at least I made out a lot better than most. I was able to get out and help handle the situation. More being able to get people to safety and assist best I could. I wasn’t the only one doing it, but maybe I got the most pulled out or saved. Not all of them were but from what I could tell I did my best sensing who were in the most need.

 

I wasn’t trying to play favorites but I did have to get all mine out first. Not who is best but I knew I couldn’t live with myself otherwise. Sorry but I have to tell you the truth. If I knew someone was teetering on the brink and I was shoulder to shoulder with him at some point, I had to do it. Guess it’s a lot like high school if you went to the same school or college, the alma matter I think it’s called. Now anyone who served I have that same favoritism over school of course. Risking your life and being in the same dungeon four years are two way different cans of whoop ass.

 

Don’t think these guys weren’t tough. It was a quick thing like a bang boom BAM within a minute or two at the most. Why nobody had the right bearings or game plan set up. We all have to think for ourselves when a split second but use our commander’s instructions as soon as we hear from. Guys were thrown and well, let me say “parts” were around. Earth parts, road parts, IED remains and the parts most importantly of our brotherhood. The literal parts of the figurative brothers for poem kinds of people I guess.

 

After the third blast was when people were finally snapped into their duties. I was mostly inside my own head at that point. Then after the third I heard so much metal kinds of sounds I had to just get out and look. The jeep with the non “factory” parts had the doors blow off practically. It was toasted. That final blast shot it up into the air and made it roll off. It was basically just enough balance with the movement of the vehicle and the right angle. A blast like that yanked it up and over- and it rattles the whole vehicle. If anyone was outside it, they would have been crispy fried at the best case scenery. I know there was torch marks all on the vehicle in front of the jeepy one that got lifted and rolled off to the side. The road had a small drop off or a little slope so just a little bit of push make a giant roll.

 

I’m guessing it was just good luck or people were holding onto something since the doors were wide open and everyone was still inside. They were all shocked just like the lead vehicle also.

 

The rest of it was not really too exciting or maybe isn’t right to get into since it’s too much detail in the graphic way and I’m not the kind of guy to hand out intel for the picking. Someone can read what I write and use it to make something worse.

 

What I never thought about until now was why the tail vehicle cranked back up. Not the details or what made it do that. Maybe that was the whole point of me talking of it all through or writing. I was always supposed to do this in therapy but I just jerked around and wrote dumb stuff about whatever sport I was watching at the time. I would laugh my ass off and amuse myself but it was not so funny to them. They got a job and I get it but I had to amuse myself somehow. I could have been a total assanino and just ranted and been a terror but it’s not how I like to do things.

 

I saw all sorts of guys and gals not taking things well. And I just couldn’t be the same. Maybe I could have been a lot worse too so I can’t pull the same amount of empathy out of my bones, but enough was already dug out of my skin between that time and other stuff before I won’t brag about. All part of the duty.

 

A lucky roll of the dice- or fragmentation grenade, kept me from getting too thrashed before I got back home. Just mean it’s so random you can’t think why one guy got his and you got yours. I’m having a bad enough time because I want to go back. But some “battle mind” doctor mumbo jumbo and not being fit enough now. It broke up the team I guess. There’s a part of me maybe glad I can’t back but not because I’m worrying about getting my clock stopped as much as knowing the group wouldn’t be the same. Lost the flow and I’d trust the same but… It would all be different.

 

Maybe it was a good thing to end our reign on a high note. Just like a lot of people saying tv shows stop being good or bands making music after a greatest hits disc. Or even bubblegum, I don’t know man. I know my arm barely has the rotation it used to. Maybe it’s from all the jumping around that assault or my adrenaline jamming it up hard when I pulled people out and just being a madman to make sure everyone was safe. Or the explosion screwing me over way more than I thought but I don’t remember even getting touched. Plus I didn’t black out or anything that I know, but a lot of stuff was just missing. I forget what the doctors call it that doesn’t sound bogus. That writing thing helped me out in the end I guess so I can’t say it’s all too much a waste of my time.

 

No matter how you look at it, I’m out of commission since I have an arm that barely moves and a leg on the other side almost as bad but now I know when it’s going to rain I guess, so it’s kind of like having a superpower that’s a pain in the ass to own. But all my rescuing days are over as far as I see in. I’ll just Clark Kent it and take some disability at least for now and see if any options open up for me. At least it keeps me away from playing in sand until I’m old and grayed out.

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