Chapter Nineteen

Djokovic was getting pissed.

The little brown mercenaries were little better then Roma, or even Albanians.

“What is problem,” he hissed into his radio.

The entire convoy had pulled to the side of the road; gunners in the turret of each vehicle covering to the left and right on the alternate side of the one in front. It had been about an hour and a half, and they had just entered AO Jaguar. So far Charlie Company was well within the timeline, but the Serb wanted to clean house and make it back to the Pickup Zone well before Deckard.

Deep down he was still bitter about the last mission. After leaving him behind to mind the troops while the commander took Alpha Company to Afghanistan, he felt perceptions towards him change. Although assured otherwise, the Kazakhs knew there had to be a reason why he was not brought along. He could see it in their eyes.

He would prove how wrong they were.

Charlie Company would rack up a body count like he hadn’t seen since Srebrenica.

“Sierra-Five, this is Sierra-Mike One.” It was the one called Adam.

“Why are you stopped?”

“A truck belonging to Sierra-Two has a flat. Must have picked up a nail or something. We’re good on run flats, but we need to let them do a tire change before we start hitting targets, over.”

Djokovic gritted his teeth. Second Platoon needed to learn how to drive.

“Make it fast, out.”

He could even hear the American’s condescending tone over the radio.

* * *

Five minutes later Charlie Company was rolling again.

Reaching another fork in the road, the company split up, this time into platoons for the final leg of their infiltration before raiding individual objectives. First and Third Platoons went right, with the company’s medical evacuation vehicle and the mortar section attachments. Second Platoon, headed left down national highway number five.

Gordan would be sticking with Second Platoon as they hit a series of drug labs in their assigned section of the AO. Adam, Piet, and Mendez would be at the XO’s disposal, along with the rest of the company.

Driving through the rolling jungle terrain, Djokovic’s element slowly made their way downhill. One false move under the night vision goggles and one of the trucks could go over the lip of the road and roll a few hundred meters to the bottom, probably landing upside down in the river.

Reaching the bottom of the hill, the convoy rolled over a metal frame bridge, the waters below dark and uninviting. The men knew it was almost game time. A few hid nervous shakes with nervous laughs, chuckling alongside their buddies in the back of the trucks.

Minutes seemed like hours until finally they came into a valley, lights illuminating a distant village. The Serb spoke into the radio, halting the convoy once more.

The mortar section got off the trucks that they had been cross loaded onto and began moving out with their 82mm tubes, base plates, bipods, and an assortment of mortar rounds. With the area around the village being deforested, the entire section was able to fit comfortably between two draws, trailing down from a nearby mountain, for better security.

Leaving Mendez and his section behind, the two platoons took the convoy off road, leading deeper into the forest towards people who would rather be left undiscovered.

* * *

“Sierra-Five this is Mike-One. Guns are up, over.”

“Roger,” Djokovic responded to Mendez’s transmission. Not that he cared. They were going in with or without indirect fire. If a few mongrels died taking the objective, they would just train new ones.

At the base of the hill he could see a checkpoint, guarding the only access road up to the target. This checkpoint consisted of a sandbagged pillbox with some orange cones put across the road. The Executive Officer laughed. He’d seen Muslims manage better defenses.

Rolling up to the checkpoint, the two guards on duty looked on with eyes bugging out of their heads, mistaking the convoy for the SPDC with some new toys. The machine gunner manning the turret on Djokovic’s truck opened fire, stitching the pillbox back and forth, the bursts of gunfire echoing through the valley, as bullets tore apart sandbags and flesh alike.

The Serb had another laugh. The truck’s driver looked at him curiously.

Driving over the cones, the convoy twisted its way around hairpins turns, increasing in elevation as the trucks climbed up the side of the hill. As the trucks cresting the summit, the front gate came into view.

With the headlights switched off, the driver slowed the truck down before ramming through the flimsy wooden gate, tires cracking the branches and wooden planks in half. First Platoon drove straight into the middle of the garrison, guards finally waking up in their foxholes and bunkers, searching for flashlights.

All five trucks commenced firing as the Serb gave the order to initiate. PKM machine guns and AK rifles ripped through the garrison, tearing apart thatch huts and digging into bunkers constructed with logs and sandbags. Many UWSA militia men died in their sleep, never knowing that they were under attack.

The surrounding camp was lit up by muzzle flashes, a foot of fire spitting from the barrels of the automatic weapons that traced fire back and forth across the compound. The assault teams jumped off the trucks to begin their attack. Moving into squad formations, they came under some sporadic fire, the militia men finally mounting what seemed like a half-hearted counter-attack.

On the next hill over, the Djokovic could see high explosive rounds impacting just short of another drug lab. A driver called in corrections to the mortar section over the truck’s radio, walking the rounds in until finally they fired a shake and bake mission.

First, they hit the drug laboratory with another HE shot as a spotter round. Next, they fired a red phosphorous round that burned across the hill in a nearly perfect circular pattern, immediately igniting the precursor chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine.

The resulting secondary explosions ripped through whatever was left of the compound. Pieces of wood spun through the air with long wisps of flame chasing after them.

At a distance, Djokovic couldn’t hear the screams but could still imagine them crying out as they burned alive. However, he did hear Third Platoon’s guns somewhere deeper in the jungle. They must have just hit their own target, the next garrison over, just a few kilometers away.

Swinging open the door, he stepped out into the slaughter, a stray bullet ricocheting off the door as he closed it. The Serb ducked behind the truck as Adam came up alongside to help direct the troops.

Two assault teams were kicking in doors and entering the huts while the third was in the prone, preparing to throw hand grenades before clearing a trench line on the eastern side of the compound. The PKM gunners in the vehicles continued to lay down a steady wall of lead in the direction of the few shots that rang out in opposition.

Suddenly two of the Kazakhs from Third Squad were thrown to the ground as a grenade detonated, spewing dirt and debris into the air.

“Fuck! Fucking fucks!,” Djokovic growled. “What are they doing?”

The assaulters got to their feet and continued to advance with their comrades, lobbing grenades of their own into the trench. While their buddies provided suppressive fire, two mercenaries lay parallel to the trench, feet to feet, before rolling in and firing rapid bursts. Having established a foothold, the rest of the squad followed in after them.

The XO muttered something in his native tongue, his words drowned out by another explosion while he fished through his pockets for a cigarette. Lighting up, he exhaled a cloud of smoke, looking towards Adam with words unspoken as his head exploded.

A single gunshot rang out through the night.

The Serb lay motionless, his head pulped beyond recognition as if a firecracker had gone off in his brain.

Keying his hand mic, Adam announced to the platoon that he was assuming command.

* * *

Piet racked the bolt, ejecting the spent shell casing from his sniper rifle.

Occupying one of the haphazardly built wood and mud bunkers, the South African had lain down on top of the still warm body of its former occupant, his body torn apart with machine gun fire.

Sliding the sniper rifle’s bolt home and chambering another round, he scanned for fresh targets.

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