I patrol the Australian Outback as a country soldier. I have just met my final match. - Chap 1
The Australian Outback was a wonderful playground of nightmares for foreigners – such as the two American officers who visited as part of an exchange program a few years ago. Whilst I was repulsive to extremely hot conditions, I enjoyed the career, working my way from the sand dunes of the Middle East, hopping from metropolitan postings, conducting useless recruitment operations in airshows, and even going for a stint in the special forces, spending about 3 years conducting survelliance operations worldwide. Finally, I was sent from Swanbourne to Alice Springs to advise my new posting.
The North West Mobile Force was a tough and formidable fighting force – comprised of Aboriginals, who were experts in the ‘North West’ – or in other terms, the great ol’ Aussie outback. Days included midnight navigation excersices, spending days on end sitting a sandy foxhole and crapping in a ratpack bag. Overall, it was great fun – our tasks, being on the coast, ensured that we had a lot of beach landing trainings, and even assisting some Naval units on coastal drug busts.
Every few days, we’d be ordered to rack up and be pushed into a Land Rover, and be sent to patrol thousands of square kilometres, with days not even meeting a single settlement, let alone an indigenous community. Tasks included devlivering medical supplies, and generally assisting the local law enforcement in ensuring that everything ran smoothly, and the monthly delivery of ‘morale items’ (toys for the local schools and adult stuff for the adults) brought a load of chuckles as we reviewed the item list. I have had horror stories – such as an inadverdant toilet break, or even that time we accidentally burned down our makeshift outhouse and tenting, but what was to come had scarred me.
One sunny day, me and Samuel, of the Aboriginals who had hitchhiked to Darwin from his community were playing a game of chess. Samuel had apparently came up from a place from an alcoholic problem – without any avail with government assistance, who mostly sent boxes of funds and pamphlets which became a pathway to more grog and smokes, but Samuel resisted the temptation, staying up late, marching and trekking all the way to the local celluar tower, sitting through low resolution videos on the Cuban Revolution and Ecology. I came from the opposite – I was rebellious in every possible way, defying the private institution my parents had payed ludicrous amounts for, and eventually failing my exams horribly. From there, I grabbed by passport, a couple of clothes, and turned up to the local recruiting station, and enlisted into the Army as regular infantry, much to the dismay of my parents neighbourhood (filfthly rich that they had an assortment of clubs), and my family pretty much disowned me, until my mother had passed away from ‘death’ (in the actual email that they sent me), and I had received a full 100 cents, which was later contested as pocket money, by, apparently my nephew. From what I heard, a compassionate family accquaintance told me that my nephew received that money and spent it on sweets. So good for him.
I have to admit – I loved the Army. Most of the guys either dropped out of Kapooka or decided to get out with their hefty size of cash after their first or second deployment, but I stuck through, earning the title of 8 years last year (and a nice gong). After 5 years, I finally had enough merit to apply for the Officers Stream, as a Sergeant, and I succeeded in becoming a Lieutenant, and later making Captain 2 years after that, earning six digits, much to the dismay of my father.
While I was moving my knight, a tall and bulky Major Winston appeared through the door. His big, bulky body was built like that of a bodybuilder – and he indeed was one, winning the state boxing tournaments before some of his relatives, who were soldiers were killed during an United Nations peacekeeping mission, commisioning as a Lieutenant many centuries ago. His greying hair, his monotone voice, accompained with a degree which only robots study – English – had my jury decided. He was the living epitome of the modern day fossil.
“Captain Johnston. Get your team in order. You’re heading out.”
“What?” I asked.
“Just received call for assistance. You have half a hour.”
“But…” Samuel stuttured, “But we’re the only unit in the area! Whats another unit doing here?”
“I dunno, Corporal. Just get ready.”
With that, he left.
Being still a Special Forces officer, as a local ‘advisor’, technically, I got to keep my sandy winged excalibur beret, special forces pistol and my trusty rifle, unlike the vanilla crew which had received thenotoriously disreputable F88 rifle, which had burst my cheek open during a deployment, sending me to the medical tent for a week. On it was numerous stickers, such as an AC/DC one we went to off on base, as well as the signature of Chief of Army. I also got to have a beard, much to dismay of the standard troops, grumbling on how they should be able to have a beard. They could join the Navy, but as people who love the outback, the ocean seemed to be the living version of hell.
Watching as they bundled into the specially modified trucks, I climbed into the passenger seat in a truck and waited, lighting a cigar. Samuel then entered, slipping on his belt and lighting his own cigarette. The smoke wafted through the cabin.
“Jesus, man,” he muttered, “I was gonna go on leave after tommorow, man.”
Ignoring him, I grabbed the map, and showed him. A red dot in the middle of the barren desert enviroment.
“Way out there?” he explaimed, “where is there?”
“I dunno, dude.”
And then we drove in silence. That conversation took place 3 hours ago. I looked down at the brittle folded map, emerging from my long slumber.
“We’re almost there,” he said nervously.
Peeling off the cover that seperated the front driving compartment to the back passenger compartment, filled with soldiers sitting on flimsy wooden benches, I looked in.
“Almost there! Weapons hot!” I shouted, before slipping back the partition. Taking out my unique rifle, I inserted a fresh magazine, and watched as Samuel unholstered his pistol and inserted a fresh magazine.
“Jesus man, you still have a rifle,” I tried to calm him.
“This is unreal, man,” he replied, “It’s like 1am right now, and… surprise deployment. Middle of nowhere,” he said again, spinning the truck right, and brining us onto an unpaved road. A rusty old chain link gate sat in front. The truck burst through, as two other trucks trailed us. A sign.
Private Property. Do not enter.
“Christ. What is this place,” he muttered, as we advanced further down the road. Looking through my window, I saw a ute. A man sat in the back, cradling a mounted machine gun. Finally, we crashed through one more gate, and suddenly, the engines cracked, and all light was lost. We rolled into a rock on the road, thumping the bullbar with a loud clank. The other trucks also driftedover.
“This is Lead Hog, anyone else having engine troubles?” I said into my radio. No reply.
“Hell?” I said, as Samuel tried to restart the engine. That’s when the ute blew sideways, splashing into an unseen river. A sudden series of shouts from the back compartment. Slamming open the door, I unhooked my rifle and scanned the area using my thermal scope. All cold – no sign of life. Looking across the enviroment, amongst the flurry of shouts. Another scream.
“Fuck!” someone yelled. Looking up, another soldier had lost grasp of his rifle, and was proplled backwards, also sinking into a river system. That’s when another truck exploded, and survival instinct struck.
“GO! THAT WAY! THAT FUCKIN’ WAY!” I shouted, running towards the road on the other end. The rest of soldiers had regrouped on me, and started to follow me. Finally, after what felt like a half marathon, I came across a sign.
Do not enter without prior clearance.
Running through the dirt road, I finally crashed down behind a barricade. I peeked over – an entire building on fire. Multiple veichles on fire. I hopped over – and promptly landed on a body. Grabbing my flashlight, I shone it on the mushy body. A man with his face burnt off, in blue Air Force faitgues, wearing a ballistic vest, with his hands loosely clasped around some sort of shotgun.
“Jesus -” I began to say. A flurry of blue glowing shots spunt towards me, splintering the concrete of the barricade. Hopping back over, Samuel immediately peeked over and returned fire. Unhooking a flash grenade from my vest’s caribiner, I pulled out the pin, spat it away, and hurled it.
“FLASH OUT!” I yelled. Everyone ducked, guarding their eyes. It exploded, spreading combustive fiery ash across the ground. Picking my rifle up, I shot a few rounds in their direction. By now, I was ignoring all the screaming in the radio, busy trying to fend off whatever was shooting at us. But it seemed undazed, slamming down ammuition at pinpoint accuracy. I looked over. While one of the buildings was on fire, I saw a clean, burnt building. Still standing.
“This is Bravo One, see that clean building there?”
Alpha One responded – Lieutenant Hendrix.
“We’re gonna storm it,” I said.
“Shit!” he yelled, before the radio transmition cut.
“OI! GET THE PIG UP HERE!” I yelled at Gunner Tomas, one of the fresher guys, who cradled a large machine gun. Without hesitation, he slammed the gun down, and his assistant, Gunner Kenny, held the ammunition as they fired, spraying bullets across the warzone. No more enemy fire. Holding out my hand, we advanced, reaching the main door. I tried to open it – it was locked. Samuel came up, wielding a crowbar, jamming the door inwards and smashing the glass. Unlocking it, we entered.
Weirldly nice, considering the place. A tiled floor. A reception. Filled with blood, and a dead body dressed in a set of naval camoflauge pants and a lab coat. Taking no chances, I disintegrated and peppered the body with my rifle. Lieutenant Hendrix approached from the other hall.
“You keep going. I’ll go forward.”
He nodded. Slowly, I opened the next door forward, entering a literal maze of hallways. Crouching behind a wall, I peeked into a blind spot.
“What is this place,” Gunner Kenny said, wiping away sweat that he taken up residence on his forehead.
Suddenly, my radio buzzed.
“We found something.”
Rushing down the hallway, and almost trampling Samuel in the process, I found myself surrounded by Hendrix’s team, gathered around a door. One that had bullets holed into it.
“Looks like this was some sort of bomb shelter. They didn’t get in,” Hendrix exclaimed, trying to peer through the holes in the door.
“There’s no bullet casings. This was made to keep people in,” I replied, raising my hand to the door. Pushing it, with the others, the door flew down.
A wall seperating the room, with a window and mesh netting. Smoke inside, the thick red fog obscuring vision.
And faintly, was a figure, dragging itself along the floor.