Chapter 6: Landing
Patterson was not inside the cockpit, but due to the small profile of the glider, his seat was close enough to see clearly inside the cockpit and out the front windows. Daniel switched on the reflector panels, and after checking that everything was in working order, he locked the cockpit’s front into place, preventing access from the Skyraider.
“Radio test, 1,2,3…” he said into the glider’s radio.
“We can hear you loud and clear,” replied Nichols.
“Same goes for us, Dan.” Came the answer from Dresden, Rhino platoon’s second-in-command, and the pilot of the other glider. “You all set over there?”
Daniel quickly turned around in his seat, towards the rest of the squad.
“Do you guys have everything you need?”
Patterson quickly checked all of his pockets and pouches along with the rest of the squad, making sure that none of their equipment was missing. Most of their soldiers were carrying standard infantry equipment, which consisted of the AMC's red and light-brown infantry armor with a matching helmet, a backpack, some flares and grenades, and of course their APGM rifles, which Patterson had outfitted with an underbarrel shotgun attachment.
As for the non-standard equipment; Nick had his tracker gun with him along with the GPS terminal and the tracker devices, while James was carrying a hefty rocket launcher on his back along with a stack of missiles in his backpack.
All in all, they were armed to their teeth.
“I think we've got everything Dan!" announced Patterson.
Daniel nodded, and then turned back to the glider's radio. “We're ready to go as well, Bull. Awaiting Big Brother's launch signal.”
The clock hit 19:00 a few minutes ago, and the night already befell this side of Azuno. But even in the darkness, Patterson saw the wide city of Blackfortress. While a big portion of the city was made up of your run of the mill residential and commercial districts, the southern section was occupied with nothing besides mining infrastructure, quarries, refineries, and factories. This section along with the city center seemed to be well lit but some of the outside areas were under the cover of the darkness. Whether or not this was a simple power failure or deliberate sabotage remained to be seen.
“So,” said Norton suddenly from the back of the glider. “Can anybody tell me how we ended up calling our only vehicle manned by an all-women squad Big Brother?”
This caused a few laughs in the back, and in the cockpit as well.
“Thompson’s idea,” replied Jefferson with his usual deadpan expression.
“Speaking of ideas,” said James. “Whose idea was it to use planes in the first place? Why not just storm the city from two sides with the full force of the 32nd and the 4th?”
“The number of potential casualties was much higher than the number of people who are here now,” explained Patterson. “Even if we all went MIA, we’d still have fewer people missing than if we raided the city in broad daylight.”
In other words, this method was efficient, something that the General was obsessed with.
The glider’s radio turned on suddenly.
“This is Big Broth… actually, screw that, this is Big Sister,” said Major Langley, causing another round of laughs in the passenger bay. “…we are in the drop zone. I’m transferring full control to the gliders now. Safe flight, everyone!”
The light on Daniel’s panel changed from red to blue as the control was transferred.
“Roger that Big Sister,” he said. “Make sure you don’t leave us hanging once we get the SAMs down!”
Dresden said something similar, but Cole didn’t hear it due to the noise of the glider detaching from the Skyraider.
The plane shook a bit, but Danny stabilized it without much trouble and soon they were gliding straight towards Blackfortress, with Bull squad not too far behind.
Patterson leaned forward from his seat. “So where exactly are we landing?”
“If everything goes well, the Southern Mines.” Major Jefferson answered. “Three of the two military outposts are in south and south-east Blackfortress, so those two will be our first targets.”
“Understood,” Cole said, and then turned back to the rest of the squad. “If anyone wants to get something off their chest before we land in the complete unknown, do it now.”
Private First-Class Tibor raised his hand. “I might have left the gas on before I left my house, so if I’ve accidentally lit a district on fire, my bad!”
Cole chuckled at the thought that entire the blackout in Blackfortress was caused by a wildfire, due to Tibor forgetting about his cooker. Just for the fun of it, Cole leaned forward to look more closely out the cockpit’s window in hopes of seeing Fire Tibor.
“Well good news Gary, I can’t see any fire––”
He suddenly spotted an orange glow at the northern end of the city. He couldn’t believe that the man managed to actually set his house on fire. He was about to tell this when he saw the fire get bigger and bigger.
It was as if it was not even a fire but a…
He suddenly realized what it was.
“Missile incoming!” Daniel yelled before him.
He made a sharp turn upwards with the plane that sent a few of the soldiers hitting their heads into the side of the aircraft.
He did what he could, but the missile ended up hitting the tail of the glider, causing the left tail wing and part of the structure to blow into pieces. The explosion shook the entire aircraft as it tore apart the back of the plane, most likely shattering a few eardrums and removing most of the vehicle’s tail wings.
“This is Rhino, we’ve been hit, I repeat we’ve been hit!”
Jefferson jumped out of his seat and opened the side door of the glider at the back. “Everyone bail, now!” he shouted.
Tibor quickly turned over to him as he regained his balance. “Wait we can’t just–”
“I said bail!”
Led by Tibor, the soldiers started jumping out one by one while Daniel was trying to stabilize the heavily damaged plane. Cole was quick to dash up to the door at the back, and as he was about to jump as well, he realized that their radios wouldn’t work if the glider got destroyed. He turned back towards Daniel, then looked at Jefferson. “Get moving sir, I’ll be there in a minute!”
Jefferson wasn’t about to argue, and he jumped as well, followed by North, which left only Nick, Daniel, and Cole on the glider.
Before he could take a step forward, Nick ran up to Patterson.
“Leave it to me, Cole! You’re needed down there!”
Nick quickly gripped the front of Patterson’s chute, and when he realized a moment later what his friend was doing it was too late.
The parachute opened, and the wind immediately threw Patterson outside of the plane.
* * *
Private First-Class Nick Becket watched his commanding officer fly out of the crashing glider as he felt like a total asshole. The lieutenant was going to kill him for this, but not now.
Nick turned around and ran up to the cockpit, and as soon as he reached the pilot seat, he gripped Daniel’s shoulders and threw the sergeant out of his chair. He was still holding onto the stick which made the plane turn a bit, causing Nick and Danny to lose their footing for a moment. Nick was able to grab the seat, however, and a second later he sat into it and was in control of the crashing plane.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” yelled Daniel.
“Saving the radio and your ass at the same time! We’ll need it if we want to be able to call for––”
Daniel gripped Nick’s shoulders just when the plane was hit by a series of large caliber AA rounds. A few of the projectiles went straight through the cockpit’s glass, shattering it to multiple pieces and hitting Daniel’s robo-arm in the process. The sergeant jumped back when Nick pulled the plane up to avoid the rest of the enemy fire.
“Nick, you gotta––”
“Get the fuck out of here Sergeant!”
For a moment Daniel stared at Nick, but afterwards, he cursed and then finally ran to the back of the plane, and with a yell, he finally jumped out.
Nick quickly turned on the plane’s radio as he did his best to keep the wreck steady.
“This is PFC Becket; I’m taking control of the plane! ETA until crash-landing is––”
“What the hell are you doing private?! Get out of there this instant!” yelled Staff Sergeant Nichols.
“Not really an option right now! I’m transmitting my current coordinates so that you can come to pick up the wreckage and the radio!”
And my corpse he thought.
“Private, you––” replied Nichols before a loud static noise cut her off.
Nick kicked the device a few times but after the plane got hit by another series of bullets, he gave up on fixing the thing. As the ground was getting closer and closer, Nick did his best to tilt the plane’s nose upwards as much as possible. He was about a hundred meters above the ground when he spotted a multi-floor parking lot. Not having a better idea, Nick pushed the plane’s nose down using the main wing’s fins, and a few dozen meters before reaching the edge of the parking lot he pulled up as hard as he could.
The remains of the plane’s tail hit the edge of the building, causing the vehicle to flip forward and land almost precisely on its stomach, and Nick to smash his head into the cockpit’s controls.
* * *
Patterson saw it on his way down. He saw when another person jumped out from the glider, and he saw when it crashed into a building with one of his friends still inside.
It happened again.
Yet again he lost one of his men, despite the promise he made. Or maybe because of it.
Patterson couldn’t see much in the darkness other than the anti-air weapons lighting up the area around them every few seconds. He was looking around in the sky to see the other burning glider going towards the ground, but to his relief, he couldn’t find it. If Bull could make it down to the ground, they’d still have a chance.
Probably not a chance at winning, but a chance at surviving at least.
As Patterson got closer and closer to the ground, he did his best to look for the others. Most of Rhino was already on the ground, but Cole could still see either Nick or Daniel descending about half a kilometer from him. Figuring out which one of the two survived seemed more important than anything else for him, and as such, he aligned his parachute towards them.
He was less than a dozen meters above the ground when he felt his parachute get looser. Patterson quickly extended his legs as he fell just as he was trained to do so, and to his luck, he didn’t fall fast enough to break any of his bones. After a few painful grunts, he got himself out of his chute and stood up. While he took his rifle off from his back, he grabbed his short-range radio.
“This is Patterson! Does anyone receive me?”
It took a few seconds before he could hear the static sounding voice of North, along with what sounded like gunfire. “Cole! I’m here with James but we’re pinned down by a squad of… hell knows who!”
Patterson could hear where the fighting was coming from, and to his disappointment, it was in the exact opposite direction of Nick or Daniel. He cursed loudly and then gripped his radio. “On my way, just hold on!”
Cole tossed his radio back into his pocket and then began sprinting towards North and James. Nick and Daniel were both experienced soldiers, but no one could hold out in a hostile zone like Blackfortress on their own for too long. He was going rescue North and James and then go after the rest of his team, orders and protocols be damned.
While Patterson was running across the wide streets in between the rectangular buildings of Blackfortress he kept a part of his brain on recon duty. It was obvious that Blackfortress was now in control of an enemy force, and the lack of city lights was most likely due to deliberated sabotage. He had no idea who or what the saboteurs were though, much less how they were able to detect their planes. Unless someone knew where the gliders were at a certain moment, it was extremely difficult, if not outright impossible to spot one, leaving two likely possibilities.
Either the enemy had high-tech prototype scanners;
Or they had something else.
More precisely, someone else.
Cole suddenly heard an explosion not too far from his position. He quickly buried that last thought to the depths of his mind and then changed directions and ran to the site of the explosion. He passed two houses before he ran face-first into somebody who was coming out from the alleyway on the right side of the second one.
He knocked over the person with his rifle in his surprise, and the man fell to the ground with a loud thud. He was wearing full black body armor and had a shotgun in his right arm. He aimed it at Patterson, but the lieutenant smashed his face in with the butt of his rifle before he got anywhere with that plan.
Patterson then quickly ran inside the alleyway and was pleasantly surprised to see five more of those soldiers with their backs towards him, continuously firing at a group of two. Without a second thought, Cole switched his rifle to full auto and fired about twenty bullets in a cone in front of himself. Two of the enemy were still standing after he stopped firing, but one of them immediately got knocked down to the ground by something small, while the other one caught a few Aftonian-grade 7.62mm bullets with his chest and face. Once the enemy squad was down, Cole waved at the two soldiers and then ran up to them.
He quickly closed the distance between the three of them, and to his relief, both North and James were alive and well. A bit shaken perhaps, but not injured.
Cole let out a sigh and then spoke up. “Glad to see you two are okay,” he said.
“Same here, but what the fuck happened Lieutenant?” queried James. “How the hell did they spot our planes?!”
“Damned if I know! We’ll figure it out as soon as we can, but we need to get Nick and Daniel first!”
“Shouldn’t we regroup with the Major before that?” asked North.
Cole turned towards North with lowered eyebrows. “No. Not without them.”
North nodded. “Got it,” he said, and then changed the ammo box in his light-machinegun. “…then let’s get going!”
As James and North took up positions behind him in the form of a chevron, Patterson ran off from the street into one of the many alleyways nearby, then continued to the east, towards the area where Daniel or Nick could have landed. He occasionally looked up at the night sky, wondering where Bull's glider was...
I'm just an average dude from Hungary who has way too much time on his hands. I started writing a couple years ago as a hobby, partly because I wanted to practice and improve my English, and partly because there's just something amazing about inventing new worlds and people from scratch and then writing about their deeds and adventures.
At this point I honestly can't imagine myself putting down my writing pen ever again, and I would like to wish lots of luck to every other writer out there with their projects!
Favorite genres: Science Fiction, Adventure, Military