Chapter 9: All for one

Daniel’s rifle clicked. He cursed as he threw the empty mag away and slid another one into its place. After pulling the charging handle back, he fired off a burst towards the enemy and shouted. “Come on fuckers, I don’t have all day!”

He managed to hit one of the dozen or so enemies, but the rest continued laying down suppressing fire at the building he was holed up inside. Not much has remained of the front door and the front of the building in general, but to Daniel’s luck, there were still numerous shelves and tables between him and the soon-to-be-dead enemies.

As he was firing off bullet after bullet Daniel’s insides were still burning from the rage he felt. Not because his first and only plane just got shot out from the sky, and not because he was against an entire army all by himself.

No, he was angry at Nick.

And Patterson for not throwing him off the plane sooner.

And more importantly, himself, for not bailing with the others.

Nobody should have died in that plane, and especially not the licensed optimist of the squad who only got dragged into this whole mission because Daniel persuaded him into volunteering.

As soon as he made it down to the ground, he immediately threw off his parachute and gripped his short-range radio. He wasted about a minute with unsuccessful attempts at communication, and in the end, he threw his radio back into his pocket and began sprinting towards the wreck of his glider.

He managed to get through one entire street before he ran into a group of twenty people. Most of them were wearing black or dark grey Kevlar armor, while a few had dark grey and green full-body armor suits with night-vision helmets.

By now there were only 12 of them. The issue was that Daniel had about that many bullets left since he didn’t want to bring the low-grade surplus ammo that they loaded the Skyraider with. He had standards after all!

Daniel quickly peeked outside without firing. Before he leaned back, he noticed that one of the enemies had a comically large tube in front of her. He threw himself behind a metal table mere moments before the female soldier launched her grenade into the building.

The explosion was certainly loud enough to shatter somebody’s eardrum, but at this distance, people would have had much bigger problems than being deaf. Daniel's table protected him from the force of the explosion and the fragments, and to his luck, his radio-headset shielded his ears from any serious damage.

Another reason why he wore these things instead of the traditional helmets they had.

Daniel crawled out from under his table, and as soon as he made sure that he had all three of his original limbs, he grabbed a small can from the floor and tossed it outside. A few of the soldiers fell for the trick, and when they jumped away from the “grenade”, Daniel had a clear shot at both.

Only ten remained.

The sergeant was about to change cover when out of a sudden he heard a light machinegun going off further down the street. One of the enemy soldiers suddenly flew about three meters to the right as he got hit by around a dozen bullets, and in the following seconds, two more followed his example. Daniel jumped out from his cover and opened fire as well.

With the help of the unknown machine-gunner, they were able to take out three more, and the remaining four decided to retreat. As much as Daniel was tempted, he did not shoot any of the fleeing soldiers.

Not that it mattered. They would certainly come back for him sooner or later.

The sergeant carefully made his way out of the building and looked around. The street was littered with guns, bullet casings and holes, concrete pieces, and dead bodies, with the smell of gunpowder and blood engulfing the area. The smell of war as some described it.

Daniel placed his rifle on his right shoulder and then turned towards the direction where the machine-gunner should have been.

He almost dropped his gun at the sight. “North?!”

It was dark outside, but Daniel could notice his friend’s oversized armor vest and painted machinegun from anywhere. North quickly lowered his gun, and without hesitation, he, along with Patterson and James ran to Daniel. The two gave each other a firm handshake and the kind of hug that close friends do, and afterwards Daniel walked up to Cole and saluted him.

“Damn good to see you sir!” he stated.

Patterson shook his head with a smile. “Drop that “sir” thing already,” He patted Daniel on the shoulder, then continued. “You alright?”

“I’m pissed that we lost our plane. Otherwise, I’m fine. I think.”

He wasn’t sure at all if he was fine or not considering what he just went through in the past forty minutes since the plane got hit. But he was alive. And right now, that’s all that mattered to both him and Patterson.

He was about to speak up when he noticed the rather bleak look on James’s face.

“So… I guess we know who made it…” he mumbled.

Patterson, North, and Daniel all looked at the private, wondering what to say. Patterson spoke up first. “No, we don’t.”

“Sir, with all due––” started James before Cole stepped forward.

“James, until we find a body, we’re not giving up on him!” he stated confidently. “…and this goes for every soldier we have in Blackfortress. Until you find Nick’s or someone else’s body, they are MIA! Am I understood?”

James stood still for a moment. It took him some time to answer. “Y-yes, sir.”

“Good. Dan, any ideas where the plane went down?”

“I was actually heading towards the crash site before these fine gentlemen,” he explained as he kicked one of the dead bodies. “…interrupted me.”

“Alright, you’re on point then,” said Patterson. “North, you cover our back. James, you’re with me.”

Both James and North replied with a 'yes sir'.

“Now let’s get the last of Rhino!”

The four of them quickly formed a diamond with Daniel being at the tip. After Cole handed a few extra clips of high-grade 7.62mm clips to Danny, the squad began moving towards the crash site as fast as they could. With Cole’s assault-rifle having an under-barrel shotgun attachment and James carrying an anti-tank launcher they were equipped for pretty much any situation.

As they moved through the empty streets and alleyways Daniel couldn’t help but wonder where everybody was. Blackfortress didn’t have that large of a population compared to the other Sapphirian cities, but Daniel hadn’t seen any signs of civilian life so far, other than all the open doors or cars, indicating that somebody had used them at one point. It was as if the city was hit by some sort of apocalyptic event, except instead of brainless zombies, there were brainless terrorists here.

Once the four of them got into a relatively cramped side-street, Daniel spoke up. “Cole, have you seen anyone in the city so far?”

“You mean civilians? No, not one.” They walked in silence for a bit before the lieutenant continued. “You’re wondering about where everybody has gone to?”

“Yes, but I am also curious about the “when”. They had to leave in a hurry if they left their cars open.”

James turned towards Daniel. “Maybe they evacuated when the city got attacked?”

“Doubt it,” replied North. “City’s been off the grid for a week. If the residents left the place, then at least one guy had to reach Sapphiria or Aftonia by now.”

“Well if they didn’t evac, then where are they?” asked James again.

The question was left up in the air. They were about to reach the last street that was between them and the plane when North spoke up. “LT?”

“Yes North?”

“I hate to ask this question but… what are the chances that these black armored guys we fought were locals?”

Everybody stopped in their tracks. Daniel felt something move in his chest. He slowly turned around and looked at Patterson with a questioning look on his face, similarly to James. The Lieutenant placed his left hand on his hip as he processed the question, and with a bit of delay he slowly spoke up with a low voice. “…not zero, but do you honestly want to know the answer?”

Daniel was about to blurt out a yes but then the rational part of his brain realized the hidden meaning of the question. Cole didn’t ask if they wanted to know the answer. Of course, they wanted to. What he asked was whether they were prepared to find out that they might have just shot a few dozen residents.

The answer to that question was a much more complicated one. Instead of answering, the four of them just exchanged a few glances and then continued their way towards the crash site, hoping that they won’t have to get into another firefight anytime soon.

Once they walked out to the street, Daniel noticed two things straight away. The first was that the multi-floored parking lot that was a couple of hundred meters away from them was smoking.

The second was that there was a glider tail at its edge.

The squad didn’t need any more indication that they reached the crash site, and the four of them began running as fast as they could with their guns drawn. Their diamond formation turned into a deformed rectangle as Cole caught up with Daniel.

As they got closer and closer to the parking lot, Cole suddenly grabbed Daniel’s left shoulder and pushed him behind a car. North and James followed their example, and a few seconds later the thing that Cole heard flew through the sky above them.

It was much too dark to see the plane, but as someone who spent most of his military days near vehicles, Daniel didn’t need to see an aircraft to determine what it was. Judging by the sound and the speed, the plane had at least two or three rotors, and since it was able to maneuver at such a low height in a city, it had to have a smaller profile.

“Dan?” whispered North.

“Either an attack helicopter or something small with rotors.”

Patterson frowned as he was trying to find the plane. He was unsuccessful as well. “Call me paranoid,” he started after some thinking “…but I think that might have been a Dragonfly.”

Daniel raised his head and looked at his commanding officer. “A Dragonfly? Really?”

“I know how this sounds, but Blackfortress is a Sapphirian city even with the neutrality laws. It’s possible they had one of these stashed away for emergencies…”

James raised his right hand. “Umm, can someone bring me up to speed here? What’s a dragonfly?”

“Sapphirian stealth gunship,” replied Daniel hastily “...that you usually don’t see operated by people outside of the Navy.”


Daniel turned back to Cole. “We’ll figure it out later, alright? Let’s just get Nick and then find a safe spot.”

Patterson nodded, and then stood up from the ground. He took point while the rest of the squad followed him as fast as they could. As they approached the parking lot, North suddenly shouted. “Ey! There’s a rope coming down the side here!”

Daniel stopped again and then ran to North who was pointing at something. Just like the corporal said, there was a long sheet of rope coming down from the side of the parking lot near where the glider’s tail was. It didn’t take much effort to conclude that it wasn’t here originally.

“Well, this is a good sign,” stated Daniel.

“Damn right it is,” Cole replied. “…come on, let’s check the other half of the glider too!”

“You guys go on ahead,” stated James as he put away his rifle. “…I’ll take the fun route.”

North looked at the rope, and then at James. “You do realize this will take twice as long as taking the stairs, right?”

Instead of answering, James jumped up to the rope and started climbing. “Last one to the top is buying everyone else lunch!” he exclaimed.

The rest of them didn’t need much more convincing. With Patterson at the front, they began making their way up to the top floor. Just like on the streets, the cars that were here were empty too, but for once they were locked. The residents probably didn’t get a chance to reach these when whatever happened drove them into hiding.

While they got closer and closer to the top, Daniel started thinking about their next steps. They had to regroup with the rest of Rhino and Bull for sure but to do that, they had to find them in the first place. Without radios and air support, that was going to be a problem. Daniel recalled PFC Weiss mentioning something about the city’s ICN line still existing, but for them to use that, they would need to find a connection point first. Private Tibor and Weiss probably knew where those points were, but Daniel had absolutely no idea where to even being with the search.

They needed to find either a local, a map, or a goddamned miracle. Maybe all three.

Daniel’s thoughts slipped away when he tripped in something. He managed to stop his fall just in time to avoid the ground. As he stood back up and checked his foot, he realized what he had tripped in.

The ramp leading to the top of the parking lot, and the area in front of it, was littered with dead bodies. Cole and North were both looking at the bodies but none of them said anything. Daniel followed their example, but instead of just standing around, he crouched down and started searching the body of an elder male whose one remaining eye was still open. He finally found his wallet after a bit of digging.

As soon as he pulled out the ID, a thin white box fell out of it. Daniel passed the ID card to North while he checked the box. It was about the size of a larger, unusually thick keycard, but there weren’t any visible marking or buttons on it. It probably had some purpose, so Daniel put it away for later.

As he stood up, he saw North shaking his head. “Well fuck…” sighed North as he passed it to Daniel.

He immediately read the residence section, and then repeated what North said. “Clarke G. Lives in Johnson street in the industrial District,” he stated afterwards.

Cole sighed and then cursed loudly. “North, search the rest of these bodies!” he ordered. “I want to know if all of them were traitors or just this one.”

“Yes sir!”

“Dan, with me!”

Patterson and Daniel quickly made their way to the front of the glider. The closer they got the faster Daniel’s heart was beating, and when he looked inside the cockpit, he felt it in his throat.

When they saw what was, or rather, what wasn’t inside, he couldn’t decide what to feel. Two things, which should have been inside the cockpit, were no longer there. The first was the radio that Daniel was trying to save.

The second was Nick Becket.

“Uhh, Cole, he’s––”

“Yes!” exclaimed Patterson loudly. He clapped both of his hands together, and after the wave of excitement went through him, he turned to Daniel with a large grin on his face. “Alright, he's alive. Do we need anything from the plane before we leave?”

“Yes, about that. The radio’s not here…”

Cole blinked. “Did it fall out, or...?”

“Unless Nick sucks at flying so much, no. He probably took it.”

“Well, that’s also great news. We find Nick, we find our radio…”

“…and once we find our radio, we find the rest of the unit, yes,” finished Daniel.

Cole nodded, and after telling Danny to look around for anything useful he went back to tell North the good news. Even inside the cramped cockpit, he could hear North exclaiming in his happiness. Daniel would have been jumping around too normally, but he couldn’t help but worry about how they were going to find him now. He could be anywhere in the city, and on his own at that.

After he picked up a few electronic parts that were mostly intact, Daniel stepped outside and noticed a few pistol bullet casings lying around. He figured it was from Nick’s weapon, but as he was about to leave, he also noticed spent shotgun shells on the floor.

How in the world did his friend manage to fire a shotgun and a pistol at the same time, and more than once at that? As he was trying to solve this mystery, he heard a groan from somewhere behind him. He turned around and realized that James was still climbing up that rope. He quickly walked over to the edge of the roof to help James up.

“So about that lunch you owe us…” he said as he extended his left arm.

“I hope you choke on it…” growled James, almost certainly as a joke.

Daniel pulled James up from the rope. He was about to jump down from the concrete barrier on the edge down to the concrete floor when a rifle sounded off in the distance.

A moment later James’s lower torso exploded, and something hit Daniel’s vest.

The private screamed up as he fell onto Daniel, who did his best to catch him. He set James down to the floor and saw that the bullet punched a hole clean through the private’s right kidney. Blood was leaking out way too fast.

“Sniper! Get the hell down!” he yelled to the others as he tore out a med-kit from his pouch. Daniel wasn’t a medic, but he learned enough by stitching together Kingsley back in Grarrak to step in. He immediately gave a shot of morphine to James and then started bandaging him while Cole and North were running up to them to help.

The sniper sounded off again. North and Patterson crouched down right away, but before Daniel could move the bullet landed about twenty centimeters from his head. He leaned down as much as he could afterwards while North ran up to the concrete barrier behind him and started wildly firing at an apartment building below them a few streets away. He probably didn’t see where the sniper was, but Daniel figured the act was supposed to scare the shooter, not kill them.

Once Daniel tied the bandage around James, he turned the private to his back. “James, can you hear me?!” he shouted.

“My… my s-stomach…” came the answer.

Without needing to ask, Cole crouched down behind James. He and Daniel picked the soldier up and the two ran towards the ramp leading down from the parking lot as fast as they could. North took the rocket launcher off from James after Daniel realized it was way too heavy.

They made it about halfway when Daniel heard a familiar sound. “Plane!” he exclaimed.

Daniel was trying to find the source, but again, he had no idea where it was. Not until it appeared right above the ramp they were running towards.

Before he could move a muscle, North opened fire at the plane with his machinegun, and luckily that was enough to make it turn away from them for a bit. The pilot probably didn’t want to get hit. The aircraft ascended to make itself a harder target for North, and from this angle, Daniel could finally disprove Cole’s suspicions. The aircraft was a Gredrurgian GJP type gunship, equipped with two machineguns and a couple of rocket pods. It was painted orange and dark green, confirming that it indeed came from the Gredrurgian Republic’s military.

The plane was just about to turn to an attack position when the four soldiers made it into the ramp that lead to the floor below. A few meters later they were outside the aircraft’s line of sight, which gave an opportunity for Patterson and Daniel to put James down and rest for a moment.

“Damn… how are you doing James?” asked Cole while breathing heavily.

It took a lot of effort for James to speak up, which was a bad sign.

“Not… good…”

Daniel checked the man’s wound and saw that blood was spilling through the bandage at a horrifying speed. He turned towards Cole, who was looking at him with a concerned look.

“Cole, I’m not saying that he’s not going to make it, but…”

The attack plane appeared yet again on their left side, looking at them through the gap between the two floors. Daniel quickly rolled back onto the ramp while dragging James with him, while North and Patterson followed his example. They managed to avoid the incoming hail of bullets by the skin of their teeth. Daniel was about to look for a way down when James suddenly gripped his right arm.

“Dan… that thing… needs to go down… with me.”

Cole and Daniel looked at each other, and then at the private.

“James, you’re not nearly high-ranked enough to sacrifice yourself! Danny, help me move––” started Cole before James sat up.

The private clenched his teeth in his pain, grabbed his chest with his right arm, and then grabbed onto the launcher that was on North’s back with the other one. “Get that thing into position… and then run…”

Daniel was about to retort when North took off the rocket launcher and handed it to James. He then looked straight into his eyes. “Dan, we both know that he’s not going to make it without hospital care!”

“I’m not going to––”

“Yes, you will! Now move your ass!” shouted North. He then pushed Daniel forward, and as he turned around, he saw that Cole was already halfway towards the staircase that they used to get up here.

Daniel dashed after him. As he ran he looked back to see if North was coming, and he saw the plane hovering outside the parking lot. With the two red hot machineguns slowly spinning up, it looked like the plane was trying to stare inside Daniel’s very being. As it was about to fire, James launched his rocket.

The parking lot was shaken by both the exploding Gredrurgian attack plane and the rocket that it fired towards James right before. The shockwave sent both North and Daniel flying backwards, and if they would have landed any closer to the collapsing roof, it would have crushed them.

Instead, it collapsed on James and buried him, along with everything the man was.

A soldier to the end.

A note from Commander DuctTape

And with that, the first Act is finished! There's going to be three more acts and potentially a few bonus chapters as well if people are interested in reading them. Either way, we've still got lots of chapters ahead of us! :D

If you've got any remarks or questions, feel free to comment!

EDIT 2020/06/21: I changed the formatting of the previous chapters based on some feedback, so they are probably going to look a bit different than before.

About the author

Commander DuctTape

  • Hungary

Bio: 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

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