Working in the Devil's shit house at the ass crack of dawn. Best way Art had ever heard anyone describe doin' a convoy in the sand.
The sun wouldn't be up for the better part of an hour and he was already taking a bumpy humvee ride through another wonderful hostile neighborhood. No attacks yet, but this patrol route was known to get hit, so you had to keep your head on a swivel. The first time he'd seen the lead vehicle hit someone who didn't get out of the road he'd been shocked, but now he understood. The enemy was everywhere. The enemy was everyone. And if you stopped to let some kids play in the street, they'd open fire with RPGs, VBEDs, and AKs.
The taliban and their few allies weren't above putting bombs on women and children, just to kill Americans. It made the job messy. The kind of messy most people didn't handle very well. But somehow, Art was holding on to his sanity. Maybe it wasn't a good sign, be he and his brother had made it through a lot in the shitstorm they were calling Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Art swung the maw deuce around as he caught something in the corner of his eye. Movement up high. Could be a bird. Could be an RPG. He took one dusty hand off the butterfly, and grabbed his radio. Easier to keep everyone on their toes than to go to funerals because he hadn't spoken up.
"Rider Lead, Rider Niner,"
"Rider Niner, Rider Lead. Go ahead."
"Be advised, I have movement on top of the western building at the intersection."
"Acknowledged Rider Niner. R-o-E is to rack it up and drop the hammer if you see anything suspicious. Rider Leader Out."
Art took the hint, and swung the gun into a good aim on the wall. The .50cal machine gun fired from an open bolt position, and you opened that bolt the second you hit the wire. There was no racking it back. Just dropping the hammer. He watched the building for another thirty seconds. He was just about to check the other side when he saw a dirty face peer out from the wall, followed by something long and dark.
Pressing the butterfly trigger on a .50cal was the closest a real person could get to feeling like Thor. The hydraulics on the hummer made it swing around easy, and helped a lot with recoil, but you could still feel the sheer power with each round. Watching a person explode from six well placed rounds just added to the feeling. He put a few through the wall around where the man had been crouched for good measure, just in case there were more people up there.
The convoy didn't stop rolling. It never stopped. The intersection was quiet in the aftermath of his shots. A tomb for the man from the roof. The item he'd been holding had hit the ground below, and Art tracked the gun towards it. The few people who'd been moving about the streets had vanished as soon as he'd opened fire, but no man ever ambushed a convoy alone, with only one RPG. There'd be more insurgents. The first one that touched that weapon would be turned into a fine red paste, more suitable for spaghetti than a funeral.
"Rider Niner, Rider Lead."
Salem put one of his hands, still buzzing from the power of the machine gun, against the mic, "Go ahead Rider Lead."
"Good kill, Rider Niner," Rider lead rounded the corner as she spoke, and Art had a strange feeling for a moment.
Light, debris, and the shockwave all hit him before the sound of the IED going off. Rider Lead was gone. It was an up armored humvee, his mind argued. There was a chance she was alive in there, but somewhere, deep in the back of his head, Art Knew she was gone.
The ambush started in earnest.
The streets of Manhattan, constantly in the shadow of the towers in more ways than one. Here is where all Mage scenes and glimpses go.
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