Another Look: THE RETREAT #2: SLAUGHTERHOUSE
A little more from THE RETREAT #2: SLAUGHTERHOUSE. As always, first draft stuff, unedited, and no gaurantee that what you read here will make it into the released version:
Muldoon looked up when he heard the thumping rotor beats of the approaching Hueys. Like most of the troops in the now-scored truck, he’d had no idea what was going on beyond the aborted attack against the column. They’d just finished putting out the fire and were trying to decide what to do—the truck needed to be looked at, and the Rawlings girl was already looking over the side, trying to get an idea of what was up with the left rear tires—so the helicopter fight had gone mostly unnoticed. But the slapping rotor beat of the UH-1s was a definite environmental change that the big lightfighter took immediate notice of. He looked up and saw the two helicopters charging toward the column, big rotors flashing in the bright sky, noses lowered as they powered through the summer day. Behind them, several Apaches banked hard over, as if to give chase. Further downrange, another two Apaches pivoted in their hovers. And beyond them, Muldoon saw two columns of smoke rising into the air from flaming wreckage lying in the middle of a distant field. He stood up then, grabbing onto the bed railing. There was no way to tell what was on fire out there.
But they could be helicopters.
He turned to shout to Lieutenant Crais, but then two Kiowa Warriors came screaming in from the southwest. The modified M2 fifty cals mounted on their left hard points chattered as they raced past, and hot cartridges literally rained down on the truck as it limped along the highway, still trailing some smoke from the burn damage done by the Molotov cocktails the Klowns had hurled at them. Muldoon noticed the Kiowas weren’t strafing.
They were trying to hit the Hueys with their fixed guns.
And then, distantly, he heard the pop-pop-pop-pop of an M240 as one of the Huey door gunners returned the favor.
“Hey, what the fuck is going on here,” Nutter shouted suddenly, noticing all the aerial commotion for the first time.
“Lieutenant!” Muldoon shouted. “Hey, Crais!”
Lieutenant Crais turned, his perennially harried expression morphing into full-on pissed off when he discovered it was only Muldoon calling him, and by his last name, at that. Lieutenant Crais was an officer who didn’t like hearing anything but honorifics directed his way, which was a shame, because it meant he and Muldoon would never be buddies. Muldoon spent at least three nanoseconds one night crying over that.
“Muldoon, sit the fuck down!” Crais yelled back. “The truck’s moving!”
Muldoon pointed at the Hueys. “Incoming!” His response got the attention of the rest of the soldiers, even Rawlings, who suddenly looked up, grabbing her M4 with her right hand. About thirty pairs of eyes swiveled toward the approaching helicopters. Muldoon saw the Kiowas had broken off, their attack ineffective.
“So what? Sit down!” Crais shouted.
“Lieutenant! Those are Guard choppers, not ours!”
“Sit down!” Crais yelled, his face coloring with fury. “I know who’s—”
Muldoon turned away and looked up at the soldier manning the M240B mounted on the truck’s cab. He stared at the approaching Hueys, but he hadn’t lined up on them.
“Shoot ‘em!” Muldoon shouted.
“Like, for real?” the soldier said. Like Muldoon, he wore sunglasses, and his eyes were unreadable behind them.
“Shoot ‘em!” Muldoon repeated. He turned back to Crais as the gunner swung the machinegun around. “Lieutenant, stop the truck!”
Crais was on his feet the second the machinegun opened up, hurling 7.62 millimeter rounds at the closest Huey, now just over eight hundred meters distant. The chances of it being hit at that range from a moving truck were damned low, but Muldoon didn’t care.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Crais shouted at the gunner. “Cease fire! Cease fire!”
The gunner ignored him. If anything else, he tightened up on the M240 and tried to get the lead just right. Crais barreled up the small aisle in the center of the truck’s bed. He shoved Rawlings out of his way, yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Cease fire! That’s a direct order! I’m in charge here!”
Muldoon grabbed the smaller man by the shoulders. “Lieutenant! Shut the fuck up for a second!”
Crais gaped up at him. Muldoon was a good seven inches taller than the officer. “What did you say?”
“Stop. The. Truck,” Muldoon said.
“Why the fuck would we want to do that?” Crais tried to look past Muldoon as the M240 opened up again. “God damn it, Christensen, cease fire!”
“Everyone open up!” the gunner said. “They’re closing!”
Muldoon pushed Crais away from him, and the lieutenant fell on his bony ass as he stumbled across another soldier’s boots just as the first Huey raked the truck with return fire. Two men cried out as they were struck by several rounds that defeated their body armor and tore through them. Muldoon heard a crack! as a 7.62 round ripped right past his head, and he ducked instinctively. It was a good call. The next burst from the approaching Huey ripped right through the space he’d been occupying, flying right over his head. Several rounds tore through Christensen and the M240 he manned, then continued through the cab of the M925A1. Not all of the Bigfoots were uparmored, which meant the soldiers up front were about as well protected from machinegun fire as a scrumptious bagel might have been in a clear plastic bag after it had been spied by a famished Orson Wells. The truck lurched to the right suddenly, plowed through the guardrail on the edge of the two lane highway, and bumped its way across an overgrown field for a few dozen yards before it jerked to a halt. Soldiers shouted as they flew everywhere, and Muldoon went right over the side of the truck. He crashed to the ground on the other side, and his wind left him in a rush. For a moment, all he could see was blue sky, scattered clouds, and the waving tops of tall trumpet weeds. A peculiar sense of déjà vu descended upon him. For an instant, he was a young boy again, lying in the tall weeds in a field outside his house in Pennsylvania, playing soldier with his friends. Only this time, he wasn’t playing. Now, it was for real.
The weeds parted suddenly, and Nutter’s goggle-eyed face appeared as he bent over Muldoon.
“Duke, you all right?” he asked, shouting as the Huey thumped nearby, its machineguns rattling against what Muldoon could tell was only sporadic fire from his troops.
“Just fucking fine,” Muldoon gasped.
“Well hey, it’s not a bad day,” Nutter said, as he grabbed Muldoon’s harness and tried to haul him up. “At least you got the truck to stop.”