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As the Ranger’s firing dropped off in preparation for the charge, so to did the terrorist’s…out of confusion, unsure of what was happening with the Rangers hunkered down in the trench and out of view. An apparent stalemate at the moment, only sporadically did a round or two zip across the compound as both sides prepped and realigned their forces in anticipation of making or receiving the next major move. Even the rhythmic dusting down of the T-80 had ceased, though the tank still sat, ominously, over the culvert.

Ames checked his watch one last time…twenty-eight minutes since the attack started.  Not a lifetime but an eternity.  He glanced down his left flank, then down his right flank. Within the trench, the Rangers gripped the stock of their weapons, either stripped down OICWs or M4s…each with a sharp, saw-toothed, subdued gray nine-inch bayonet perched on its muzzle. 


They were all tense and worn, their camouflage-painted faces and vacant eyes peering apprehensively back at him from beneath Kevlar helmets.  Twenty-eight men all told, including Private Henry C. Hart.  Another twelve men in support with Lieutenant Lewis.  That was all that remained from an original assault force of over 480 Rangers.  Less than ten percent.  Fathers, husbands, brothers, sons…friends.  Real people, not just “ground troops” or statistics without names.


The enemy’s fires began to increase in intensity and accuracy.  Ames’ gleaming white teeth flashed through the camouflage, dirt, sweat, and blood of his face.

“Okay, let’s do it, Corporal Smith!”


“I’ll take it out, sir!”


Corporal Smith, focused the cross-hairs of his Gustov on the bunker and began to squeeze the trigger as rounds kicked up dirt all about his position.  With a woosh and a flame kicking out of the gated rear of the tube, the rocket sped down range.  The detonation was loud and reverberating.  Pins were pulled and the first group of smoke grenades began to fly.  What machine guns they had left, began to place suppressive fires across the open terrain against known and suspected terrorist positions.


It was time.  Tray tables and seat backs in the locked and upright position Ames thought to himself as he began to rise.  It was time to launch.


“Follow me!” yelled Ames as he bound to a standing position and vaulted out of the trench.  He had not even taken one step forward before rounds from the bunker in front raked across his upper body, impacting like sledge hammers against his body armor, lifting him off the ground and body slamming him across the back of the trench.  Arms flung out in shock, the contorted fingers of his left hand entangling in the shoulder strap of an abandoned ruck that was pulled in, on top of him, as his body fell back into the trench, dirt, once again partially burying him.


The assault force froze in place, some already partially standing outside the trench, others preparing to throw the remainder of the smoke grenades.  Within seconds, those standing jumped back into cover to hunker down with the others.  Time stood still for the Rangers as they all stared wide-eyed at their fallen leader, wondering what was to happen now.  The support team, seeing no charge, ceased fire, conserving its ammunition and confused without the ability to directly communicate by radio to find out what was happening beyond their view.


The First Sergeant was the first man to move, finding himself, once again, hovering over his prostrate commander.  The canvas cover of his ceramic armor was shredded.  Huge divots were etched and gouged across the front from those rounds that had hit at an angle.  Where the rounds had impacted nearly perpendicularly, the heavy caliber lead slugs were deeply embedded.  There was no movement.  The First Sergeant began to reach down…


“Smith!” came the venom dripping scream from the commander, eyes still closed, that prompted Dart to spring upright and fall back on his hands.


 “Just what the fuck are you trying to do, Ranger, kill me!”

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