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 Chapter 3

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Jayde
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Posts : 107
Join date : 2010-05-30
Age : 42
Location : Wintermist

PostSubject: Chapter 3   Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:34 pm

To Louis the night seemed to grow darker, colder and infinitely more intimidating. His breath was visible, coming out in small, misty exhalations. His heart pounded as if it was trying to break out of his chest. With the exception of his body trembling, he stood frozen. He was waiting for any sign from Carpenter that they would be leaving. He wanted to leave desperately. He could feel a drip of sweat running annoyingly down his forehead and onto his nose, but couldn't command his hand to remove it.

The unnatural stillness of the night was abruptly shattered. A loud, metallic noise vibrated in the air all around them. Louis' entire body jerked, but he continued to remain still, his muscles starting to ache from the strain, eyes shifting wildly around as he tried to pinpoint where the noise had originated.

Carpenter's battle attuned senses held in good stead and he calmly turned towards the compound seeing the vague shape of a building. There was no moon out, although the sky was clear and full of stars. He could not immediately identify the sound, which had a hollow, echoing tremor to it. It was something that triggered his instinct to take cover. He grabbed Louis, moving them silently back to the car, crouching down close to it, his brain racing to figure out what he had just heard. The only thing he could think of was the sound that a saw made when it was bowed from side to side, only much louder.

With shocking suddenness the noise came again, this time revealing an oblong of dim light as a heavy metal door fell slowly off its shattered hinges with an agonizing screech of tortured metal. It landed on the ground with a loud thunk. In the doorway stood a shadowed, human figure holding what appeared to be a weapon in its hand.

Years of training took over as Carpenter look hurriedly around for a weapon. He spotted an M-16 lying next to one of the dead soldiers several feet away. Just as he started to make his way over to it he was halted by a murmuring from Louis. Unable to hear what the young man was saying, he turned his head quickly in Louis' direction, seeing that the young man was kneeling and reciting the Lord's Prayer. With a shock Carpenter remembered that he, also, was a man of God and that violence should not be his first action toward this unknown person. For perhaps the first time in his life he hesitated, unsure of what to do, then taking a calming breath, eased closer to the car for cover, just in case this unseen enemy didn't agree with his non-violent decision.

He strained to see and realized that the figure was no longer outlined in the doorway. He waited for some sound or movement to tell him where the other person had gone and heard the unmistakable sound of a shotgun charging a round into the chamber. He yelled to his praying companion "GET DOWN!" as his peaceful decision of seconds earlier was replaced by self preservation, launching himself up and sprinting toward the M-16. His instinct to fight now far outweighed his instinct to turn the other cheek. From the darkness it appeared as if a dragon was breathing fire as the shotgun bellowed, the pellets ripping into the car's hood and windshield.

Louis, who had taken several seconds to respond to Carpenter's order, had pulled himself under the car just in time. He lay hugging the ground, trying to make himself as small as possible, his body jerking uncontrollably as he heard some of the pellets entering the ground just ahead of him. If he could have been offered the chance to turn into a worm at that moment, he would have taken it.

As the shot reverberated around him, Carpenter hit the ground rolling, both hands reaching out for the M-16. He picked it up checking to make sure it was ready to fire, all in one fluid motion, as he continued his roll onto his stomach. Sighting he then fired into the area where he had seen the shotgun's muzzle flash until the gun ran empty.

A scream pierced the night of a woman in pain.

Carpenter continued to keep the M-16 aimed, his left hand already looking for more ammunition on the dead soldier. Although in the United States army women were not a part of the front line forces, Carpenter knew in many countries they were. And he knew that they were damn good at it.

Louis, who had never been around women that shot guns was strangely comforted. Knowing that it was a woman had lessened his fear. After all, he had been taught that women were caregivers and his compassion and religious training took over from his fear. He cautiously crawled out from under the car and stood up. Obviously, he thought, this was some scared female who had accidentally fired the shotgun.

"Helloooo," he called out.

Carpenter, who had found and inserted another magazine into the rifle, had just located another M-16 and moved several feet closer to the car. He had been waiting for something else to transpire, but had not expected this. He slowly turned his head toward Louis in disbelief.

"What the hell are you doing?" he hissed in low tone to his inexperienced partner.

"There is a woman out there and I think she is hurt, sir" Louis whispered back.

"No shit Sherlock, who do you think it was shooting at us?" Carpenter angrily blurted back at him.

"But it's a woman, sir; I can't believe she meant to shoot at us…a woman." Louis stammered.

"Yes Louis, sometimes we let them out of the kitchen, now stay down!" Carpenter barked, no longer caring about his noise discipline. However, he moved silently into a new position by the front left wheel of the car.

Louis, who had reacted faster than Pavlov's dogs at the angry words, was now lying on his belly again, looking under the car at the dim outline of the Captain.

Carpenter stretched his left arm out and slide the extra rifle towards the boy, who stared at it stupidly..

"Take it!" Carpenter snapped.

"But Sir, we…er, I am a non-combatant. I can't pick up this weapon."

Once again Carpenter was brought up short. The little bible thumper was right. He should not have a weapon either. Their best course of action should be to attempt to escape. The Geneva Convention clearly states that any religious or medical personnel are non-combatants and thus were not to be targeted on a battlefield. However, should either of these two entities pick up a weapon they then became combatants and should immediately be treated as such. Carpenter looked at the weapon in his hand; unfortunately it felt very natural there. "Damn it" he said to himself quietly. He had placed himself in a difficult position. By picking up this weapon he had made both himself and Louis targets, no longer able to stay under the protection of the Geneva Convention. Still, as he sat there he could almost feel God frowning at him. It was as if some invisible father was disappointed in him and he could almost hear the sigh of disapproval. This, he thought, would have been so much easier when he was just a killing machine for the Army. Now, his head raced with moral questions that were starting to confuse him. He did not like confusion, it made a man make mistakes and mistakes could kill.

It then abruptly occurred to Carpenter that he had not heard a single sound from their opponent since the scream. It seemed extremely doubtful that his blind shooting had actually killed the target. His combat soldier mind took over again as he assumed this was some kind of trick. His listened intently once again for any sound. With Louis now quiet, he could hear rocks and shell casings softly being disturbed. Someone was moving, more specifically, crawling. He aimed his weapon into the darkness toward the sound. Any proposed action on his part was disrupted by Louis opening the car door.

"What the hell are you doing now," he demanded, his frustration at his inept partner growing by the minute.

"Getting into the car so we can leave." Louis responded.

The shocks on the car squeaked and the vehicle rocked back and forth. Carpenter knew that his position had been given away and he could either run or hide. He never liked hiding. When you hide you hoped the enemy was not good enough to find you. Carpenter preferred the idea that if he died it would be from his own mistake. Not the luck of his enemy.

He aimed the weapon towards the sound and in a crouch position advanced rapidly. As he got within a hundred feet of the still open doorway he was able to see the a shape on the ground moving slowly away. He brought his weapon to bear on the target then heard the Vic's engine roar to life. "You have got to be kidding me" he thought to himself.

Louis pulled to a stop just short of Carpenter, the lights silhouetting him. They also picked up a young woman in an American military camouflage uniform. She was crawling on the ground holding her left leg with her hand. She did not look at them but kept crawling toward the shot gun which was several feet ahead of her. Apparently when she had been hit, it had flown out of her hands.

Louis got out of the car and took several steps towards her, stopping just ahead of Carpenter.

"Say something to her" Carpenter commanded, his eyes still fixed on his target through the sight of his weapon.

"What should I say sir," Louis asked puzzled.

"Anything. I just want her distracted and if she gets to that shot gun, I want her to shoot at you" came the grim response.

Louis wasn't sure that Carpenter was joking or not and just stood there allowing the silence to stretch.

"Do it" Carpenter snapped impatiently, command strong in his voice.

"Um, stop where you are…ok?" Louis called out hesitantly.

The woman did not comply. Carpenter sighed.

"I mean it, stop." Louis repeated, this time more strongly.

She ignored him and continued inching forward, now almost to the weapon.

"Freeze or I will fucking kill you!" Carpenter finally yelled as he charged his M-16 knowing that this would throw a live round out, but wanting the sound for effect.

The woman stopped, barely an arms length away from her gun.

"Go and move that shotgun" Carpenter ordered Louis, "while I keep you covered. Then see if she has another weapon on her".

Louis hunched over and ran toward the wounded woman, highly aware of the gun at his back and making sure he did not step between it and the fallen female. As he got closer he was almost overcome with sympathy. Blood was seeping through the leg of her uniform pants. Louie could see that her blonde hair had been up on her head in a bun, per military regulations, but it had now partially unraveled and slipped down to her neck. She was still not looking at him and had barely moved a muscle the entire time he closed the distance to her. He could not see her hands as they were covered by her body where she lay on the ground. He looked at the wound on her leg, it was bleeding quite badly. She must be frozen with fright, he thought, a feeling he was becoming on intimate terms with.

Only thinking to help as he got closer he reached out his hand and said, as if to a small child, "It's ok, I am here to help you, miss" His hand was inches from touching her when she suddenly spun around, her bloody left hand hitting Louis squarely in the face, spraying blood into his eyes and instantly blinding him. She then scissored her legs around kicking the young lieutenant's feet out from under him.

Louis hit the ground hard on his back, the wind knocked out of him. His nameless assailant pinned his head to the ground with her bloodied left hand and placed the sharp edge of a shell casing up to his jugular. She pushed so hard Louis felt sure she had punctured his skin.

"You're the one that needs help little boy," she grated.

Two bullets hit the ground next to her, so close they sent up puffs of dust into her face.

"Let him go" Carpenter said loudly. She looked up, but was blinded by the headlights that now shadowed Carpenter. She slowly started to stand up holding her hands in the air then, without warning, dove rolling for the shot gun. Carpenter calmly fired a round into it, leaving the now disabled weapon where it lay. She stopped, facing partially away from him, her body taut.

Carpenter quickly assessed the situation. The woman looked and acted like an American soldier. He did not think that she was the one who had taken out an entire Ranger platoon, at least, not without a lot of help.

"Get up" he commanded. She stood, arms raised, resting most of her weight on her uninjured leg.

"Who are you?" Carpenter demanded.

"Who the fuck are you?" she responded, squinting into the flashlights beam, slowly bringing down a hand to shade her eye.

He could see her face now, despite several strands of hair falling across it. She had very tender features with blue eyes and was much smaller than he had originally thought, not at all what he had expected. In the dark the baggy uniform had given her a much larger shape. She was breathing heavily and her eyes continued to scan the area around them. He could see fear in them.

"I am Captain James Carpenter, US Army Chaplain." He said with authority. "And the gentleman you have already met is Lieutenant Louis Davis, also with the US Army chaplain corp."

Her gaze swiveled to Louis then came back to rest on him, although she was still unable to see beyond the cars lights.

"You're priests!" she said in amazement.

Carpenter moved his body and leaned into an area that would illuminate him rather than silhouette him. He placed his hand on his shirt and moved it so that the light caught the silver cross affixed to his shirt, just above his pocket.

Louis, who finally thought it was safe to get back on his feet, stood up, coughing from the dust that had ended up in his mouth and nose.

"Alright, lets just all relax" Carpenter said. "I am going to aim this weapon somewhere else now, why don't you tell us who you are." He slowly angled the M-16 off to the side, but keeping it close enough to recover if needed.

She hesitated before answered him. "I am Captain Jessica Hamilton, Senior Medical Technician of the 4th Ranger Battalion.

"What happened here?" Carpenter demanded.

"I was hoping you would know," she responded. "And if you are who you say you are, why the hel..heck did you return fire." She looked at Carpenter suspiciously, her face full of condemnation.

Carpenter felt a sharp twinge of embarrassment He didn't know how to respond and was saved by Louis.

"You fired on us first, ma'am" the young man exclaimed.

Jessica didn't respond, her eyes were once again searching the area and making Carpenter aware that they were completely exposed to anyone else who might still be in the area.

"Let's get into cover, we can talk then" he said, pointing with his gun muzzle back towards the doorway through which she had come.

Jessica immediately turned on her heel and limped back to the building, ducking through the doorway.

Carpenter, following her, glanced at the shattered hinges, realizing tardily that the noise they had heard earlier came from the shotgun. She must have used it to get out of the building. He thought of what the noise in this confined space must have done to her eardrums and wondered if her hearing was back to normal yet.

"Why'd you need to shoot out the hinges? He asked.

"Door was locked," she answered tersely, getting a handkerchief out of her pocket and holding over her wound. "I needed out right then and I didn't want to backtrack to open it. The controls are down here," she continued and started moving forward.

Although relieved to find others alive, Jessica was sorely disappointed that they were chaplains. However, after what she had seen this past half hour, nothing would have made her feel safer, not even a battalion of rangers. Though one of them was another Captain, she knew that she would have to take command, since a captaincy on a chaplain was more for paperwork than military experience. And, she thought with an internal grimace, if there was one thing she had plenty of, it was military experience, automatically suppressing thoughts of Desert Storm. But having the other two men with her had calmed her earlier panic and she was thinking again. She had been informed that the two chaplains would be arriving today for the final phase of the Rangers' training and felt a twinge of guilt for not recognizing who they were and shooting at them.

Carpenter kept close on her heels down a long concrete hallway with had individual emergency light bulbs hanging every 10 feet behind wire mesh covers. It reminded him of old horror movies in which prisoners were kept closed in dank, dark conditions. Despite her limp, he briefly noticed the sway of the woman's hips ahead of him and the thought crossed his mind that she would not appreciate his acknowledgement of this feminine attribute. This one thought of herself as a 'tough cookie'. And, he thought, looking down at his bare shirt, she did not realize his military experience, since everything that showed his knowledge and skill was hanging on his jacket on a lamppost in the compound.

They went down several steps and through an open door on the level below. The room they entered was obviously some sort of monitoring center, with several video screens on the wall, telephones and lots and lots of computers.

"OK" Carpenter said. "Now tell us what has been going on. Who killed those men outside?"

"I told you I don't know," Jessica' voice was full of exasperation. "Look, let me tell you about what I do know and we can go from there". She grimaced as she sat down and took the handkerchief off her leg. She began to tear her pants open to see the wound. Carpenter stepped to her and took over. Assuming a Chaplain would know how to tend a wound she laid back and continued her earlier thought. "Let me brief you on what I know."

Carpenter grinned sardonically. If there was one thing about the army he hated, it was idiotic briefing that usually told him everything he already knew!

"You probably know this facility is designed to train Rangers as close to real life experiences as possible. We direct the Rangers to specific areas, some heavily wooded, some light, until they hit what we call "Lanes". Lanes are an area in which targets pop up for the Rangers to shoot at. As we want to keep this as real as possible, real ammunition is used. Ranger teams train together as much as possible" She explained to them, like a school teacher to under ten year olds.

Carpenter gritted his teeth, he knew all this already, in fact, he had run this course a couple of times. But he allowed her to continue with her "idiot" briefing. As he began to evaluate the wound now fully exposed. The bullet had caught the outer portion of her upper thigh, putting a crease across the skin. It was shallow, but was bleeding profusely. He took the handkerchief from her and put it over the crease, then glanced around for something to bandage it with. Interrupting her he asked caustically, "Is there a first aid kit in here?"

She looked distractedly down at him, where he kneeled at her feet. "Yes, over there," she said, pointing to a cabinet against the wall before continuing.

"Each Ranger team has a medic assigned to them in case someone is hurt. We give them the feeling that they are alone and force them to react as if there is no support. Actually safety is paramount. The military has a lot of money invested in these troops and they don't like to take chances. So, at each of the live fire ranges we have cameras in case someone does actually get injured, and these are monitored and recorded from here. If the person on duty sees something going wrong, it is their job to asses the situation and decide if we need outside medical attention rushed to the location or if the Ranger Medic can handle the problem"

"Where you on duty?" Carpenter asked, taking the first aid kit from Louis, who had gone for it. He took out a fresh gauze pad, antibiotic ointment and bandages, then began to efficiently wrap her wound.

"Yes," she answered tersely.

"So you're a medic?" Louie interjected.

"Yes," she confirmed. "This base gets assigned a doctor each time the Rangers come up here to train and he is on call". She frowned. "I haven't been able to raise him….or anyone else for that matter since this all started."

She pointed to the video screens. "There are cameras situated at all the live fire lanes. There are five of them. Normally we send 5 teams out at once, they run around the designated areas for a few hours until they are led to a fire lane. This is done from the Command Post as well as by the R.I's in the field with them."

"R.I.'s?" Louis questioned, unfamiliar with the term.

"Ranger Instructor" Carpenter said quickly, nodding at her to continue.

"The CP then calls down to me and I watch the lane they tell me they are going to use. Now I am not an expert with this equipment, so you need to forgive me, but I think I can show you what I saw."

She reached out and pushed rewind on a video tape. There were five screens and they all went blank, with a number counter in the top right corner of each scrolling backwards.

"Alright, watch screen number 3. I didn't get a call, but suddenly I have Rangers entering the lane firing their weapons. That's what first got my attention."

Both men watched the screen avidly as she pushed play. She had obviously mark the place, as within a second or two 4 Rangers appeared on the screen. It was a bit difficult to see because the camera had been positioned very high and aimed down to give you an overhead view of the entire lane, as well as being shot with a night vision lens which gave everything a greenish black tint. Still the Rangers were easily identifiable; they were backing into the frame firing their weapons at some unseen enemy. The muzzle flashes seemed to be almost non stop.

After a few seconds Louis spoke, "I don't get it, isn't this what you are supposed to see?"

Carpenter opened his mouth to explain, immediately seeing what the medic had seen, but before he got any words out he was cut off by his peer.

"No. First of all they are supposed to enter the screen facing the opposite direction. That's where the pop-ups are. Second, there should be 9 of them and there are only 4. Next, look at their weapons." She hit rewind again, but only for a few seconds, then forward once more. "The muzzles are moving in all directions. They don't appear to be aiming at anything. It's crazy, as if they don't know what to shoot at." She stopped briefly, the puzzlement showing plainly on her face. "Rangers just don't do that," she continued softly. "When you have seem them work with deadly accuracy as many times as I have, you know something here is very wrong. Also, look at that rate of fire. These guys get it pounded into their heads that you don't burn ammo." She paused as the two men watched the screen. "Now, here, see," she pointed "they are still trying to move as a team. Their training has kicked in. They are backing up very quickly, not walking in front of each other like before, and the fire is more controlled, not just blasting. But it still isn't normal."

Carpenter was impressed and a small grin appeared on his face as he nodded at Louis, agreeing with her assessment. They watched as the Rangers continued to reload and fire, reload and fire, until one of the men finally broke, turned and ran full bore away from his team. "Alright, here, watch!" She all but yelled.

The small smile was ripped from Carpenter face as he watched the screen. Something dark and blurred fell to the ground at the edge of the screen, just behind the running soldier who had by now moved out of the camera's range. It was only there an instance before moving off the screen, obviously following the lone Ranger. The reaction of the three remaining Rangers was to turn and fire their weapons in the direction of their comrade.

"What the hell was that?" Carpenter said immediately.

"You tell me and we will both know" she returned. "I have watched this several times, even froze the frame, but it moves so fast that the camera can't catch its image."

Carpenter rewound the tape and watched it again. He then froze the frame, but all he could see was a dark indistinct shadow, larger than a man, the top tapering to a point. It had two legs, but he could not make out a head. Whatever it was it moved incredibly fast, and by moving forward a frame at a time, Carpenter counted that it was only in fifteen frames before vanishing.

"What was that, a paratrooper?" he queried, however, his answer was only baffled silence. He continued to replay the section in puzzlement until she finally interrupted.

"There's more".

Carpenter stepped back from the video machine and allowed it play on.

"Alright," Jessica continued her narrative, "the 3 remaining men move out of sight here. At this point I tried calling out on my hard line phone, but there is no dial tone. The only other commo I have is this SINGAR Radio. Each Ranger team has one of these radio's with them at all times. They are all on a closed circuit, which means they can only contact other radios they are programmed for. There are 5 of these radio's which are always manned in case of an emergency. I have one, the R.I.'s in the field have three and the there is one in the CP. You understand," she asked, waiting for the nods of confirmation before continuing. "I tried to get on the SINGAR and ask what was going on, but," she paused, her eyes suddenly unseeing as she remembered, "the….the air waves were filled with screams. I mean" she hesitated, searching for words to described what had been happening; "it was the most terrifying thing I have ever heard. Here were Rangers, some of the toughest men the Army produces and yet something had scared them. They were screaming in terror. I….I should have tried to get help, but all I could do was listen. The airway was filled with calls for medics but I could still hear them desperately trying to fight whatever it was."

"What was it?" Carpenter demanded his eyes still fixed on the empty video screen, damning the fact that it didn't show any movement.

"That's just it. I don't know. I didn't hear anyone identify it. It was just pleas for help. I….I think the men with radios went down, things got muffled, as if the action was moving away…..or winding down to the last few men still alive. I could hear them pleading for help, calling to God to save them." She paused, tears silently cursing down her cheeks. "Then I heard First Sergeant Miller."

"Who is he?" Louis asked softly, clearly appalled at what he was hearing.

"He is a 20 year combat veteran who is probably the best Ranger Instructor and one of the toughest men I have ever met," she responded quietly, her tone bleak. "Throughout the fight I had heard him giving orders, trying to keep men calm and get help where it was needed, but then he was the last voice I heard. I could hear him beginning to sound desperate, but not from fear, from anguish. I…I think he knew the lack of response was because his men were all dead. I heard him keep say 'it can't be' and then he started screaming." She stopped, momentarily unable to go on, her throat working compulsively as she swallowed.

There was an eerie silence in the cold room, save for the soft buzz from the video.

"Then he stopped screaming. You know," she said, her voice oddly stilted, "the silence was worse than the screaming. I…I guess I lost it for a minute, because I dropped the radio and ran. I just kept going down the hall and then…I thought I heard Sgt. Miller on the radio…..I stopped to listen……" Her voice trailed away.

Both men waited for her to continue.

"I heard him". Her voice was stark.

There was another uneasy pause.

"What? Miller? Heard who?" This time it was Carpenter who interjected.

"The man that killed the First Sergeant. I know this sounds crazy, but, I swear I could hear him through the radio."

"One man. No way. One man couldn't have done this!" Louis said in disbelief.

"Look I didn't say one man did this," she snapped, "I said, I could hear…him".

"What do you mean you could hear him? Talking, giving orders. What did he say?" Carpenter demanded.

Both men strained to hear her whispered reply.

"No…I could…I could hear him laughing".

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