The Beasts and the Burden by Jayden Rhodes

¨Adams¨, ¨Jack¨, ¨O Pos¨, these were the details I noticed as I held the tags in my hand, the tags of my subordinate, the tags of my friend. It all fell apart in our last mission everything came toppling down. There were nine men under my command, and they were no more. They were gone. Everything I did, I did wrong, I led my men to their demise. We fought hard and fast, but we were no match for our enemy’s relentless assault. They overran us and had us in a chokepoint. As I was on my knees holding my friends tags, I was defeated, and a grey shadow in the smoke approached me from behind.

Those nine men under my command were split into two fire teams, each with a team leader, rifleman, automatic rifleman, and grenadier; and lastly there was my friend Jack who was our designated marksman. During our briefing Captain Walker gave me the operation files, and I relayed the assignment and mission details to my squad. 

I spoke loud and clear ¨Alright teams! Our mission… is to pursue and capture or kill the Awol team known as the ¨Beasts¨, their leader is Ex-Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryker otherwise known as ¨The Wolf¨. The additional team members are ¨Bear¨, ¨Badger¨, ¨Bat¨, and ¨Snake.¨ They are well trained and heavily armed. They have been an active combat unit for over nine years and have over eighty successful missions. During their last mission they went Awol and were captured by the FOB´s forces. Before they could be captured, they took down two fireteams. This is not going to be an easy mission, but it will be one that we can handle.¨ I said ¨Martin, Maine your information is on your OPSAT brief your teams.¨ 

We left to our barracks to get some chow and get rested, then get prepared for the mission ahead.  We were to head out on January 1st at 0400, we were given two LAV XIs nicknamed ¨mini stryker¨ due to their resemblance to the old army strykers used years ago. We were to head to the town of Dir where one of our informants was stationed. It was 0916 when we arrived in front of the shack where the informant lived. When we went in, the place was destroyed. It looked as though a tornado had gone into the shack. In the back bedroom, there was our informant laying face down on a bed, armed draped over the side with three holes in his back. 

We decided to look around for any critical information. That’s when Specialist Spar opened the door to another room and a small directional charge had gone off instantly killing him due to shrapnel. We stormed the room and found a kid who appeared to be about fourteen years old tied to a chair and blindfolded. We let him loose, and our translator, Specialist Kai, told us he was the informant’s son and that five men had come in, killed his father, and ransacked the house after restraining him. He also told us that his father told him that if anything were to ever happen to go to Gilgit and ask for Marjan in the northwest side of town. So we called for a medivac for our fallen brother and decided to keep pursuing our mission.

My squad arrived in Gilgit at 0045 where we searched for Gilgit. We found the safehouse around 0136 and prepared to make contact, so we stacked up, and I knocked on the front door, and a woman answered the door. We stormed in, clearing the room and restraining her, then proceeded to throw out some cameras and motion sensors to help secure the perimeter. After fully securing the buildings and setting up lines of fire, we proceeded to interrogate the woman, who, as it turned out, was Marjan. We released her and learned that the Beasts had been heading Northeast toward the border with China then to the Yarkant River to try and escape from U.S. jurisdiction into communist China. We transmitted our new information into command, and they gave us the go ahead to pursue them into China, but if things went south, they would deny any involvement and knowledge of our pursuit into enemy territory.

It was now 0243 and it was time for us to get some rest so I ordered everyone to settle in and get some sleep, Main Martin and I would stay up as first watch. In the morning we started rolling out at 0758, we would stay on main roads until approaching the border then we transferred to offroad travel. The snow was now starting to build up the farther north we went, we were now rapidly approaching the chinese border. Opsat showed we were about two klicks out from the border and drown imagery showed no heat or magnetic signatures in the area, we were going full speed in our pursuit and nothing would stop us. It was at 1817 when we passed the border and started heading deeper into China toward the Yarkant River.

As we were driving, our comms started bugging out, so I ordered all men to prepare for combat, as we approached a sharp turn. As our lead vehicle containing team one rounded the corner there was a long narrow ledge heading up along the mountain side, then they stopped. It seemed as though they had been stuck in mud just spinning the tires, so I got on the optics and looked under where a magnetic vehicle trap had been activated. Then there was a dash across the road and we opened fire on the target, they dropped down but not before they activated the charge placed on team one´s vehicle. They came out screaming covered in flames from the molten copper and shrapnel and a burst from enemy machine gun fire had taken them out. I ordered my remaining men to exit the vehicle while I provided covering fire from the mini stryker´s 50bmg main gun.

Sgt. Adams took off running back toward a group of rocks to help support with his mk. 11 mod. 7, while the rest of team two ran up into the trees. I continued providing covering firing through my magnetics when my camera had gone out, I yelled through the firefight ¨ SNIPER! EVERYONE GET DOWN!¨ Spc. Michelin was able to land a grenade next to the heavy machine gun emplacement, unfortunately not before Pfc. Costco was cut down. I then exited the LAV XI to get my rifle in the fight and maneuver my remaining squad into a counter- attack. I decided on a pincer movement on the enemy sniper´s position, myself and Spc. Kai advanced to the left flank while Sgt. Maine and Spc. Michelin advanced on the right, and Sgt. Adams stayed behind to provide suppressive fire on the enemy’s position. I ordered a charge to the position and as we were running through the trees a high rate of fire weapon opened up on Spc. Michelin killing him and pinning down Sgt. Maine. The ¨Bat¨ advanced to finish off Maine and stood on a fallen log, a six point five millimeter round going three thousand and eighty feet per second ripped through his helmet and went into a tree behind him, Adams had saved Maine from one Sargent to another.

As we continued to push forward, we were coming up on the sniper when my friend Sgt. Adams let go a blood curdling scream, and Maine took off to help him, unfortunately this would be his last effort for he was now out of cover and in crosshairs. He fell down face first. Spc. Kai and I rushed up and opened fire on the sniper, then rushed back to help Adams. In the same position as Adams had set up was a new threat, which had started opening fire on Kai, so I started to fire back to try and focus his attention on me. As we were both pushing up, Kai rushed in and met a flurry of small arms and hand to hand attacks, so I pushed in to get behind them. Then there was a scream, a loud explosion, and a very bright flash that knocked me back.

I awoke to a pink rain and a cloud of smoke. I had shrapnel in my right leg and was all alone. There were nine men under my command, and they were no more. They were gone. Everything I did, I did wrong, I led my men to their demise. We fought hard and fast, but we were no match for the relentless assault. They overran us and had us in a chokepoint. As I was on my knees holding my friends tags, I was defeated, and a grey shadow in the smoke approached me from behind. I heard a calm and powerful voice say ¨Sfc. Burd, you have made a mistake and have paid dearly for it¨, as he placed his hands on my shoulders. I lunged up, plunging my knife into his armpit, puncturing his lung and going into the aorta, causing a collapsed lung and major internal bleeding. As he was laying there, he pulled out his encrypted opsat and handed it to me as he said ¨Here is why we did what we did, the code is Amat Victoria Curam.¨ ¨The burden… is now yours,¨ he said as he slipped away.

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