Rolling out along Meals, we ducked south on the road split and cut through a yard to get to the Fountain House B and B property. From the Satellite picture, it looked like an easy crossing of the creek there to a semi-paved hiking trail and what looked like a Home Depot. I hoped it was Stryker-wide otherwise it was risking going up into the plaza past the trail.
Once there, two of Reed’s boys dismounted and checked the creek depth. After determining it was at best knee deep, I ordered Jake to goose it across. The dismounts continued across and made it to the trail as our carrier hit the water and made the crossing. Climbing out, the wheels spun a bit but the 6×6 nature of the Styker gave us the means to escape the creek and on up to the trail.
Once on land, Brand had our Stryker maneuvered onto the trail and pointed south on it towards an apartment complex with access to the trail- the boy was damn good with Night Vision driving- and we managed to fit alright on the trail. At this time, I changed channels and tried to raise Pitbull Lead on the rescue freq.
“Black Sheep, Archer,” I called over the channel, using the callsign I got in a last second update from Pitbull elements, still in the general area. “Black Sheep, Archer. Acknowledge.” She’d either answer or there would be a series of clicks- four rapid ones- if she couldn’t speak.
Turns out she could. [Archer, Black Sheep] That was good, though I detected a bit of pain. [Kept your promise, did you?]
“Said I would.” I replied. “Sitrep..”
A pause. [Down near the chamber of commerce building. Tried to hoof it wide and cross 81 down over here. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of wolves around here…] Blacksheep said quietly. [And this lost sheep is a bit outgunned. I think I pissed them off…]
“I bet. Ok… Sit tight- I have a handful of Sheepdogs with me and we’ll be there soonest.”
[Good to hear,] came the reply. [Take your time but hurry up though…]
Looking at Reed, I posed a question. “I need two. Who’s your best Ninjas?”
She blinked. “Bobbi Grace, me and Jerry Swartz,” She replied. “I know I can’t go. Take ‘em- I know you are gonna try and get her out on foot and that’s a good plan. We’re the Cav if you can’t.”
She looked at the aforementioned soldiers, Jerry Swartz and Bobbi Grace. “Both of you, with Senior. Make me proud.”
Bobbi had a shit eating grin. “Sheeee-it, MA2, we got this jawn…” She said as she ditched her helmet and pulled a soft cover. “I always wanted to do sneaky stuff.” Jerry just shook his head.
I chuckled. “Ditch the brain buckets. I want maximum hearing and these hinder.” I placed mine inside the hatch. “Light on feet for this.” Looking back at Reed, I was about to suggest moving the Stryker when she cut me off.
“We will get up into this lot over there.” She pointed back towards a housing complex close to the trail. You need us, we’ll be there…” She said. “May the Goddess help anyone trying to stop you.”
With that, the three of us beat feet.
Moving quick with night vision can be a challenge but not a hard one when you have practice. Bringing it up to my eyes to check the route, I moved at light jog up the trail then off through the woods to the lot by the hotel near 81. Pausing to give it a good scan, I noted nothing living here and motioned for us to move out.
Hoofing it to the rear of the old cracker barrel, we three made good time. It was when we got to the end of the that cover was going to be an issue. Scanning the route, I noted nothing showing nearby but with the activity in the direction of the airfield, it was not as quiet as one would think in the area.
Jerry went first across the lot to the edge of the ramp. It was a good thing for us that no one had cut squat for grass in a year- good concealment. But it also could hide stuff from us too.
Thankfully, it didn’t and before long, all three of us were at the ramp edge. The grass in the median was tall too, and like the shadows we were attempting to be, we slipped across the roadway into the tall grass. Making our way to the underpass, we paused at the edge of the bridge. Checking the channel on my comms, I attempted to raise Black Sheep again.
She replied with handful of clicks. Oh that was not good… Glancing to my two companions, I motioned to my eyes and brought up my AK as I pulled the nightvision into place. This was sneak time… and the moment we had to shoot, it was going to be stupid.
Unless someone else shot first.
As we slipped through the shadows of the underpass, some yells were heard from the direction of the Chamber building. A few shots from rifles then three loud bags. Big throaty things… which to me sounded like large pistol caliber.
As we got closer, I could see several DCP troops laid out on the ground, not moving much. A double handful of others were covering the building from various angles. It would appear that the bad guys had found her… and listening to them talk, they were going to toss a grenade then rush her.
It was time for us to change that. Looking over to my fellow shadows, I motioned what fields of fire to take with my off hand. After nods, I lifted my AK, waiting for a grenade to get readied.
One of the DCP guys pulled a grenade out and pulled a pin…. Which earned him a shot in the back. The surprise of the rest of the DCP troops at the gunshot held long enough to see the grenade, which had dropped from the thrower’s hand, to explode. The results of its detonation caught at least three of the troops in its blast, tossing them like a rag doll.
The rest of the troopers were engaged by Bobbi and Jerry in what ultimately wasn’t much a fire fight, my own rifle joining them.
At most, six seconds was all it took to take out this patrol- they had not expected resistance from behind them and it showed..
. Rising from the crouch I had dropped to for this, I advanced on the building. Taking care to kick weapons from hands, I let Bobbi and Jerry to make sure they were dead. Reaching the door, I stepped to the side. “Black Sheep….” I called out. “Its Archer.”
The woman’s voice from the radio answered me, evidence of both amusement and pain in her tones. “Lovely timing, Archer. I was wondering if I was about to have to entertain more guests than I could handle. Rude ones, too…”
A chuckle on my part. “Indeed… May I come in?”
I stepped in through the doorway and scanned the room. Black Sheep was sitting on the floor next to an overturned heavy table. Moving closer, I extended a hand to the woman pilot. “Senior Special Operations Chief Jim Ganic, 56th Stryker Brigade…” I said as I noted her Branch on her flight suit. “What in the hell is a Marine Colonel doing in an Eagle?”
She took my hand as an assist to get up. “Senior, I might ask the same question about a Navy Seal Chief with the Pennsylvania Army Guard,” She replied. “Lieutenant Colonel Callisto Gianni-Rhumer, 455th Provisional Wing out of Peterson.” She looked over at the door as my two shadows appeared. “Story time later, I suppose. Someone is bound to have heard the shots.”
I nodded. “Absolutely. Bobbi- take point,” I said as I picked up what looked like a custom M4 off one of the dead troopers. “Every marine a rifleman still?” I offered the rifle to Black Sheep who took it as she holstered her pistol (a damn ancient Government Model Colt, looked like).
“Absolutely…” Was her reply as she reached down to grab a pair of magazines. Once she had them stowed, we moved out.
In the distance back towards Carlisle proper, I could see movement of vehicles under running lights or blackout drive. We needed to move quick before company got here.
At a light jog, Bobbi led us back towards where MA2 and the Stryker were. As we ran, I noted the limp in Gianni-Rhumer’s stride. “Colonel… you get injured on the way out the bird?” I asked.
She replied, pain in her voice but still strong. “I think I caught my knee on something during ejection… and of course, I landed poorly.” She said. “It’s probably a fracture but I can move. For now, at least.”
A fracture? For fuck’s sake, I know Marines are hardcore but their pilots too? “Colonel, if you are running on it, it might not be.”
A chuckle. “Oh, trust me… it would not be the first time I’ve done so; when I was one of the 214th, we ran with the ground marine units often so… this is a familiar pain. Can’t check on it now though…”
“No we can’t…” I go on the comm unit for the squad. “Oh Em Aaa Twooooooo….”
[Get her?] Came the query.
“Yes. Get ready to scram.”
As we hit the area behind the Home Depot, the Colonel slowed down immensely, her limp a bit more pronounced. “As much as I want to keep up the pace, I am not moving all that well right now. My knee is not cooperating…”
Bobbi stopped and turned towards the pilot. “Colonel, how much you weigh?”
Gianni-Rhumer looked at the woman. “150 or so…” She answered. “Why?”
“Ma’am, I can carry you if needed…” The PFC replied. “My training vest weighs as much as you.”
The Colonel laughed. “Won’t be necessary; I didn’t say I couldn’t move, just not move fast…”
“Ok ma’am.” Bobbi replied and continued to lead the way, this time at a slower pace.
We got back to the Stryker under the watchful eyes of Reed and the rest of the squad.
After a few brief introductions, all of us boarded the APC. Jake maneuvered the Stryker from the woods back to the crossing point and re-forded the stream, avoiding a bogging in the process…. In the distance, the first streaks of false dawn appeared on the horizon as we made our way back to the strip.
Reed called ahead and we were met by a fire team who escorted us in. In the light of the coming dawn, I could see the mess around the strip’s outskirts- the volley that Fisk called down on the DCP troops had been solid as hell and the number of dead enemy… was a lot.
Jake drove our Stryker to the command post and we got out. Colonel Gianni-Rhumer had to be helped as her knee had swollen to the point of preventing any sort of flexing. Helping her inside, I instructed Reed to find her something to drink and eat while I went to find Kingpin. Daylight or not, we were in need of relief and one hoped Big Army had some for us.
We had been super lucky so far… and I was starting to feel like it was running a little light at the moment. But as long as it was here, I’m not gonna complain. Daylight was coming and our situation should improve.
Thankfully, Fisk had some good news. Task Force Command had informed Fisk of another Stryker Company coming- Bravo or so he was told- and that we would have someone to collect our prisoner. I still wasn’t convinced it was him but if so, what a damn coup. But the faster he was gone, the better….
It would be another hour before he was extracted… and two more until Delta Company was relieved.
Going back to where the Colonel was situated in the Aid Station, I found her seated with her flight suit cut open up to her knee, which exposed a bloody mess on her lower leg. “Damn, Colonel…” I said to her as I offered her a bottle of water. “I think you hit more than you thought.”
She looked up and over at me, accepting the water with a nod. “So it would seem. Your medic thinks I caught a round when they initially tried for me at that hut,” She said. “My running on it didn’t help but options were a bit limited at the time….” Holding out her hand. “Proper introduction is in order, I think. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Callisto Gianni-Rhumer, Acting Squadron Commander of the 455th Provisional Wing, late of VMF 214.”
Shaking her hand, I answered. Senior Chief Jim Ganic, Colonel. 56th Stryker Brigade. Formerly Naval Special Warfare Group Two and DEVGRU once upon a time….”
Reed walked up as the Colonel identified herself. “VMF 214?” She sounded excited.
Callisto smiled. “Yes…”
I was confused slightly. “Who?”
The MA2 looked as me. “Black Sheep Squadron, Senior…” She said in her happy voice. “Friggin’ famous as hell unit. At least to Marines and history buffs- like your DevGroup is to us. Even had a TV show…”
“No shit….” I said, now remembering both the unit and the show.
Callisto chuckled. “MA2, I assure you Great Uncle Greg would have told you most of it was Hollywood bullshit story. Some truths… but just stories.”
Reed, if possible, fan-girled a little more. “Ma’am, I don’t care. Still an awesome show, even if a bit over the top on stuff. And he was your Uncle?” MA2 was quick- she picked up on that reference.
“Yes. He died when I was a little girl but I remember him and his larger than life nature.” She replied. “He inspired me to become a pilot.”
Reed looked positively ecstatic. “Colonel, thank you for following through on being a pilot. You and yours stopped them hard.” Sketching off a salute, she looked at me next. “Senior, Gunny needs to speak with you soonest about what to do with the borrowed AK’s.”
“Tell her I’ll be there in five.”
“Ayeaye,” Reed replied and moved off.
I returned attention to Callisto. “So… how?” I asked, referencing the question from earlier. “I was retired and vollied up when The Army showed up here. Never expected to be doing this, that’s for sure.”
Callisto laughed some. “Well, I didn’t expect this either. I was home on Terminal Leave in Colorado visiting family there when everything happened. Found myself reporting to the nearest Air Force base to offer up myself to help. Being a Marine fighter pilot, they tried to get me somewhere that I would fit but as there was no slots for a Marine Colonel available with Navy or Marine Air, the Air Force saw fit to make best use of me…”
She sipped her water. “With so much damaged on the East Coast, I was sent to Davis Monthan to help raise a squadron or two. Had to transition to the Eagle; helps I have an obnoxious amount of flight hours though most of it is in Hornets and Harriers. I did have experience in the 35 though. Was there when 214 transitioned to it.”
She shrugged. “I expected being sent to one of those squadrons instead of learning an Eagle. But what Uncle Sam wants isn’t necessarily what you might want, right?”
“Agreed,” I said. “I never expected to be a platoon Sergeant, much less a platoon leader. I figured my old ass would occupy a desk or something. Silly me… Incidentally, that rifle is now yours, if you want it. Real Non-standard kit and a relic. Its an A2…”
A stern look. “Senior, trophies are frowned on.”
“I know a guy…” I replied. “And its not like you don’t have a relic already. That forty-five of yours…”
“…was my father’s. Came with the very functional Corsair I have sitting in Colorado Springs. Wish I had it for that strafing run but ah well.” She replied with a smile. “Something tells me your MA2 would fan-girl spaz a bit knowing I have one of those.”
A laugh. “A little…” I said. “Hell, I’m impressed. I know there isn’t many of them left flying, much less in private hands.”
“A labor of Love, Senior Chief. Everyone has a hobby and Kessie is mine.” Callisto smiled softly. “Have to get through this first to get back to her.”
“Duly noted, Colonel. Duly noted… and I think this shit is almost done…” I mused. “Captain Fisk said we had relief coming. They should be here soon… This has been a long three days.”
“That, I wholeheartedly agree with you.”
Bravo showed up roughly ninety minutes after Sunrise along with a handful of Pilots for the Colts. At least one of them was a complete loss. The others… would require some work but might fly again. The rest of the Brigade, freed up by follow on units, was busy moving up through NSA Mechanicsburg and to here. It had been determined that this airfield might be able serve as a forward field for the Cav aircraft elements in the further push west. It was mostly intact at least, which was a start… and well, the Expeditionary units that set up advanced airfields has something to work with here.
Now the Big Deal that had us out here… was El Shitbag Mobley. And what came next, was fucking special.