I lay on my back eyes closed, thoughts running through my head like a stream. None of it makes any sense to me.
"Willow!" A voice calls out to me. "Willow!" It calls again. I open my eyes and lean up on my elbows letting my eyes adjust to the bright lights that lit up the barn. I look over and see Tillman standing at the barn entrance looking over at me yelling, "Willow, get the fuck out of there, now!"
My brain clicked, eyes instantly focused. Bullets were tearing through the barn walls. A few soldiers lay dead in the middle of the barn, bodies riddled with bullets. I stand and in a swift motion throw my rifle over my shoulder and have it at the ready while running for the door where Tillman was just leaving. I near the door as a grenade goes off behind me sending me flying out onto the lightly snow covered gravel. My hands and side of my face take the impact, grazing them causing a small amount of blood to spill.
I lay there breathless, the muffled sounds of footsteps running towards me calling out my name. It was Tillman. He grabs my arm pulling me to my feet and stumbles a few metres back behind a tree line and collapsing into a pile of snow where the rest of the resistance were laying down fire on the enemy.
"You ok?" Tillman asks while checking my hands and face. "Yeah, you'll live" he says with a smile and turns grabbing his gun, turning to help the soldiers fight off the enemy.
I lay catching my breath. Then it was over. The guns felt silent. I gather myself and make my way to the group of soldiers huddled around Tillman, a map the centrepiece.
"Ok, listen up" Tillman says in a stern voice while taking a small stick and using it as a pointer on the map.
"This is us here, yeah?. Ok, some of N section have gone ahead and are just to the east of the facility here" He points out with a tap of the stick on the map. "We need to go north along this road and hook up with them" He took a deep breath and folded up the map putting it into his inner pocket.
"Sergei has gone missing, we aim to find him one way or another. Im not losing anymore out here in this shit. Ok everyone keep low and follow my lead. The call word is "Eagle'. Hear that and reply with "Talon'. If you don't hear that, open fire. Lets move"
I sit with my eyes fixed on the snow. I bite my tongue but before I realise everyone is looking at me.
"What is it Willow?" Tillman asks
"Spit it out, we don't have time for this shit!" The smile and tenderness from before had all but vanished from him
"It's Sergei. I think we should be careful. Last night he told me "I hope they don't expect to get far', and that, I don't know"
Everyone sat looking at me and then at Tillman and back again.
"Fuck" Tillman said quielty as he spat into the snow. "Ok, I dont know if there is much to that or not. But it does strike me as odd. Keep an eye out and alert me immediately if you see him. Lets go"
We all walk along the road, a small line of us on each side. All of 20 soldiers. 10 aside. The sound of teeth chattering from the cold could be heard from the other side of the road. It was no more than 0300 and around -17 degrees. What we all would of given to be back around the warmth of fire.
What I would of given to be back in my little house on Cleric Street. My mind seemed to wander back there like it had some great significance. Another jigsaw piece I had, but nowhere to put it " yet.
"Come on buddy, on ya feet" a voice behind me says as he helps another soldier back onto his feet. The cold again feeling like a greater enemy. The wind blew gently making the trees sway and keep everyone on edge.
Constantly looking for slight movements that may be the enemy. The sound of gun fire broke out. The ratter tat of machine gun fire echoing through the cold air making everyone jump.
Tillman held up his hand signalling us to stop. We all squat down. A shot rings out. A soldier in front of me collapses to the ground, blood spraying from his head hitting my face. "Sniper! Move move, fucking move" Tillman barks. We all get to our feet running. I grab the dead soldiers gun on my way past and make my legs carry me in as much of a sprint as they could manage.
We run up the dark half gravel half snow road. Rocks and snow crunching under our feet. Another soldier at the front collapses as a bullet impacts his chest.
"There!" I yell. Dropping to a kneeling position. Turning slighlty to my left and squeezing off a round. Bullet hitting the enemy sniper causing him to fall from the tree outpost. His body thudding into the soft snow below.
We link up with N section to the east of the facilty in a rundown shack. It was 0415. I sit in the corner of the shack using my sleeve to wipe the now half dry bloody from my face.
"Impressive shot" Tillman says as he slides himself down the wall and sits next to me. "Amazed you could see him so well in that darkness"
I sat thinking about that for a short while. "It was like I knew" I say slowly. "It was like I knew he was there. Could sense it. I felt I had no control. But I did. Like instinct. But not"
Tillman sat looking at me. I could feel his eyes on me without even looking at him. He sat a bit puzzled then put his hand on mine. I turn and face him as he says "Well, whatever it was. You did good" He leaned in and kissed my forehead and got up and left.
I was woken at 0530 by Tillman tugging gently on my jacket. "N section has gone up to the edge of the forest where it opens out onto an open field. The facility is in that field."
I sat up. Body as brittle as ever.
He cracked his fingers and then continued. "Seems you will get that push tonight. We plan on breaching the facility perimeter by 0600 at latest before there is to much sunlight. Which hopefully lessens the casualties on our end"
I grab my gun and check the clip and my ammo stocks. The kill from the night before still fresh in my mind.
We again met N section. We were nothing more than a rag tag squad of soldiers. Only 30 strong. N section had suffered a few casualties the night prior with the loss of a 5 man recon and then a couple more en route to this position.
"What ya got" Tillman enquired as we met N section.
Marcus looking through binoculars.
"Not as bad as originally thought. But not great either"
Marcus handed Tillman the binoculars.
"3 MG's left, right and centre. So cover all over the front of this field. What looks to be a Sniper nest up on the runway at the top of the facility there" he said pointing them out. "Guard towers on all 4 points of the facility. Razor wire, electric wire, dogs and no doubt fucking mines out in the field to"
Tillman put down the binoculars with a sigh. "So it's a goddamn fortress. Shit. What about from the rear?"
Marcus dropped his head. "Just as good as the front I'm afraid".
"Front it is then" Tillman said while pointing out parts in the field that could offer cover.
We all kept low, the darkness slowly turning to light. A handful of soldiers went off and jumped into a hole that looked to of been created by a mine. So far all was quiet. Not yet sighted.
A pair of soldiers to my right ran up a few metres towards a small trench line. The gentle tink beneath his boot was all they heard as snow beneath them went upwards sending limbs going every which way, coating the white snow red.
"Move move move!" Marcus yelled. We all kept low but moved fast towards a deep trench line about 250 metres from the facility fence. The sound of bullets flying over us as we ran. The cries of soldiers taking bullets. Everything happened so fast. Another mine went off. A soldier caught shrapnel in the side of his body, tearing an arm off.
I turn to go back to help him just as we reach the trench line
"No!" Tillman yells at me. Grabbing my arm and throwing me into the trench.
The sound of bullets and explosions filled the early morning air along to the tune of the alarm sounding off in the facility.
Voices could be heard from over the fence.
The voice yelled. "They have breached the lines! Fire at will!"