“Check the tent,” Lewis ordered. He and Haulk stood over the unconscious goblin and kept watch on the alley while two Marines ducked into the tent. He heard rattling of armor, but even standing right next to it, he could barely hear it over the steady boom of the mortars, the machine guns, and the panic of the enemy. Any second now it should be a lot noisier….
Lewis dared to smile at his sense of timing. Ahead and to the left, Ellis and his assault team moved toward the middle of the camp as they had, sneaking down an alley between tent rows. And now they were launching grenades in every direction, sowing death and more confusion into the already panicked camp. If only, Lewis thought, I had a hundred more Marines. This situation screamed for exploitation – he had the enemy confused, in panic and disorganized – but he didn’t have the manpower to follow through.
The screams and shouts were all around now. Webster and Jardine came back out of the tent, each dragging a duffel stuffed full of loot. Webster whispered, “Sir, two sets of armor, some weapons, and whatever else would fit.”
“Good.” Lewis looked down the alley. There was a bigger tent – he could see it was at the corner of two camp streets about 25 m up. Bigger tent, likely officers. What next? He decided. “Leave the bags with beautiful here.” He pointed at the goblin.
“We’re going to investigate that tent down there at the end.”
Haulk took point again, Lewis following. Explosions rocked the camp to the north from Pethoukis’ mortars and to the south from Ellis. Lewis had given Ellis most of their remaining grenades and told him not to come back with any.
Lewis scanned the area. No goblin was paying any attention to the alley. Good.
Lewis listened at the leather wall of the tent. He heard voices, but couldn’t make anything out. Stupid, he thought, of course you can’t, you can’t speak fucking Goblin. Over the din of the night assault he couldn’t guess how many were in there, but they were awake and alert. Probably not expecting company, though.
Haulk dropped prone and lifted up the bottom of the tent. He pushed back his NVGs, and looked in. Haulk held up three fingers, then moved his fingers close together. Three tangoes, all together.
Lewis pantomimed his plan: Jardine and Webster would lift up the side of the tent; Haulk, Arp and himself would charge into the tent.
Jardine and Webster bent down and grasped the bottom of the tent wall. Lewis flashed three fingers. Two. One.
The two Marines snapped up the bottom of the tent. Haulk dove in to the left, Lewis a second behind and to the right. Arp, a hulking 6′ 6″, barreled straight in after.
Lewis got a snapshot of the interior of the tent as he went in. Three goblins, armored but no helmets – two looking the wrong way. They were standing by a camp table, looking at something. Two torches in the corners. Some rugs on the floor, a banner by the entrance on a halberd-axe thingy. The one facing him widened his deep-set eyes as he saw the Marines come in. He started to reach for a weapon as Lewis rolled up, put his rifle on the target and pulled the trigger.
Lewis fired a short burst, saw at least two rounds hit home, ruining what little good looks he had. Well, maybe goblin chicks thought he was handsome. He switched targets. Blood sprayed from both goblins’ heads as his fellow Marines hit their targets, and suddenly he was aiming at a dropping corpse.
He panted and the rest of the room came back into focus. Jardine and Webster followed into the room. Lewis pointed and they took up station by the door, ready to deal with interlopers. Haulk unrolled a tarp and Arp swept everything on the rough plank table onto it. Lewis bent and retrieved the sword from the goblin he’d killed. The scabbard was on a baldric. He draped it over his head and under his shoulder. He found two helmets on the rug and tossed them onto the tarp. Haulk was pulling gear off another body.
“Just get the weapons; we don’t have time to strip the corpses.”
Arp tossed the last of the daggers onto the tarp and Haulk started rolling it up. “That’s about it, sir.”
“Jardine, grab that banner and lets get the fuck out of here.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” He pulled the axe from its stand and twirled it twice to wrap the banner so it wouldn’t drag. Again, Jardine and Webster grabbed the bottom of the tent and held it up for the rest. Haulk went first, followed by Arp dragging the improvised loot sack. Lewis ducked under, rifle ready, and dropped his NVGs down over his eyes. The world turned comfortably green again. Jardine and Webster twisted out and let the tent wall drop.
Back in the relative safety of the alley, Lewis listened. He could still hear grenades, but the shouting in that direction sounded more…organized. Pethoukis was still hammering the other side of the camp. They had achieved about all they were going to achieve – now it was time to make a discreet exit.
He clicked three times on his radio – the signal to exfiltrate the area. Ellis and Jackson would make their way back to the edge of camp and then to the ravine. Lewis devoutly hoped nothing would slow Pethoukis down on the way to the rally point. Otherwise, it’d be a long walk home.
He held up his hand, spun his finger around and pointed his team back the way they came. Arp shouldered the awkward tarp, and everyone took positions around him. They moved back toward the edge of the camp, stepping carefully over the rope lines of the tents.
They got to the their first cache without incident. The two duffels of armor and weapons were undisturbed, and their captive was still there, unconscious and zip-tied at ankle and wrist.
A squad of goblins charged down the company street to the left, heading in toward the center of camp, weapons drawn. Good, that meant that Jackson was doing his job, launching grenades up in toward the middle of camp. Ideally without detection – but that was far too much to hope for.
When the goblins cleared they had an open shot toward the perimeter. Lewis waited. The seconds crawled by, and every shout seemed like it was coming from right behind him. The goblins were definitely sounding more organized – there was less confused screaming and a lot more shouting that sounded like very, very angry noncoms giving orders.
It was strange. He couldn’t understand the language they spoke, and he didn’t know where in God’s name they came from; but despite all the weird bulletproof medieval armor and the Ginsu swords, these were soldiers. And he did understand that.
They had minutes left, maybe seconds, before these assholes started making a really organized response.
His radio clicked. That was the signal that Jackson was ready to boogie. He clicked once in response. He scanned the immediate area, saw nothing but two sentries looking out in the black. He waved his Marines forward, and they ran for the desert.
Arp now carried the prisoner; and Haulk, Jardine and Webster each carried a bundle. That left only Lewis unburdened with loot. As they cleared the last line of tents, the sentries heard the rattle of their approach. They can only see silhouettes, he thought. We’re just outlines from the fires and torches behind us. But I can see you just fine. He raised his rifle, paused. He fired. His target goblin obligingly dropped, but the other screamed and leapt. Damn, he was fast. He covered the 30 feet between them like it wasn’t there, and his sword was coming right at Lewis’ head.
Lewis blocked two handed with his rifle, and the sword chopped into his rifle, right through the rail and into the receiver. The goblin growled in rage when Lewis twisted the rifle, tearing the sword from his grasp. Lewis threw the ruined rifle and attached sword to the side and reached for his sidearm, backpedaling.
The monster was fast; unbelievably fast. He jumped and low tackled Lewis to the ground. Lewis’ head smacked the ground and his vision narrowed. All he could see was the green-hued snarling face in front of him. He couldn’t find the grip of his .45, and the goblin had his hands on his throat.
The world went black, and Lewis choked on goblin blood. He rolled the goblin off and scrambled to his feet, pushing his NVGs back. The goblin’s head was a ruin. Thank you again, Evans, he thought.
Lewis crouched as his men caught up with him. The whole thing had lasted only seconds. He wiped his NVGs as best he could on his sleeve as his men ran past, straight for the gully they’d started from. He put the NVGs back on, and aside from a little blurriness, they seemed none the worse.
He scanned to the left and saw Jackson’s team running full out for the gully. He saw the muzzle flashes of two M4’s as Jackson and Simmons fired to cover their heavily-laden teammates’ run for the gully. Lewis followed his team to the low ravine, dropped down under the crest, and turned back toward the camp.
The goblins were getting wise to what was happening. It was still a trickle, but more goblins were moving this way. He heard Evans firing, saw the huge muzzle flare from his big .50 Barrett, and goblins were dropping with satisfying regularity. Lewis’ team dropped their burdens and took up their rifles. Reach out and touch someone, he thought. He saw a goblin drop. One, then another of the goblins moved up to chase Jackson’s team.
The goblins held up at the edge of camp. They probably couldn’t see anything, he figured. They’d have no idea what was out there, and now they couldn’t even see anything to chase. They crouched down – taking cover, but clearly they hadn’t really gotten their heads around the idea of cover from accurate rifle fire. Evans and the Marines were putting them down no matter what. There’s a world of difference between cover and concealment.
But the assault team would have to come right through them. On the plus side, they were facing him, not them….
On cue, the assault team returned. The small group of goblins were obviously unsure, waiting on officers most like, when an explosion went off right in their midst. Goblins flew everywhere, and Ellis and the assault team came raging out straight down the main camp street, guns blazing. Glorious!
Lewis crouched down, not wanting to catch a stray. Oh shit, he thought. Now I see why they’re moving so fast – right on their heels were thirty or more goblins, pissed off and blood high. Lewis started firing. Thank god for whatever is allowing us to hit targets. Nothing drained morale like not being able to kill one’s enemy. But now, his Marines sent a rain of bullets around the retreating assault team. The few remaining goblins at the edge of camp just scattered, but the pursuers were more focused.
Lewis reached for his rifle and cursed when he remembered what happened to it. He pulled his .45 instead, and watched. Two of his Marines dropped, he couldn’t see what got them. The goblins chasing them were faster, they were catching up. Ellis turned, dropped to one knee. Oh fuck, Ellis, no!
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Continue on to Part Four.