A Night In Zargabad (Part 2)
We began to move past the enemies standing immediately outside the compound to hug the side of the wall surrounding the mosque: it was our best chance of cover. A storm of shadowed figures started to run around the corner of the entrance, approaching us in the bleak darkness. One by one, they all began to fall as I laid down fire with my LMG, prepped up on its bipod against a small horizontal section sticking out from the bottom of the mosque’s towering wall. More came flooding towards the entrance, firing rounds and hurling frag grenades. Jones looked the other direction, trying to scan for some sort of route out of this mess. We were ready to go before something hit me, not a realization, but a physical blast which felt like a dozen wasps cascading through my body. All I remember after the shock is a thin ring in my ears, a faint whiff of a metallic substance and being able to smell color and hear the light. I had no clue how long I was in this state for, but my delirium was instantly interrupted by the shouts of Jones as he continued to hold off the advancing enemy force. “Don’t die on me now!” I heard faintly as I began to awaken.
I’d been dragged into the corner of a small opening in the side of the wall, still beside the monstrous mosque. It was now more controlled by enemy forces than when we had started this mission. I was bleeding from my arms as a section of my uniform had been scraped off by the roar of the enemy grenade. As I pulled several bandages out of my bag, Jones remained in my former spot, suppressing the contacts, now within only a hundred meters of our location. My arm was in extreme pain, but I had no time to pull out bits of shrapnel or whine about the irritation, we had to carry on. Heaving myself up from the somber ground I was lucky to have not died upon, my distorted vision, pulsating with a plethora of visual malformation, drew towards the sight of Jones signaling his impending movement to the road behind us.
Desperately faltering backwards towards the street, we noticed a courtyard surrounded by high walls. We rushed in there away from any threats to take a moment to plan an escape route. As long as we could get outside the heart of the city, we could try to radio in for an extraction and we’d be safe.
I pulled out a map as Jones began working out our current location with his GPS. We were stuck between several open roads, ideal places for any enemy to easily spot and kill us despite the absence of any light. We began moving north, hiding and moving from cover to cover between the pillars of murky old shop fronts and crummy derelict houses. Just as we approached the end of the backstreet leading back to the main road, my radio began picking up a signal: a faint signal, but a glimmer of hope in our darkest moment.
The signal on my radio continued to grow stronger as we impatiently waited. “What’s th…” the radio began to transmit. It would continue to crackle with a distorted voice pulsing in and out as we listened in. “What’s the.... there guys…” the unknown voice continued, still fuzzed between every other word. “Maybe someone noticed Milo wasn’t picking up on his long-range radio,” suggested Jones. “What’s going on down there guys? Is anyone alive?” the voice final uttered.
“5 men down, we haven’t been able to complete the mission and it’s just two of us left. Requesting urgent extraction” answered Jones, anxiously waiting for a quick response back from the pilot.
“Roger that, ETA 3 minutes from Zargabad, please confirm your approximate grid reference and mark yourself with any colored smoke you have.”
We had been incredibly lucky to have gotten so far, but we needed to find a spot for the helicopter to land near us. The enemies would easily see and hear a helicopter close by, so we needed to get to a spot as far away as possible. As we ran across the open street, each covering a separate side, our optimism was cut in half by the sight of an approaching hostile Infantry Fighting Vehicle blockading our exit.
“Dammit, it must be looking for us,” said Jones with a strongly irritated tone.
The IFV had not seen us yet, but could be detrimental to our escape if it spotted the approaching helicopter. We rushed into a nearby alleyway as it began to pass beside us. We held our breath hoping it wouldn’t stop; I bit my lip as the injury to my arm began to oscillate and throb in agony, but we were lucky. We began moving north again, hoping to reach a field relatively close before the helicopter arrived. We crossed another road, being wary of the dozen terrorist fighters we could see beside a distant light only a hundred meters out.
“Alright guys,” the pilot radioed, “I should arrive near a field somewhere in the city pretty soon, grid reference 076034. I can’t stay for long so hurry up.”
We began sprinting directly north to the place the pilot had mentioned; we wanted to get out of this nightmare so desperately. We could see the helicopter approach us, headed south. We were merely a few hundred meters from the landing zone; we could hear the flutter of the metallic butterfly as it rushed towards us pounding against the thick air, and then landed in a field guarded on our side by a high wall. We did not have far to go, we were so close.
Right then, the IFV could be seen storming down the dust capped road, clearly having seen the approaching helicopter land a few hundred meters away. The other enemies had presumably also been notified to its presence and were on their way too. We went prone in the tall grass outside a broad building as it stopped relatively close to us, barricading our route to the helicopter. This was it, we could not stay here for more than a few seconds or we would suffer the same fate as the five men we commenced this operation with. Reaching in my vest for a smoke grenade to cover up our move past the IFV, I was hit with the awful realization that I’d ran out, and so had Jones.
We had to made a break for it regardless. Releasing anything that would weigh us down and elevate the irritation in my limb, I liberated the grip from my LMG, letting it lie on the ground as I started to move forward with Jones. As we began to run out of sight of the IFV, its mounted gun began to rotate, having now spotted us. The gun turned around, taking aim at me as I lagged behind due to my injury. As it prepared to fire, Jones swung around and threw himself at me as a series of 7.62mm bullets tore through his torso like paper. Picking myself up with as much haste as I could muster, I quickly stumbled to Jones's body hoping I could drag it through to the other side of the wall. The IFV echoed with a mechanical series of sounds as it reloaded its secondary armament—and presumably all it had left to fire. I began to pull on his body, conscious that I didn't have much time left; continuing to haul with an acceleration of effort, my arm began to spasm with a sudden influx of agony as the bandages tightly wrapped around became stained with a deep crimson. We were mere meters from the exit in the wall leading to the field. I wasn't even sure if Jones was still alive, but I didn't want to give up. Despite the horrific pain, I continued to try and drag his body with me, hoping that there may be a chance at all of us making it, but we were out of time: the IFV began firing again as soon as it had finished reloading. I dove out the way into the exit, blocking the IFV's line of sight to me as each bullet whizzed past, miraculously missing my body.
I turned around to look at my partner stuck on the road. His chest had been pierced by multiple thick bullets fired from the enemy vehicle. His eyes were barely open as they began to shut with each last light breath. His head slowly turned on the floor as he looked at me; the edges of his mouth began to rise as he expressed to me a final meager grin, and that was it. I couldn't do anything, I couldn't go back, and I didn't even have a weapon on me to try to fight back with. Feeling chained down within a pit of despair, I made my final way towards the field close by as the mission came to a miserable conclusion.
Jones was the best of people at the harshest of times. He was always looking out for me, so much so that it cost him his life. I had no time, nor the ability, to go back for him, as much as I felt like it was my duty to do so. I made it to the helicopter as it quickly lifted off and took me back through the deserted skies. Upon the horizon, the sun began to shine through slightly as the night sky started its transition into a deep purple sea. I’ve never forgotten the havoc of that merciless night in Zargabad, the wasted efforts that were used in vain, and I’ve never forgotten the men that fell that night just for me to barely make it out alive.
Written by PFC Laird.
Edited by PFC Svenson.
Formatted by PFC Laird.