Blackout Part 1: Uprising
We were sick of waking up to this each morning; it had become something we were beginning to feel accustomed to, albeit it was something we were fighting to prevent. The island of Sahrani had been poisoned by a dark shroud ever since its government were overthrown by insurgents, and now it became a regular routine to awake to news of another attack on Western soil at the hands of the same group of villains.
Stationed in a small outpost in southern Sahrani, we had already conducted a raid against the group now labeled as a terrorist organization by our own government, though little intelligence was retrieved with the operation being considered a major failure involving the unnecessary death of numerous fellow soldiers. The group, referring to themselves in ransom letters as ‘Blackout’, were able to orchestrate a swift evacuation from the city of Corazol, the former-metropolis in Sahrani they had previously been in control of, before reorganizing in the north of the island mere weeks later. We had not a clue where they were, nor any idea of how to find them, and every last scrap of intel we received would only lead to a dead end.
I could feel the frustration in each officer I passed on my daily routine, and sure enough, we collectively would only feel more acquainted to the news of another attack each morning. But it was on a scorching summer morning that we finally had a route to follow: an uncertain route, but the closest we had to a breakthrough.
We were told of a contact held up in Dolores, a defector from the Blackout organization who wanted to offer to us his knowledge on the group, as well as the apparent location of the leader himself, Commander Nero. We were immediately dispatched to meet with him before any sort of raid or attack was to be planned against the group. The road began long and winding, with the group hoping it wouldn't be a metaphor for the entirety of our endeavor. The dusk began unveiling as the pale sun fell behind the monstrous mountains in the genesis of its twilight stage.
The sky became consumed by a dying orange hue while the wind vehemently stormed through the lower atmosphere like a barrage of bullets. Regardless, our desert-camouflaged Humvee continued barreling down the sand-capped road in its convoy. Beginning to enter Dolores, we noticed an immediate lack of any activity within the area: no other vehicles, no noise, and no civilians. It was an urban wasteland, but we had a job to do.
We had been told to meet the defector outside a distinctive abandoned building at a particular set of coordinates. Reaching the apparent area, we were met by a large dilapidated structure almost ready to become a victim of gravity. A well dressed man stood beside it finishing a cigarette as we approached him.
“I’m glad you could meet me,” he began with a strong Eastern-European accent. “The area has crumbled since the start of Nero’s tyrannous reign, the people are living in poverty, the food is running out, and his own soldiers are slaves, some even children. This town was once prosperous, but it is becoming a ghost town as more and more people are being taken to serve the regime, if they are lucky enough. Those not are simply executed without any remorse.”
We stared at the visually disturbed man with blank horrified expressions, yet none of us felt surprised hearing about the atrocities committed by the Blackout organization. We had all become so drained chasing around any scrap of hope or information regarding the group that we could hardly feel bewildered hearing of another war crime.
“I know where Nero is,” the man continued. “Before I escaped I managed to catch plans of a personal inspection of one of the towns under their control, Ortego. He will likely be there for a number of days.”
We internally lit up with a cold level of excitement knowing we had a chance to end this very soon. Commander Nero had infamously earned a high spot on America’s most wanted terrorists list, and rightfully so. Hundreds of innocent people back home had been forced into an early grave due to his malicious intent and possibly thousands more here in Saharani, and not just the men, but the women and children too. The man amiably turned down our offer of asylum for his contributions to our campaign as he began to calmly walk away.
Quickly embarking the convoy to move to Ortego several kilometers away, we barely hesitated to begin our strike on the held city. A platoon worth of soldiers had been mobilized and readied for instant transport to rendezvous with us in the event that we had received any information as valuable as this. We needed to strike quickly while we knew where Nero was so as to quickly bring a massive disruption to Blackout’s poorly organized chain-of-command while liberating a major Sahranian city. Sneaking through the lowly-guarded suburban areas of Ortego, half of the infantry was dropped off close to the city center: the presumed place for high enemy presence and if we were lucky, the tyrant himself. Each squad quickly organized a route to take to surround the area while the remaining vehicles would patrol the surroundings streets; we were miles into the city, though we had not yet come across any threats, nor many civilians. This was truly a group who kept low, but we had faith they were in there. Being the assault group who were to get to the heart of the city, we soon moved in after the other squads had begun setting up.
We began hearing some distant shots after the other squads had started taking fire. Continuing to reach the center, we began to realize more and more the dearth of any enemy presence, something did not feel right. We had conducted many raids and many takeovers of Blackout controlled areas and FOBs, but the scarcity of any chaos here felt deafening. Mere blocks from the city plaza, we took a quick stop to be sure we were in the clear. About to move in, I needed the clear from Platoon HQ that all other squads were in place. I placed down my M16 in attempt to set up my long-range radio.
“Charlie 2-6 actual, this is 2-3,” I began. “Are we clear to move into the center, over?”
My attempts to re-establish contact were halted by the sight of a single beaten-down civilian emerging from an abandoned shop front. His left eye was swollen with a bulging purple hue, he had blood-stained scratches eclipsing his skin, and he appeared to have some difficulties walking forward. I watched him with sympathy while I waited for a response on the radio, knowing with a level of almost-certainty what had happened to him. He did not even seem like he noticed our presence down the road. I glanced to my squad briefly as they waited for the go-ahead to move forward, it was then in the corner of my eye that I noticed him change, I noticed him begin to move, begin to hobble down the street finally noticing our uniforms. A brief hobble quickly turned into a darting sprint as I screamed to my squad while fumbling to pick up my rifle. I dived to the floor as a swift blast tore through the flesh of three squad mates who had no clue what had just hit them.
They knew we were coming, the Platoon HQ were dead, and we had to get out of there.
Beginning to sprint with every bit of stamina we had back to the vehicles, we heard a malevolent voice start to surround us as the megaphones in the grim streets began to crackle.
“Nice effort, but you won’t get to me that easily. I would commend your courage if you weren’t all about to end up like your friends back there. Blackout has stood in the shadows for a long time before you were even aware of our existence, and we wouldn’t let anyone who questioned our authority, never mind a defector, survive for more than another breath. It was fun watching you all scurry in circles to find me, and what a hilarious waste of your time that was, I could truly feel the desperation in each of you. There’s not even a point in running back to your vehicles, you’re only wasting your last moments alive and they won’t quite be where you left them. You know, Tolstoy said that the two most powerful warriors were patience and time, and you had neither. Desperation merely desensitizes your logical reasoning; you don’t even want to consider the possibility that you’ve got it wrong because you think that you’re owed a fortuitous break from somewhere. Anyway, well done for trying. Nero out.”
We could only pause in the middle of the street as we waited for the inevitable. I stared at the distraught faces of the men around me begin to lose hope, but I knew it would not end like this.
Fortunately for us, it didn’t.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Written by PFC Laird.
Edited by Cpl. Svenson.
Formatted by PFC Laird.