Personnel Expendable - Part II


After-Action Report: Operation Thermopylae » Personnel Expendable - Part I » Personnel Expendable - Part II


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"Ambush!"

"What are you doing, Corporal Hollender? Engage!"

"They're fucking everywhere!"

"Captain Harding is down!"

"Pull back, pull back!"


Operation Thermopylae
Day 13 - 00:12:32, March 8th, 1990
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Joint MTF Beta-1 and MTF Titan-1

Hollender gasped for air, frantically pushing dirt and support timbers off of himself.

He tried to get up and felt a searing pain in his left leg.

Fuck, that was my good leg.

Wrapping his arms over a metal crate, he forced himself to stand up. Another burst of pain shot up his stomach and into his chest. He gritted his teeth and turned around to see the partially collapsed tunnel. Luckily, the support beams had held for the most part, but Hollender didn't know if they'd hold forever.

Behind another crate, he saw the dirty boots of Semenov.

"Semenov," Hollender groaned in pain.

He stumbled over to the Corporal, and as he rounded the corner of the metal crate, he could see the wooden support beam sticking out of his chest and the pile of dirt that had been poured on top of him. Hollender lifted his arm out the earth and pulled his sleeve up, revealing his bloodied forearm. Hollender placed his index and middle fingers on Semenov's wrist and waited. A minute passed and he didn't feel a beat. Semenov's black watch was cracked. Hollender unlatched it and placed it in his waist pouch.

He pulled the torn poncho down so he could see Semenov's neck. He dug through the clothing and finally found his dog tags. Hollender forcefully pulled on one of the tags and placed it in his waist pouch with the watch.

Hollender closed Semenov's eyes and coughed a small cloud of dust into his shoulder. He slowly stood up as he winced and drew his Glock-19, clutching his stomach in pain as he limped forward towards the doorway.

The Colonel's hearing began to improve, and he could hear a voice around the corner. He crouched down and pressed his back against the dirt wall.

"If it wasn't for you and your fucking Foundation, my men would still be alive. You're just dead weight and if you were better at your job you might've been able to live through this,"

"Well, thank god my Foundation is good at tracking down the bread-crumb trail I left behind. I'd rather die by their hands than yours,"

Hollender peered around the corner. He saw a man in full tactical gear pointing a 9mm pistol at someone in a beige business suit, back up against the wall.

Hammond.

He looked to the right and saw a hospital bed with a woman in it. She looked pale and spindly, and several blinking and beeping monitors surrounded her.

Vanessa.

The man pointing the gun, Hollender assumed, was the commander. He had a red beret on and held a tinted blue vial with a liquid inside. He was taller than Hollender, and in the Colonel's current state he would have a hard time going up against him.

Hollender inched around the corner and drew his pistol, steadying himself by leaning his right shoulder on the doorway as he kneeled.

"Now that you've brought this shitstorm down on top of us, I'm killing you and your daughter so I can bring this serum back to the Director so some good can come from your mess," the Commander said, pointing the metallic 9mm pistol at Arlo Hammond.

Hollender exhaled and squeezed the trigger of the Glock-19, firing two .40 bullets at the Commander. The bullets penetrated the back of his neck, blood shot out the front of his neck and onto the wall next to Hammond. He grunted and collapsed to the ground.

Hollender relaxed, breathing out. He slowly stood, leaning on the doorway as he held his stomach in with his right arm and his Glock-19 in his left hand.

"Don't move, Hammond," Hollender groaned.

The Colonel painfully walked into the room, shakily aiming his pistol at Hammond.

"Thank god, I'd rather you kill me than this muppet," Hammond said, smiling brightly.

"Glad I can oblige," Hollender tiredly said, sitting down on a small dusty wooden box next to the hospital bed. He looked down at her. She was frail and weak, and Hollender could see the blue blood veins through her pale skin.

"He had the serum. May I?" Hammond said, gesturing to the Commander

"Yeah, I'm not going to kill you now," The Colonel said, coughing into his shoulder. He placed the Glock-19 in the olive-coloured sheath strapped around his thigh.

"Thank you," Hammond said, kneeling and retrieving the vial from the Commander's waist-pouch, "So I guess you lads found my trail."

"Yep, two Ethics Committee Supervisors and the location of several Clear Skies sites. Thanks for that, by the way."

Hammond walked over to Hollender and Vanessa, sitting on the box next to the Colonel.

"How did he plan to get out of here? We have the whole place surrounded."

Hammond gestured to the left, and Hollender saw a small door.

"Tunnel system leads outside of the city. Completely unguarded," Hammond said.

"Huh. I see."

The two sat for a moment. Hollender focused on not throwing up. His head caught up with him, and the room began to spin and contort, shifting into different shades and tints of colours.

"You two get out of here. You don't deserve to die," Hollender finally said.

"Thank you, Sir. I don't believe I caught your name."

"You can call me … Magenta," Hollender said, standing up, "Use the tunnels. We didn't know they were here. I'll tell them I killed you."

"Again, thank you," Hammond said, leaning over Vanessa and picking her up, holding her in his arms, shielding her face protectively.

He moved to the tunnel entrance, "You better get out of here. The Commander was connected to a Dead Man's Switch. Reinforcements are definitely on their way."

"Bollocks," Hollender said, standing up and moving to the doorway, "Until we meet again, Hammond."

"Good luck, Magenta."

"There's no such thing as luck," Hollender said, dipping around the corner.

He strode down the hallway, holding his stomach in his arm. He felt the pain every time he moved. He felt a strange sensation in his pelvis, definitely not good, and he continued down the corridor, struggling through the collapsed tunnel.

He raised his radio to his mouth and pressed the 'transmit' button, but didn't hear the beep.

"Juno-1, this is Juno-Actual, reinfor-," He looked at the radio and found it completely dysfunctional, "Oh, fuck me."

He tossed it aside, frustrated and looked around. He saw Semenov's body lying against the wall and he kneeled next to him, gingerly unstrapping the radio from his shoulder.

Hollender coughed and pressed the transmit button, "Juno-1, this is Juno-Actual. Pull back from the compound to RV Alpha. Charlie Reinforcements are incoming and will reach the compound within the next three minutes," Hollender said, making his way up the stairs. The stark lights beyond him led him like a beacon. He pulled himself up the bannister, exhaling sharply.

Several "Copy that," responses came through, but Hollender could barely hear them.

"Coming up," Hollender grunted.

"Colonel coming up," Hollender heard Wallcroft say from beyond the doorway.

He stumbled into the living room. Parker greeted him as Wallcroft rushed to him, holding his shoulder to help Hollender steady himself.

"Let's get the fuck out of here, Sir," Wallcroft said, turning his head to face Parker.

"Couldn't agree more, Henry," Parker said, rushing to the door and holding it open for Wallcroft and Hollender.

Wallcroft guided Hollender outside, holding his arm over his shoulder.

"Juno, this is Juno-1-1. Last of us are out of the compound, pull back to the rendezvous point," Parker said into his radio, "Juno-1-3, d'you copy?"

"Gotcha loud and clear, Sir. We're pulling out," Iris said. Hollender could hear Iris' voice faintly as the colour faded and returned to his vision continuously.


"Alright, DD. Let's get a move on," Iris said to Dietrich. She rose to a kneel and placed her dark green binoculars in her bag.

Dietrich let out a long sigh and released his grip on the rifle. He stood up and flipped the rifle over his shoulder.

"I told you to stop call-" Dietrich began to say as Iris cut him off with her finger.

Iris quietly shushed Dietrich, pointing towards the door.

Dietrich peered towards the aged door, hearing the muted sound of the old floorboards creak and crack in the hallway outside.

Iris slowly stood up, unsheathing her tactical knife and holding it in front of her. She inched her way towards the door and gingerly stepped along the wall. Dietrich stood up behind her, and she could hear the creaks in the wooden floor. Iris stepped in front of the door, holding her ear next to the splintered blue door.

She held her breath and waited. Dietrich followed closely, unholstering his Glock-19 from his thigh strap and waiting next to the door with Iris.

The door flew open, slamming Iris in the face and sending her to the ground. Dietrich raised his pistol as three Clear Skies agents entered the room. They had night-vision goggles on and they glowed a sickly blood red. Iris squinted through the pain and kicked the first agent in the thigh, causing him to stumble to the ground next to her. As the second agent entered the room, pointing her 9mm pistol at Iris, Dietrich shot her in the neck twice. She spun sideways onto a wooden chair before her lifeless body fell to the ground. The third agent entered, swinging right and aiming at Dietrich. Iris reached down to her thigh and freed the Glock-19 from her holster. She fired three rounds from the hip, connecting with the agent in the waist once and chest twice. He collapsed against the wall, falling down with a smear of blood plastered on the wall. The first agent reached for the knife on Iris' thigh strap and freed it, furiously bringing it down on her lower chest.

Dietrich steadied his pistol and fired at the agent leaning over Iris. The bullet connected with the agent's forehead, and he immediately tumbled backwards to the floor, a pool of blood forming around his head.

Dietrich rushed forwards, kneeling down to Iris. He looked at the wound, Shit, and sighed.

"Don't worry, Iris. I'll get you out," he lied to himself.

Iris coughed hoarsely and a spatter of blood came out, covering her neck and upper chest in a thin layer of red. Dietrich raised his hand and Iris grasped it. He pulled her up to her feet and held her left arm behind his neck.

As Dietrich ushered Iris forward through the doorway, he reached for his radio, "Wallcroft, get to our position now. Iris is in critical condition."


Agent Wallcroft, Parker, and Hollender moved down the street next to the apartment that Iris and Dietrich were in. Hollender's hearing returned and he was thrust into the sound of the pouring rain and wind. He suddenly heard the transmission of Dietrich coming through his radio.

Agent McIvor and Agent Ridley moved in front of Hollender and Wallcroft to cover their escape as they moved further up the street.

"Wallcroft, put me down. Get to Iris," Hollender said, trying to force himself out of Wallcroft's arms.

"Got it," Wallcroft said, setting Hollender down next to a metal crate.

The field medic ran across the street and used his shoulder to bash through the rotten blue door, barely slowing as the aged door crumpled under his weight.

Parker moved next to Hollender, aiming down the street. The Colonel breathed, his senses returning to him. He felt the cold pavement of the street with his hands and heard the yelling of Clear Skies agents in the compound.

"You got 'im?" Parker said, looking through the scope of his MP5 rifle.

"Yeah, he won't be spilling any more secrets," Hollender said, looking up at him.

"Good job, Colonel," Parker said, lightly slapping Hollender's shoulder. His expression suddenly changed, "We lost Auger in there,"

"Damnit. I'm sorry," Hollender replied, bumping Parker's arm with his fist.

The Commander fired a suppressed burst of MP5 fire down the street. Hollender assumed that it connected with a Clear Skies agent because he didn't fire again.

Hollender heard a commotion to his right and he looked across the street to see Wallcroft carrying Iris on his shoulder with Dietrich watching his back. Hollender reached down for his second-to-last clip of 9mm ammunition and exhaustedly pushed it into the weapon, slapping the cocking lever. He stood up, aiming his MP5 submachine gun over the crate towards the compound. Four Clear Skies soldiers moved around the corner, firing at the Foundation agents. Hollender and Parker fired in unison, nailing two of the soldiers in the head. The two other soldiers dove into cover behind a dumpster, firing blindly around the corner. One of the bullets struck McIvor in the shoulder, and he stumbled back onto the ground. Parker left cover and rushed across the street to McIvor, getting in front of him and shooting at the Clear Skies agents.

Wallcroft, Iris, and Dietrich moved further down the street and six Clear Skies soldiers in heavy armour swung around the corner, firing their AK-9 rifles at the group, hitting Ridley in the chest as he rushed to protect Agent McIvor. Ridley stumbled back to cover behind a dumpster as the rest of the group ran forward.

Hollender fired a burst of fire at the soldiers, trying to draw their attention and hitting one of them in the neck. The soldier sputtered for a moment before falling forward onto the ground.

A volley of fire came at Hollender, and he swung down behind the crate. He saw Dietrich turn away from Wallcroft and Iris and sprint forward past Parker to a metal crate across the street from Hollender. He unloaded several rounds of fire on the soldiers, killing two of them. He ducked into cover and looked at Hollender as he pulled the pin of a grenade. He jumped up and threw an overhand toss into the group of soldiers. The grenade bounced into the group of soldiers and detonated. A bright flash of orange light enveloped Hollender's vision, killing several of the soldiers.

Clear Skies agents filed into the street, and Hollender pulled back to Wallcroft and Iris. He shielded them with his body, firing at the horde of soldiers. Several streams of gunfire connected with soldiers down the street, and Hollender saw the agents of Delta-1 move into the hallway. They wore more high-tech gear than Hollender's team and definitely acted as they deserved it. They rushed forward, while the agent in black with accents of blue tossed a grenade at the soldiers, detonating and killing more Clear Skies soldiers.

"Delta-1, Sir, we'll take it from 'ere," The one in blue said.

As the Clear Skies agents took more ground in front of the group, Hollender pushed back with Wallcroft and Iris. Parker and McIvor were next to Hollender, firing down the street at the mob of soldiers. Dietrich ran back to Wallcroft, firing his Glock-19 at a soldier running for cover, killing her.

Hollender suddenly felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and left arm as multiple rounds penetrated his body. He tumbled backwards, landing on his back. Adrenaline started pumping through his body, and his head began to ring as he struggled to crawl backwards on his one arm. He couldn't feel his good arm, and he unholstered the Glock-19 from his thigh-strap and began firing with his right hand at the soldiers. He felt a sharp tug and looked up to see Commander Parker dragging him down the street while the Delta-1 agents covered their retreat. The one in blue fired a grenade launcher and a large cylindrical explosive shot out, arcing into the large group of Clear Skies soldiers.

Hollender looked down, seeing the trail of blood splattered against the ground, following his path. He peered up, seeing the tide of soldiers approaching. Streams of gunfire flew down the street. The Clear Skies agents quickly moved between cover in the street while others suppressed Hollender's team with a bombardment of bullets.

Hollender's vision began to fade as he saw his body being dragged down the street. The rain pattered against his uniform and face as Parker dragged him around the corner with the rest of the team. Hollender's world turned upside-down as he was thrust upwards onto Parker's shoulder. The pain shot through his legs while they dangled like wet noodles and he struggled to lift his head. Through the fleeting moments of consciousness, Hollender saw was Parker picking him up and running down the street with the rest of the team.

Hollender suddenly gasped for air. He opened his eyes wide and found Wallcroft staring at him with a relieved smile on his face.

"Sir, I've given you a morphine stim and tourney. It won't last forever but it'll hold for the moment!" Wallcroft shouted over the gunfire.

"Where are we?" Hollender said, panting heavily.

"Currently boxed into this apartment building, Sir. They've surrounded us on all sides and we're holding out for the helo to come pick us up," Wallcroft said, looking around at the windows.

Hollender patted Wallcroft's shoulder, "I'm good to go, Henry, go help the others."

Wallcroft nodded and ran to the other side of the room. Hollender frantically studied his surroundings, trying to grasp the situation. He pulled his night-vision goggles over his eyes and unholstered his Glock-19, checking the magazine. Hollender looked down at himself. White bandages covered his chest and left arm, while a small pool of blood surrounded the pillar he was leaning against. His legs were splayed across the floor on front of him, and he struggled to move them.

He quickly glanced up, they were in a dark medium-sized room, turned-over furniture and stripped walls revealed the poor structural support underneath. Parker, McIvor, and Ridley fired out of a window in front of Hollender, while Dietrich watched the window next to the stairs, unloading his Glock-19. The Colonel looked to the right, spotting Kozlov and Adler shooting at targets out of another shattered window. The walls were riddled with bulletholes and smoke from the rifles muddied the air.

Hollender heard gunfire behind him and he turned his head to the sound. The six members of Delta-1 were covering the two backdoor windows, taking turns firing and reloading.

"Where the fuck is that extraction?" Parker shouted to himself.

"Hold on, Commander. We'll make it," Wallcroft said, trying to calm himself down.

Beads of sweat flew off of Parker as he fired a burst of 9mm bullets through the window. Hollender saw a wild look in his eye as he aimed down the sights of his MP5.

In front of him, a semi-collapsed staircase led up to a second-floor, with several steps crumpled in the middle.

Hollender held onto the wooden pillar and scooted his way up to stand straight against the post.

He reached to his shoulder and held the 'transmit' button on his radio, "Command, where is our extraction?" he said between huffs.

"Uh… Whiplash-1-1 is approaching your position. Approximately nine kilometres out. We're marking the extraction zone now. Hold one," The monotone voice said on the other end of the radio.

Hollender looked down to his wrist, brushing the dust off of the rectangular Field Navigator Display on his right forearm. Hollender pressed the 'on' button and a grey map of the surrounding area appeared. A flashing blue beacon materialised several blocks away.

"Can you get it any farther away?" Parker said, staring at his FND intently, talking to himself.

To his left, Hollender heard a Delta-1 agent, "Parker. We need to push through the back, we've got it locked down," his thick French accent echoed through the room.

"Yeah, yeah," Parker said, moving to the backdoor with the Delta-1 team.

The door at the top of the stairwell blew off of its hinges. Several Clear Skies soldiers appeared, leveling their rifles at Dietrich and firing, squeezing their triggers in unison as a flurry of bullets flew towards Dietrich. They penetrated his upper-chest and cheek, Dietrich stumbled backwards and slid down the wall. He fired his Glock-19 wildly at the soldiers as he fell to the floor.

Parker and Ridley spun around and aimed at the soldiers at the top of the stairs, Parker firing his MP5 sub-machinegun and Ridley firing his Remington Model 870 shotgun at them. Two of the soldiers fell as the bullets cut through them. The other soldiers retreated behind the doorway, taking cover as they reloaded their rifles.

Ridley grabbed a grenade from a pouch on his chest, pulling the pin and holding it for a moment before throwing an overhand toss up the stairs and in front of the doorway. The grenade exploded, sending shards of wood and chips of paint down the stairs. Dust spread across the entire room and Hollender pulled his balaclava back up above his nose.

"Fuck!" Parker shouted.

"There's nothing you could've done, Commander. We need to move, now," The Delta-1 Captain said, walking over to Parker and grabbing his shoulders.

"Let's get out of this shithole," Ridley said, reloading his shotgun.

"Everybody, we're moving out through the back. Let's move it, gentlemen," The Delta-1 Captain announced, shouting over the gunfire.

"What's your name, Captain?" Parker said as he peeked through the backdoor.

"Call me Kepler," He said, reloading his MP5, "We all ready?"

"Yes, Sir. Wallcroft, get the Colonel over here," Parker said.

Wallcroft moved across the room to Hollender, extending his hand to the Colonel. Hollender grasped it firmly, holding onto Wallcroft as if his life depended on it. Together, they walked to the backdoor, stacking up with the rest of the team while McIvor and Ridley watched behind them, firing at Clear Skies soldiers coming towards the house.

Captain Kepler kicked open the backdoor, it flew off of its hinges and landed in the small, fenced-off backyard of the building. The fence was a dull white, and bits of paint had weathered away with time, exposing the damp wood beneath. The Delta-1 agents exited first, spreading out across the backyard as Parker's team moved behind them. Hollender struggled to keep up with the rest of the agents, but Wallcroft held him up, keeping him in the middle of the group.

Kepler led the team down a side alley ahead of them, through a narrow opening between the brick buildings. Two Delta-1 members trailed in the back of the group, closing the gate of the backyard as they moved into the alley.

"Whiplash-1 is approaching your position now, Colonel," The voice of Command crackled through the radio.

Hollender clutched his radio against his mouth, "Copy."

He heard the rhythmic thumping of helicopter blades approaching in the distance and heard a voice crackle through his radio, "This is Queequeg, arriving shortly at the Rendezvous point."

Wallcroft pressed the transmit button on Hollender's radio, "Affirm, Queequeg."

Wallcroft ushered Hollender forward, almost dragging his legs through the mud as Hollender struggled to move quick enough. Ridley, McIvor, and two Delta-1 agents filed in behind the Colonel, watching behind the group for hostile soldiers.

Several Clear Skies soldiers rose over the top of the buildings on either side of the group, firing down on them as the Foundation agents fled. Ridley fell to the ground as a stream of bullets connected with his back and the back of his head and neck. McIvor turned and shouted, running back to Ridley.

"Leave 'im!" The Delta-1 agent with red accents said, pulling him off of Ridley's body and pushing him forward.

The group turned the corner, running down a cobbled street. Hollender gasped for air, fighting to hold his eyes open.

Hollender heard a voice behind him, "Look, there! I see the choppa!"

He focused his vision spotting the Blackhawk at the end of the street. The blades cut through the air like a knife.

The rain pattered on Hollender's face and helmet as he trudged through the street. From inside of the helicopter, he saw a man desperately waving at them to hurry up, as if we weren't doing that before, and get into the helicopter. As they neared, Hollender felt the gushes of wind slapping him in the face. Wallcroft pushed him on board, and the Colonel stumbled onto the metal floor. Wallcroft helped him up into a seat as he began to lose consciousness. Hollender could see the remaining Beta-1 and Delta-1 agents climb on-board frantically, crowding around the Colonel as his vision went dark.


Well, you don't know what
We can find
Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride,

My fuckin' head, where am I?

Shit

Well, you don't know what
We can see
Why don't you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

Hollender groggily opened his eyes. He saw the stark lighting and pasty white walls of a medical ward. As his vision focused and his hearing returned, he saw the doctors and nurses scurrying about the decently-sized room like mice.

The Colonel chuckled lightly and coughed. He heard the faint music of Magic Carpet Ride and the buzzing of the overhead lights as he sat up in his bed. Hollender noticed the sling and bandages on his arm and winced as he struggled to sit up.

"Take it easy, Charles," Hollender heard all around him. The voice echoed in his head as he tried to focus his vision.

Hollender groggily darted his eyes to the left and saw Iris next to him. She was dressed in a white tank-top and had bandages around her lower chest. In her lap, Hollender's copy of The Hunt For the Red October was resting in her hands. Hollender exhaled and relaxed. He sat up in his bed and turned to face Iris.

"You liking the book?"

"You have good taste in literature," Iris said, smirking as she looked back to the book.

"Glad you like it," Hollender said, coughing.

"Are you feeling alright?"

"It's only a scratch. I'll be out of here in a couple days."

"Uh-huh," Iris chuckled weakly.

"Where are we?"

"Uh… Site-122, French-German border," Iris replied.

Commander Parker walked into the room in a casual green T-shirt and black jeans. His light brown hair was neatly combed over and he wore white sneakers with blue accents. In his left hand was a tray with three cups of coffee, and in his right, a tan-coloured dossier swung from side to side as he walked.

"Good to see you two up and about," Parker said, handing a cup of coffee to Iris.

"Thanks for helping me, Henry," Hollender said as Parker handed him another cup.

"Don't mention it," Parker said, his smile growing wide.

Parker took a sip from his coffee and waited a moment before speaking again.

He turned to the doctor who was sitting at a desk behind him and called her over, "Hey, Evelyn. Come 'ere for a second."

"What is it?" She asked.

"Is the good Colonel here alright to walk around?"

"Not for long distances, but yeah."

"Ok great, thanks, Evelyn."

Doctor Stark turned back and sat down at her desk.

"Up you get, Charles. We've got work to do," Parker said, moving next to Hollender's bed.

The Colonel grumbled and sat up. He slowly leaned over, holding the plastic rail and got out of bed, the baby blue sheets slipping off of him.

Parker handed Iris the dossier as he took a sip from the cup of steaming coffee.

She scanned the cover and opened it, her eyes lighting up.

Iris took a large gulp of coffee, "Henry, these are transfer papers."

"Yep, you're joinin' Hollender's team. Shame I won't get to challenge you to another drinking competition, but I'll live," Parker said.

"You're not moving to another planet, just another team. You'll see each other all the time," Hollender said, smiling.

"Whelp, time to get a move-on, Colonel," Parker said, slapping Hollender's back.

He winced, "Yep," Hollender said as he gritted his teeth.

"See you real soon, Charles."

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