Authors: Gennita Low
Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Stoker Aces Production, LLC. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Special Forces: Operation Alpha remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Stoker Aces Production, LLC, or their affiliates or licensors.
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ho goes there, friend or foe?
Except one couldn’t fucking yell that out in the middle of an ear-blasting fire fight. The people firing at them were
Iraqi Kurds, and they were supposed to be on their fucking side. Now the two Canadian peacekeepers were dead and his SEAL friends were trapped in their vehicle, trying to get to this tin can of a bunker where he was hiding out, a few life-and-death meters away.
Steve Liam McMillan cussed and got behind the window, peering out quickly then pulling back. He was the only one in here and would be the only one alive if he didn’t think quickly.
It couldn’t be a case of friendly fire. They’d radioed in yesterday that multi-national teams would be arriving at the checkpoints. This was supposedly an easy operation—take the Canadians, walk them through the usual steps, introduce them to the different troop leaders of the Iraqi sections, and back they’d go to their respective duties. As an independent contractor, he’d curried his ex-SEAL status with his cousin, Hawk, commander of a black-ops DEVGRU SEAL cell, for help to get in and out of the fort. Hawk had checked with Special Operations to see who was in the area and had gotten him permission to come with his pal, Wolf, and his men. They were traveling as a fire team with two Canadian troopers.
Liam cussed out more useless words as he changed position, moving to the other window. He needed a vantage point to cover his new friends as they ran toward him for safety. Thank God his helmet mic was on and they could still communicate.
“Count of three, two of you head my way. The door would be open. Over!”
A spate of grim replies came his way.
“Abe, you take point! Wolf, you go next!”
Liam aimed his weapon, waiting for the signal. All four SEALs in the fire team were out there, huddling behind the military SUV—two possibly injured—and he would not let them down. The logical move was the uninjured one would lead the other in each of the two runs. That meant Wolf was hurt and Abe would be the one getting the door.
He sighted a sniper behind the guard rail on the wall and without second-guessing, fired his weapon, picking the man off. Friend or foe, right now it didn’t matter. Bringing his comrades in to safety was number one priority.
The two SEALs hauled ass as he continued shooting, keeping them covered as they made their way to him. The door flew open and both men threw themselves inside amidst another round of gunfire.
“Wolf, you okay?” Abe asked.
The taller man, Wolf, looked at his injured arm quickly and nodded. “Bloody, but I can still shoot,” he replied, his voice grim. “Let’s get our other two out of danger. They’re just sitting ducks out there.”
“I’m signaling them now,” Liam told them, keeping his gaze on the remaining two SEALS as they crawled on their bellies toward the end of the vehicle facing the small bunker. “Cookie’s going to need help. Abe, you cover us while I run out there to help Mozart pull him in here.”
“What’s the signal to let them know I’m coming out to them? One of the guys has lost his helmet”
“I’ll do it,” Wolf said. “You go ahead.”
Wolf went to one side of the window. He put out a hand and quickly made some signals. Then he nodded to let Liam know the two outside were ready. Liam opened the door and ran out as Abe covered him. Stray bullets rained on the sand by his feet but he kept running until he reached the other two. The injured one instantly got to his feet and with the help of the other SEAL, they dragged and pulled him along.
In moments like these, time slowed down and everything always appeared to move in slow motion. Liam had experienced it numerous times and he let his adrenaline take charge, trusting his instincts to get where he needed to go. Everything was magnified. The door flashed bigger and he could see the bullets slamming into it, whizzing right above their heads.
He realized they might not make it. If Abe or Wolf didn’t get the enemy sniper above, they’d be hit with his next shots. His two companions were thinking that too.
“Leave me,” Cookie told them. “Get in there.”
“Quit wasting your breath, asshole, and keep up!” Mozart panted out.
Liam didn’t even bother replying. As if they were going to leave any man behind to be picked off by a damn sniper. He heard the familiar squeal of tires and it sounded as if a vehicle was coming in their direction. Not good. From his peripheral view, he caught sight of a covered all-terrain vehicle. Faster. They needed to go faster.
Outrunning an M-ATV while helping an injured man was impossible. Liam turned his body, raising his weapon-holding arm. Death would not get him from the back. He looked straight up and smiled defiantly as he readied to shoot. He froze.
Above the M-ATV, a figure was facing the enemy, manning and blasting at them with a 50-calibre. It was the most beautiful sight. At the same moment he had his weapon raised, their unexpected help turned, hair spraying out like liquid rubies in the wind.
“Get the fuck out of the way, dumbasses,” she yelled on top of her voice, her Southern accent instantly recognizable to all American boys, “so we can get close to the door.”
Although he couldn’t see much in the few seconds, to Liam, the voice belonged to the most beautiful woman in the world, in combat gear, coming to save their lives. He would kiss her if he could.
The M-ATV swerved right next to them, close to the front door. The driver beckoned as the woman continued shooting at the enemy, giving them cover. Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Liam pushed Cookie up into the vehicle. He heard the others behind him as he and Mozart scrambled up. In seconds, all the SEALs were inside and without needing orders, they began shooting in unison, like the perfect fighting team they’d been trained to be, aiming at the parapet wall as their driver turned and drove out of firing range.
“Are they going to come after us?” Liam asked.
“Seeing what a small group we are, I’d say yes,” Wolf said.
They’d stopped shooting since it’d be just a waste of bullets. The parapet wall was too far away.
“No, they won’t,” the driver replied.
Like everyone else, Liam turned his head at the female voice. Two women. He hadn’t expected that.
“Hey, thanks for coming to our aid,” he said, studying them both with interest.
The first one, the one manning (should he say womanning?) the weapon was still standing, so all he could see was her lower body. The camouflaged pants fit her very well.
“You’re American,” he continued speaking to Legs when the sound of battle had died down and there was only the rumbling of tires as they sped off.
Legs had a fine voice, with that Southern drawl. Such an unexpected thing in the middle of the desert. It reminded him of the sweet iced tea he guzzled down in the pungent heat of Florida summers when he played baseball.
“We were escorting the Canadians to meet with the
leader,” Mozart said. He wiped perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve. “Now they’re dead. Care to explain?”
“Our leader is dead. They killed him this morning,” the driver told them, quietly, her voice without emotion. She spoke with an Arabic accent.
“What happened?” Cookie asked. He sounded a little strained.
“You have injured men. You’d better tell how serious it is first,” the driver said, glancing back at Cookie. “Ella?”
“Yes, I remember the first aid kit,” Legs said, the rest of her finally coming down from the hole above them. “It’s in my backpack under the seat, along with my laptop and notes. So be careful if any of you are sticking your hands under there looking for it.”
“I’m okay,” Cookie said, reassuringly. “I’m a SEAL. I can take a little flesh wound until we’ve reached somewhere safe.”
“Not if you bleed to death. I don’t care whether you’re a SEAL or not. Right now, I’m in charge here and I want to know the status of those injured,” Legs retorted.
Laptop and notes. Liam studied the woman closely.
Besides the long legs and the glorious red hair loosened from the helmet, she looked as if she’d put on her fighting gear in a hurry. Her weapons were carelessly slung over her shoulders and her shoes were partially untied. The smears of dirt on her face brought out the startling blue of her eyes in stark relief. Her small nose was slightly upturned and her skin was pale, the kind that went with a true redhead.
“SITREP of injuries,” Wolf acquiesced, in his usual quiet voice. “Be more detailed than the usual ‘just a flesh wound, sir,’ men. After that, I’d also like a SITREP from our rescuers, so we could all assess our options. I’ll go first. A bullet nicked my arm. It’s bleeding but not badly.”
Liam liked the man. He could lead without causing friction. “I think only two of us are injured,” he said.
“They got me in the back of my thigh. I can’t run very well,” Cookie reported reluctantly.
“Near his ass, actually, by the looks of it,” Mozart added, with a slight grin. “Should be fun examining that wound.”
“I’m not letting you bandage my ass,” Cookie shot back.
“Your turn,” Wolf said to the two women. “What’s going on?”
“I thought it’s pretty obvious the SITREP on what’s happening over there,” Legs said, dryly.
“I’m assuming you’re part of the Kurdish troop at the checkpoint, so your people knew we were coming,” Liam pointed out. “In contrast, we have no idea who we’re talking to and the enemy we’re dealing with.”
“I’m Ella and American,” Legs replied. “She’s Zainab. We’re both...hmm...trainees for the Kurdish
army. We were attacked last night. One of the men who recently joined up was a spy and came in with the others to overpower us.”
“Traitor,” Zainab spat out. She started talking angrily in Kurdish.
“Hey, slow down a bit,” Wolf said. “How many survivors? What was the purpose of the attack?”
“They thought our leaders were there. Wanted to take them prisoners. They became angry when they realized they were wrong, so they decided to take some of you prisoners instead,” Zainab said, in slow English.
“They figured they could get a friendly fire situation to happen and start an incident,” Legs—Ella—continued. “They’re also sort of looking for me.”
All the SEALs gave Ella their full attention.
“Why?” Mozart asked.
Liam sat up straight. Laptop and notes.
“You’re Fitz!” He gave her a hard look.
Ella grinned back at him.
Liam rubbed his jaw. “Sean didn’t say a thing when he sent me to get you. Damn, like me, the enemy thinks you’re a man.”
Ella’s grin became wider.
* * *
lla hadn’t expected to be in the middle of a fire fight and certainly not powering a big gun high above a vehicle. She had expected to be reporting about one, perhaps hiding behind something solid, watching and taking pictures. Not actually shooting a weapon. Not actually making a last ditch save of a bunch of SEALs. She shook her head at the whole experience.
She was a journalist, not a warrior. Sean had given her a lot of advice before giving her this assignment—how he wanted her to fit in with the
female recruits so her writing would ring true, what kind of questions to ask the women fighters, personal anecdotes he wanted from her—but nothing about what to do when one had to pick up a weapon and run along with the troops. Nothing about how to keep quiet when the enemy was beating up on another man right in front of her. How to belly crawl under walls to steal the keys to the vehicle. Making a dangerous escape and taking on snipers. This wasn’t quite what she’d imagined her stay with the
was going to be like.
Her assignment was to be embedded with the trainees for a month, to learn about women in the Kurd’s
fighting force. That had meant eating, sleeping and training along with them. Everything was going as planned until two nights ago when she happened to overhear a conversation. Things had gone to hell since.
And now she’d rescued a bunch of SEALs. What next?
“You don’t look like a Fitz to me.”
Ella looked at the soldier who was studying her closely. He was the first of them she’d caught sight of—a man on the ground, fearlessly guarding his injured comrade. A determined scowl on his face, he’d raised his weapon, pointing it straight at her, ready to shoot. Adrenaline had obliterated most her fear by then and she’d yelled at them. Dumbasses, she’d called them. Her Ranger brother would have chuckled at that.