Castling: Fourth Interlude: Killing the Enemies and His Family Too
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The fleet of MI-17 transports descended through thick cloud cover, orbiting the village of Chiri-Yurt once before touching down on the southern border for disembarkation. The smooth rubber tires sunk a few inches into the mud that infested this place, settling finally and allowing the rear clamshell doors to swing open. The mud immediately swallowed their boots, causing a small delay, but they slogged through it to make room for their comrades in the rear of the line.

Captain Dmitri Arkadeyevich Strelnikov was first out of the transport (His CO would surely scold him for that later), ushering his men along and forming them up into the desired skirmish lines. Without haste, the helicopters lifted into the sky and the three platoons of Russian infantry began advancing on the city. Frightened civilians fled the streets like so many scurrying ants, locking themselves in filthy apartments and homes, hiding in basements and praying to avoid the terror to come.

With a motion of his hands the men spread their lines and began sweeping the avenues, approaching what looked like a café. It was surprisingly intact and apparently enjoying lucrative business, or whatever passed for that these days. No sooner had the observation been made than the handsome awnings and front windows were decimated by a bomb blast, spraying the sidewalks with glass and splinters and simply obliterating the patrons who had occupied the front booths. Strelnikov smiled on the inside—their Spetznaz cousins had come through with their maskirovka after all.

Though history and the media would record that the bomb had been planted by insurgents, the planned explosion would give them a perfect excuse to open fire and begin cleansing the area of rebels. Spirited movements of his hands swung his men left and right, moving to secure the exits of the building. Already, frightened and stunned citizens were spilling from every opening they could find, fleeing in a panic through the streets and shouting in abject terror. Strelnikov leveled the AKM to his shoulder and squeezed off a burst in their direction, sending shards of plaster and brick flying amongst the runners.

With his fist raised in the air, ready to give the signal to move in, a sudden chill ran down his spine—something wasn’t right here. Unable to place his misgivings, he ordered a cautious advance on the café, weapons trained forward, moving slowly with eyes sweeping left and right. A sudden burst of gunfire erupted from within the confines of the shattered building, catching two of his men by surprise. They fell to the ground as the rest took whatever cover was available, those closest to them dragging their writhing, screaming bodies to safety while the light machine guns opened up with suppressing fire.

More fire now, except it wasn’t aimed at them—the direction of the tracers indicated that they, too, were targeting those inside the café. Strelnikov looked on with morbid curiosity, noting that the tracers were not the phosphorescent green that was standard for Russian and Eastern Bloc ammunition but instead were evidently of Western manufacture. Who else was engaging? His teams were the only friendly forces in the area. Looking down the street, he could see whoever they were breaking contact and retreating, seemingly content to leave him to deal with whoever was inside. No matter, there was other business at hand for him to deal with before taking the time to worry about who was who. Trapped in a dead zone with no cover, Dmitri had no choice but to order his men forward into the building.

The squad machine guns wailed, tracers lancing through the remnants of the façade and tearing into their assailants. Strelnikov shouted above the din, his spluttering, guttural tongue in complete harmony with the roar of their gunfire, as if the two had been made for one another all along. His men surged forward with a terrifying war cry, bayonets fixed, running headlong against the oncoming fire, leaping through the broken windows and giving battle at close quarters. The identities of men became lost as the fight devolved into the simplest of human instincts and urges, the gunfire diminishing as they hacked at one another with bayonets and clubbed with the butts of their rifles. Through the smoke and dust hanging in the air, it was evident that their targets were clad in black nomex, with tactical vests and expensive equipment slung from their web gear. One of them kicked Dmitri square in the jaw, knocking him to the floor. As he rolled over to try and get up to continue the fight, his lieutenant appeared behind him to run the man through with the cold blue steel of his bayonet.

He got up, still reeling from the force of the blow, and felt his mouth. Teeth missing, several of them, in fact. He smiled at his lieutenant, blood pouring from his gums to give his grin a truly horrific flavor. The opposition seemed taken aback by the sudden savagery of their Russian counterparts, perhaps getting more than they bargained for. The crackle of the fallen’s radio headsets indicated that they were beginning a withdrawal, slinking out the building’s rear exit and fleeing through the alleyways. Strelnikov wiped the blood from his face, kneeling down to examine some of the corpses. Their uniforms had no identifying documents other than cryptic badges reading Sigma 4-Tempus Fugit, whatever the hell that meant. He wondered why they were here, and also who else wanted to fight them. It was probably all above his pay grade anyway, so he filed it in the back of his mind.

The remains of his first squad formed up around him as he stood, blood continuing to spew from his wounds. Slinging the AKM on his shoulder, he held his hands up to his face—both of them trembled madly. He felt the rush of the adrenaline and felt the pounding of his own heart in his chest, breathed in the acrid smoke and tasted the cordite that hovered in the air. The blood dribbled from his mouth and he swallowed it down, acutely aware of the metallic taste and the thick texture as he smiled once again and looked at the carnage he had wrought, the broken bodies and the wrecked interior of this once fine little café. His eyes drunk in the destruction, the glorious sight of what he and his men had wrought upon these mysterious people, and he smiled once again, wholly pleased with himself and longing for the day he could tangle with such well equipped foes once again.

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