In the Tank
Rene continues his story…
The major gave us orders as Manny started back on the comms: “You heard all that. Five minutes. I figure seven before the cavalry arrives. We need to stall ’em for two minutes.
“Spread out. When they start down the hill, open fire on the center tank, the one that Kittycat came out of. Aim for the tread on your own side. It’ll give ’em something to think about, anyway. He’s got to know that there’s more than two of us out here, but he doesn’t know how many. So you guys need to be firing and reloading just as fast as you can. Alternate your fire between the center tank and the one on your side, but move each time so you don’t eat return fire. We’ll beat it up the hill while you guys cover for us — we’ll go under the back of the tent, and the tent itself will keep us out of sight for a little bit — then we’ll set off the EMP when one of the tanks takes out the tent. If we’re lucky, we’ll bury the SOB. Questions?” Neither of us had any. “Good. You got four minutes to get ready.”
Sammy T and I used a couple minutes to spread out as ordered — we figured if we were going for the treads, being farther off to the side would help — and we saw the major and Manny slip under the back of the tent. They moved up the dune slowly, looking back, making sure they didn’t lose the cover of the tent. The time went fast… I checked my watch, and they gave the major all five minutes promised before revving up and starting down the hill. We opened fire, and dang if Sammy T didn’t score one for the good guys! Kittycat’s tank slewed and came down the hill at an angle, almost hitting the tank on his right but he didn’t notice. Their turrets were coming our way, but we were moving already. I got my next shot off a second or so before Sammy did, and blew a hole in the tank’s armor on my side but nothing more. Sammy missed, no score. They returned fire, toward the spots we’d already vacated, and we weren’t planning on staying in one place longer than we had to.
We each got one more shot off before the major yelled, “Here’s the cavalry!” A second later, two pairs of jets zipped overhead and circled around. “Tobias! Cardenas! Regroup, back to center! Stay out of the line of fire!” I went down the far side of the dune, figuring that would get me out of the zone fastest, and then started working my way to where the major was. Long before I got there, the jets came back overhead, trailing explosions.
Sammy got there before I did, looking wild-eyed. “That was too close!”
“You shoulda gone downhill like Cardenas,” the major said. “I told you to stay out of the line of fire, right? That’s what I meant. But you done good. Both of you. Manny, ask ’em if they’re done yet.”
“Rabbit 2 here,” Manny said into his radio. “You guys about finished? Anything left down there?”
“Just some kitty litter for you guys to scoop out. Your tent is in shreds, though. Dooby’s sending an evac unit, should be here within the hour. Just part of the friendly service.”
“Thanks a heap, guys,” the major said, taking the radio. “We owe ya one.”
What parts of the tent hadn’t been shot to pieces were burning or already burned up. The Iranian tanks weren’t in any better shape. None of them had reached to where the tent stood. Sammy T and I kept an eye on the tanks, just in case one started moving or coughed up a kittycat, while Manny and the major dragged what was left of the tent out of the way. Fortunately, the hatch was still clear and we went down to bring out the most important gear and our personal stuff. It was dark down there, because the generator was probably one of the first casualties of the battle (I saw pieces of it strewn among the tanks), and we had no idea whether there was a surge. But that wasn’t so important at the moment. We each grabbed a wind-up flashlight, we kept them all around the caisson in case the power died anyway, and used them to break down the gear and box it up. We got it all topside just as the evac choppers topped the dunes and landed on the far side of the tanks.
“Need a lift, boys?” we heard one of them call over Manny’s radio. We had the gear and ourselves on board in five minutes, and the major dropped a grenade into the caisson before boarding (we didn’t want to use the EMP bomb, it would have disabled our ride out of there). It collapsed on itself as we lifted off, and the sand started filling in the hole immediately.
“Nice piece of work back there,” the pilot said over the intercom. “Holding off three tanks like that. How’d they penetrate this far without anyone else noticing, anyway? That’s what I want to know.”
“No telling,” Major Shevchuk said. “They’re probably swarming in scattered and hoping some of them get through. Won’t take many to make a lot of trouble.”
They gave us each a medal and some extra leave. I was hoping for an honorable discharge and getting sent home, but no luck with that. With the straits blocked, it’s not like we’d be getting much farther than Dooby-Dooby anyway. The major says they’ll redeploy us after our leave is up. With any luck, we won’t have to worry about enemy tanks again, but I’m afraid this is going to turn out like Iraq - the front line will be everywhere. The equipment is mostly okay, the surge took out a couple of power supplies when the generator went down, but all the collected data on the flash drives was intact. We’ll have all new gear at the next post.
Me? I’m just glad he’s OK. I had to take Guillermo and Maria to a Catholic church though; they wanted to light a few candles in thanksgiving.