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"Bloody hell."
Hearing Jackal's disembodied voice from below the edge of the rock face, Dice glanced up from her belt rig, which she'd been securing a rappelling line to. He sounded incredulous, the word bloody stretching out to a full three seconds.
"You all right, mate?"
"Yeah. Come and have a look at this."
"Give us a minute."
Dice tugged the line secure, steeled herself, and stepped backwards onto nothing. It was a weird sensation, and as she dropped she felt her stomach lurch as the line went taut; her knuckles were white beneath her gloves, palms sweaty. It wasn't that she was afraid of heights, or even afraid that she might fall - she just hated the momentary feeling of having nothing beneath her feet. She'd done well in the Royal Marines, but doubted whether she'd have had the same degree of success in the Paras. Being cold and wet and dirty didn't bother her any more than it did any other Commando, but even the churning, ice-cold waters of the English Channel that she'd been made to swim in as a trainee Marine or the sand-blasted surface of an Afghan mountain were better than nothing. Water wasn't solid, but at least it was tangible.
Once the soles of her boots found the rock face it was just a matter of pushing off and letting her own momentum bring her back. Piece of piss. She kept a firm grip on the line, which she was confident wouldn't break as it was sturdy nylon para-cord, and after several jumps she came level with Jackal, who wordlessly indicated something embedded in the cliff face between them.
At first she'd thought it was just a jagged bit of rock protruding from the edge of an oddly-shaped crevice; then she'd focused on it, realised what she was looking at, and did a double-take. It was the tail fin of a mortar. The rest of the shell had burrowed into the rock without exploding, leaving a crater big enough for her to fit her fist into - not that she was daft enough to try, of course.
Dimly, she realised that if by some quirk of fate the mortar had been angled just a bit higher then it could well have killed them both, and for some reason she was struck with a bizarre urge to laugh. Jackal must have seen the amusement on her face, because he asked, "What's funny?"
"Dunno, mate. Maybe I'm still jacked-up on adrenaline, but...I dunno. It's just sort of funny that we're not dead, you know? Like, if that mortar had been ten metres higher then it could have blown us both to fucking pieces, but...yeah."
It was amazing how much emotion someone's eyes conveyed. Even though she could only see a fraction of his face she could tell that Jackal was looking at her like he thought she was completely mental, and yet the little crinkles around the corners of his eyes told her that he was smiling.
Then, to her absolute horror, he reached over to the mortar shell and began fiddling with it.
"What the fuck are you doing?!"
"Hang on," came the calm reply, "I'm just-"
Gripping the mortar's protruding tail fin between forefinger and thumb, he began to work it loose.
"-getting another souvenir for you."
After a few agonising moments, the mortar failed spectacularly to detonate and the fin came loose without incident. Jackal held it up to his eye as if he were a jeweller inspecting a diamond for imperfections; miraculously, the fin had none. It was dusty, but perfectly straight and unblemished save for a few scratches. Apparently satisfied with his prize, he waggled it before her like a dog biscuit and then made as if to throw it to her.
"Catch."
"Fuck off!"

A couple more jumps, and they were at the bottom. It had taken them less than five minutes to get back down, even with Jackal's mucking about with the mortar. He dropped it into the palm of her hand, and she flashed him a quick grin of gratitude as she pocketed it. For such a small piece of metal it was surprisingly heavy; she could feel it weighing down the lining of her BDU trousers.
"You special ops guys do this kind of shit often?"
"Yeah, fairly."
Hoisting the valise on to his shoulder, Jackal unslung his assault rifle. Two rifles for one man may have seemed excessive anywhere else, but for all its worth the Barrett was next-to-useless at anything other than long distances. It was heavy and unwieldy, and although Dice remembered hearing that the Yanks had made a shortened, lighter version designed to be fired from helicopters and the like Jackal's was the Full Monty. It was for this reason he'd brought his other rifle - a Canadian-made C8 Carbine.
Although one could be forgiven for mistaking the weapon for an American M4A1 at a glance, Dice knew the weapon well from her experiences training with the Canadian Army. The pros and cons of weapons were the primary topic of soldiers bonding the world over; the Canadians had been all too happy to let their British cousins have a go with their kit, and never having seen them before, they were fascinated by the Marines' L85 assault rifles. Dice carried the L85A2 variant, which was a vast improvement over the original; the A1 had a well-deserved reputation for being absolute bollocks, and had been highly unpopular with the troops using them. It made sense - a rifle was a squaddie's most important bit of kit, and if he couldn't rely on that it would obviously fuck with his morale. Credit where it was due to Heckler and Koch, though. The German company had done a bang-up job of fixing it, giving A2 a sturdier charging handle and an ejection system that didn't cause stoppages by throwing spent casings back inside the rifle, and the result was a perfectly serviceable bit of kit. Dice's pistol was also German - a Glock, holstered on her hip with seventeen 9mm rounds in the magazine.
Jackal's C8 was a CQB (Close-Quarters Battle) variant; at 10 inches the barrel was all of 4.5 inches shorter than the barrel of the M4A1, which made it easier to maneuver in tight spaces. He also had a foregrip that had an integrated, swiveling torch - the kind favoured by Navy SEALs, she'd heard - and a PEQ-2 infrared laser emitter, which was similar to a bog-standard laser sight except the beam could only be seen through night-vision goggles and was invisible to the naked eye. Unlike Dice, he'd opted to have his pistol in a quick-release holster on his chest; she recognised it as a Browning Hi-Power, a venerable handgun that had been introduced in the British Army in the 1930's and only recently been replaced by the Glock. It was a nice, sturdy shooter, and for a moment Dice was overcome by a curious mixture of nostalgia for the pistol that she herself had used on many occasions and jealousy of Jackal for being able to choose his own loadout. It would have been nice to have a lightweight chest rig like the one he wore rather than the bulky assault vest she'd been issued, and a pair of combat trousers with integrated knee pads rather than her own bog-standard velcro ones.
They both kept the muzzles of their weapons pointing at the floor as they advanced towards the village, moving at a brisk walk. The sky had gone from black to dark orange to pink streaked with orange; a reddish-orange sun was cresting the horizon, golden beams of light lazily spilling through the cracks surrounding the village wall like melting butter. Dice had a sudden craving for Scotch pancakes.

The cravings evaporated as they drew nearer to the village. The atmosphere was hazy with smoke, although the charred and mangled remains of the technicals had burned themselves out long ago, and there was a sickly smell of cooked meat hanging in the air. Explosions and gunfire had scattered chunks of shrapnel, dirt and masonry about like confetti; scorch marks and long streaks of blood criss-crossed the dirt like a finger-painting done by a child whose palette consisted only of black, brown and red. Many of the bodies resembled nothing so much as burned lumps of firewood, and those that were recognisably human were invariably missing limbs or even heads, with arms that ended in black and pink stumps or muscle tissue and flesh stripped away by the heat to reveal the off-white bone beneath. One body caught Dice's eye, for it was relatively untouched - lying flat on his back in the dirt, the fighter's mouth hung open and his eyes stared at the sky as if in mild surprise. Shut his eyes and he might have looked like he was sleeping, save for the fact that the top half of his head was missing and a pinkish-grey substance was oozing out of his shattered skull.
Dice gave the mental equivalent of a shrug and didn't allow her eyes to linger over the body for longer than a few seconds. Better you than me, mate, she thought dispassionately, remembering the bullet she'd dug out of her helmet.
She could taste the acrid tang of cordite at the back of her throat from all the gunfire, and every breath she took in made her throat feel dry and scratchy so she took a little water from her CamelBak - another essential piece of equipment. The CamelBak was a long tube like a drinking straw with a nozzle on the end, connected a water-filled pouch mounted on to the back of her tactical vest by a webbing grid. A simple concept, but it made all the difference in the world. Not only did it mean you could take a drink at leisure without having to use an inconvenient and potentially noisy canteen, you could also carry more water and still manage to drink less of it - and as every sniper knows taking your water in small quantities is important because the less you drink, the less you need to piss.
The rest of Alpha One Zero melted into view as they approached. Just to be on the safe side, they both waved; the fact that they were waving with their left hands would clue anyone in that they weren't Arabs, because as everyone knew in Arabic culture the left hand was the one you wiped your arse with.
After waving in response, five of the Marines branched off from the larger group. One of them was the OC (Officer Commanding), Major Gary "Baldy" Morris. Morris was well-liked by the entire company, Dice included, and whilst you'd be forgiven for thinking he had no hair he was actually named for Garibaldi biscuits, which it was rumoured he was rather fond of. The nickname itself had stuck after word had got around that he actually quite liked the nickname, and whilst they all addressed him with the regulation "sir" or "major" where it was appropriate, he was affectionately known as Baldy to anyone within his unit. He had a reputation as being a tough and resourceful officer who put his men first and wasn't afraid of getting his hands dirty, always leading from the front with just the four men of his HQ element for security, and was as ready to fight to the death for his men as any of them were for him.
"Cracking job with that air support, Sergeant," Morris said as he shook Jackal's hand. "There's a lot of my lads want to buy you a drink when this is done."
Jackal and Dice exchanged knowing sideways glances.
"Thank you, sir. You know that Corporal Hankard's got at least seven confirmed kills to her name now?"
"That so?"
"She's an excellent sniper, and it turns out she's pretty decent at directing air support - I reckon she'd do well in the special forces."
"I hope you're not thinking of stealing her from us, Sergeant. Be a damn shame for this unit to lose her."
Dice was silent, not quite knowing what to say; Morris wasn't the sort of officer who gave praise lightly, and she suspected Jackal wasn't either.
"What's the status of the two who've been wounded?"
With those words, the Major's smile faded; that told Dice everything she needed to know.
"The medics have got them both stabilised, but Private Lewis is in a bad way. They both need to get to a hospital sooner rather than later, but we need to confirm the village is clear before Bastion will send casevac."
Lewis. Dice felt a pang of guilt for not having remembered the lad's name earlier, followed by a hot surge of anger at the fucking dickhead who'd made the stupid jackshit call not to send that casevac for him and Eddie. There was nowt left alive down there after that AC-130 had given it a once-over - what the fuck more confirmation did they want?
"It's a crock of shit," Morris agreed, as though reading Dice's mind, "but we've had a couple of Chinooks shot down around Helmand recently. Bastion doesn't fancy taking any more risk than absolutely necessary."
Privately, Dice was of the mind that soldiers were paid to take risks, but bleeding to death waiting around for casevac was utterly fucking bone.

For a moment, Jackal was silent; then he thumbed the transmit button on his radio.
"Baseplate, you online? Yeah, it's Jackal. Listen mate, I need you to get Crowbar on the horn. Sitrep is we've got two WIA's, repeat: two WIA's from enemy SAF, both T2, both stable but in need of IRT as soon as you get can get it here."
To a civilian that might have been fucking Greek, but to Dice it made perfect sense. Casualties were ranked from T1-T3 in order of severity, T1 being most urgently in need of medical evacuation and T3 being the least urgent. WIA meant Wounded In Action and SAF was small arms fire; an IRT, she knew, was an incident response team - a Chinook helicopter with medics and an Apache gunship escort on standby back at Bastion.
"What are their ZAP numbers?" Jackal asked Morris. A ZAP number was the first two letters of your serial number and the last four digits of your surname that was read out over the net in order to identify a casualty. Dice's was HA2976; like most of the lads, she had hers written on the front of her body armour in black marker pen, but the company commander carried everyone's with him, as well as their blood types. He relayed these to Jackal, who in turn read them out over the radio along with a grid reference taken from a reading given to him by a GPS device mounted on his wrist.
"You get all that? OK. Copy, two-five mikes. Good stuff. Cheers, Jimbo." Jackal took his hand away from his radio, then told Morris, "Just tell your lads to hold on - the IRT's on it's way."
Dice stared in amazement. Crowbar, if she recalled correctly, was the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) for Helmand Province. Ordering an AC-130 about was one thing, but Jackal must have had some serious clout to put in a request like that to someone that high up the chain of command.
Just who the fuck is this guy, anyway?
"We still need to confirm the village is completely clear," Morris reminded Jackal as the latter hefted his rifle. His smile told Dice that like any good officer, he was glad to know that help was on the way for his men but the faintly warning note in his voice was the bit of him that was still concerned about the possibility, however minute, of losing the IRT along with his men.
"Give me a couple of fireteams and a couple of minutes," Jackal said, meeting his gaze. "If there's any bugger left alive to shoot the Chinook down, then you can blame it on me."
For a moment Morris just stared, as though Jackal had dribbled on his boots. Then the smile returned as he replied "You'd better bloody well hope it doesn't come to that, Sergeant."
I'm already not too happy with this. Everyone's their own worst critic and all that, but for some reason this just seems a bit...hell, I don't even know how to explain it. I just feel like there's a little too much expository dialogue, although after all that's happened so far I suppose Jackal and Dice are deserving of a bit of a breather.

If you've not read the previous chapters of this story, I strongly advise you to do so or else this won't make sense.

The first chapter can be found here: [link]
The second chapter is here: [link]
The third one is here: [link]
And the fourth one is here: [link]

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcome, so don't be shy about pointing out anything you think I could improve on - that's the whole reason I started this project in the first place.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series is Infinity Ward
"Jackal" ~metalzerofour
Elizabeth "Dice" Hankard ~JJesseh
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:iconpiegamer1:
PieGamer1 Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2015
This is really amazing! Continue writing more chapters and keep up the good work :D (Big Grin) 
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:iconmotor-cunt:
motor-cunt Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
"....There was nowt left alive..." just pointing out a small spelling error :shrug:

But other than that, bullet points is as awesome as always :dummy:
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:iconmetalzerofour:
metalzerofour Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Nowt is actually British slang for nothing, as in "You'll get owt for nowt"; it's a bit of an anachronism as Dice is a Cockney and it's mostly used Up North in places like Yorkshire and Scotland, but there you go.

Thank you for the comment. Much appreciated, as always.
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:iconmotor-cunt:
motor-cunt Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh shit D: really sorry bout that, guess I don't understand British slang very well ^^;
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:iconjjesseh:
JJesseh Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
MAKES OUT AGGRESSIVELY WITH YOUR WRITING
Reply
:icontombslug:
tombslug Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
agreeing with that man's comment above mine.
Reply
:iconmetalzerofour:
metalzerofour Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Which one, Cye or i-am-thomas?
Reply
:iconmetalzerofour:
metalzerofour Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Or Jay's, even?

Doesn't matter. I'm just glad you enjoyed it.
Reply
:iconcysanic5:
Cysanic5 Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013
moar
Moar
M O A RRR
Reply
:icondennouparanoia:
DennouParanoia Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Work harder, slave.
Reply
:iconmetalzerofour:
metalzerofour Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Yes, mistress.
Reply
:iconthomchen114:
ThomChen114 Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2013  Student General Artist
good stuff, seems Jackal and Dice are chock full of luck, wonder how long that'll last.

love the way you describe the events in such detail, especially the way you manage to describe the carnage at the village in such detail, no holding back.

how many chapters are there? can't wait to read the next. i'm learning so much :D
Reply
:iconmetalzerofour:
metalzerofour Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Don't jinx it, now!

Honestly, I've got no idea how many chapters this is going to keep going for but I'd say we're about halfway through; most of the action is out of the way by this point so it should be all downhill from here and focus mainly on character development.

It's really great to know that you're enjoying the story, though - I had you pegged as someone who already knew a fair bit about the military so it's good to know that you're getting an education! :D
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