EXT – DAY – Harbin’s mortar pit
The dull rumbling drone of many quiet engines and big wheels dominate the background. It’s full daylight. Sabot is hunkered down in a corner, head down, asleep. Harbin is looking carefully over the edge of the pit. He slowly lowers his head down. He kicks Sabot’s boot gently. Sabot startles, pops his head up, looking around wildly for a moment, then settles down realizing where he is, then perks up at the sound. He looks at Harbin with a question on his face. Harbin nods.
Harbin: Might want to get your earplugs and fix your bayonet now. A few more people got invited to the party than we were expecting.
Sabot gropes for his bayonet, mounts it quickly on his rifle, carefully keeping his head below the edge of the pit. Then starts putting his earplugs in.
Sabot: How long? How many?
Harbin: A few minutes ago. Bad convoy discipline, all bunched up. Simple. I expect Kaminski will fire first in about a minute, when the lead vehicle of the column gets into position. Get the first round ready and laid in.
Sabot grabs the first round and card, looks at them dumbly for a moment.
Harbin: Read the card, make the settings, get ready to pull the safety clip and drop after the boom on my say. Breathe in, hold, breathe out slow, hold.
Sabot nods, breathes, glances the card, looks at the settings on the mortar, and nods. He puts one hand on safety clip, pulls it, and then holds it up over the tube, ready to drop. Harbin shifts into position on the heavy rifle, already laying in approximately the correct position, and gives the convoy a quick scan, and settles in behind the scope, starting to track a target.
The camera view rises above the edge of the mortar pit, looking down into the valley.
Stretched out on the roadway is a convoy of more than twenty trucks, stretching beyond the curve in the road both ways. Six large missile launcher trucks with dual missiles on each. Radar trucks. Supply trucks. Troop trucks. Command vehicles.
A rolling BOOOM is heard.
Harbin: (quietly, after a brief pause as he gauges the lead vehicle’s position) Fire.
Sabot drops the round, THUMP! A dust-cloud springs up around them from the concussion of firing, and he reaches for the next one. Harbin starts firing, rapidly and accurately, starting at the other end of the convoy, aiming at the last dual missile launcher’s pair of long-range death, then working his way forward. The first truck in the convoy, a radar truck, gets a direct hit and explodes in flames. The last SAM, one of its missiles hit in the warhead by Harbin’s HE round, explodes in a huge eruption, blowing the light command vehicle behind it over onto its side. A bunched up and slightly disorganized column of trucks descends into total chaos. A line of mortar rounds marches down the column from the front, hitting some trucks directly, near misses damaging others, scattering people everywhere. A few trucks try to get off the road and run into trees or the ditch and wreck. Some troops pile out of troop carriers and scatter, getting away from the trucks-as-targets, hugging the ground to escape flying shrapnel and exploding SAMs. THUMP-boom-boom-boom-boom-THUMP-boom-boom-boom-boom-THUMP, Harbin and Sabot lay down an accurate and devastating rain of fire. Shortly, all the dual-missile SAM launchers have exploded, or are burning furiously. The THUMPing of Sabot’s mortar stops, and he takes his position at the far end of the gun pit from Harbin, firing his own heavy rifle, boom, boom, boom. Trucks and vehicles try to get out of the killing zone, but the trees and terrain are just a bit too much, and they flip or get stuck, then eventually, they get shot.
A spurt of dirt kicks up next to Sabot, and he jumps a bit, looking at it in surprise.
Harbin: (Yelling over the din) DAMN! Only way to stop them shooting is to shoot back! Keep it up! We’ll pull back if it looks like there’s a lull!
All the vehicles are now in flames. The heavy rifles are out of ammo. It’s all light infantry now. There is a lot of scattered movement down in the valley, as enemy troops find cover and concealment from their tormentors on the hillside. As they can, they start firing. The firing picks up. Harbin and Sabot pull their heads down, and they look at each other. Both are dirty and ragged-looking. Harbin has blood running down his cheek. Sabot motions to it. Harbin touches his cheek with his finger, looks at the blood on his hand.
Harbin: (casually) Wife’s going to give me an earful about that.
Spurts of dirt dance on the top of the gun pit. He holds up a small periscope, and looks over the side, turning it this way and that, as angry bullets buzz overhead.
View though the periscope of the hillside
The hillside below them is crawling with soldiers, at least a hundred, starting to work their way up the slope, a few firing at them, while the rest sprint from cover to cover.
Harbin: (OC, still in periscope view) OK. SAMs down. VERY well done, Sabot, almost every round square on the road. Consider yourself an honest-to-God soldier. Now comes the tricky part. Get ready on clacker number one. The left-most one.
The periscope view pans back and forth. There are a LOT of troops downhill headed their way. It pans left. The sounds of bullets whizzing overhead or kicking up dirt nearby are many.
Harbin: (OC) OK, get ready. Safety OFF.
Sabot: (OC) Safety off.
Harbin: (OC) Annnnd… FIRE!
Sabot hits the clacker, CLACK-KABOOM! A whole line of claymore-type mines go off, and the periscope view is filled with a huge roiling cloud of dust and debris, and all the soldiers in view hit the ground, some diving for cover, some pirouetting into a ragged heap, dead or dieing from the blast and steel balls. His view shifts right. No soldiers seen standing. Very little firing, but lots of rolling echoes and dust. The view pans back and forth. There is some inarticulate yelling, then something that sounds like commands. The view pans to the middle, and a bunch of soldiers are coming up again.
Harbin: (OC) Get ready on number three.
Sabot: (OC) Three. Got it. Safety OFF. Ready.
Harbin: (OC) Steady, steady. Safe that. Ready number four.
Sabot: (OC) Safe three. Safe. Got four. Safety OFF. Four ready.
More soldiers are now moving uphill. More. A wave.
Harbin: (OC) FIRE!
Another eruption of dust and debris, and more soldiers down. Few sounds of bullets buzzing overhead. Screams of pain, small explosions of ammo burning in fires, the crackle of flames, and dark, acrid smoke fill the valley.
Cut back to a view of the gun pit. They are hunkered down, Harbin scanning with his little periscope.
Sabot: Do we blow the rest and fall back?
Harbin: Not quite yet. That’s why this is the tricky part. If we blow them when we don’t have to, any decent leader will know that we are trying to cover a retreat, and rally for a fast follow-up. Also, they are all laying in cover, so we’d likely not hit anyone. If they think we can keep doing this all day, they demoralize, and dig in or fall back. So, we wait for them to get closer, then blow another one, then again. We fall back the instant we blow one to break up a charge or too much incoming fire, and we have no more of them… Too quiet, now. Let’s see if we can piss them off, and make them stand up again.
Harbin cautiously raises his head over the edge of the pit, rifle ready, eye to the scope. He aims carefully, and squeezes off a shot. He’s rewarded by a scream.
Harbin: Foot sticking out.
He shifts his aim again, and fires. Another scream and a string of incoherent cursing. Another shot, nothing. There is a odd SPANG-WZZZZZ, and he abruptly jerks his head down. There is a rough crease through one side of his helmet, a furrow plowed by a bullet. He stretches his neck this way and that a bit to test function, and winces a bit.
Harbin: Yup. Pissed off again.
Sabot: Why do you WANT to piss them off!?
Harbin: So they REACT, and don’t think straight. If they have time to think and plan, we’re screwed. How about tossing a grenade as far down the hill as you can, see what they do?
Sabot pulls a small, round grenade from his gear, and looks at it. Harbin reaches over, turns it around so the spoon is against his palm, and places Sabot’s other hand on the ring.
Harbin: Your hand will hold the spoon until you throw. Pull the pin, lob it hard, stay down, cover your ears. Easy.
Harbin grins his wolfish grin, and nods at him. He picks up one for himself. He holds it just so, spoon against his palm, holds it in front of himself, pulls the pin, and just holds it. Nothing, as expected. He looks at it, coils his body a bit and bends his arm, unwinds and FLINGS it hard down hill, then ducks lower.
Harbin: one, two, three, fou-
The BOOM echoes anew in the valley, and the sound of distant gunfire and more explosions rolls in on the breeze. There is only a bit of yelling, and some screaming and crying, reaching their ears.
Sabot: Sounds like this isn’t the only party on the block.
Harbin nods, and points a different direction than he threw.
Harbin: Like I said, plenty of targets to go around.
Sabot coils, pulls the pin, spins and HEAVES it. Just as his arm is releasing, a lucky bullet rips through his arm, and his follow-through brings it down to his chest, where he looks at it dumbly for a moment. Harbin grabs a pressure bandage from a ready supply, and tears it open with a well-practiced pull. Another explosion rocks the valley as the grenade goes off. He binds the wound with practiced precision and speed, while talking to Sabot.
Harbin: (very calmly) Breathe in slow, hold, breathe out slow, hold. I’ve got it. No problem. Combat pay AND a genuine field injury medal, your lucky day. War stories and scars to prove it. No bone, so you’ll be doing push-ups again next week. In through the nose, hold, out through the mouth, hold. Doing good. Just a flesh wound, no problem. Trigger-finger still work? Might need it again soon.
Finished wrapping the wound up, Harbin picks up his periscope again, and starts scanning the valley. Things are quieter, but the occasional explosion or burst of gunfire drifts in from the distance.
Harbin: Take a sip of water, just sit a minute. Looks quiet, and we still have three more lines of mines, and plenty of ammo. We’ll be fine.
His face doesn’t tell quite such a convincing story.
[A quick note – I’m going to a week-day only publishing sched, so I can also get some other stuff done. Next installment on Monday.]