OPERATION LAZY RAIN
“What unit patch is that, soldier?”
“It’s my kid’s soccer team, sir. Keep your head down until Lieutenant Ravenshaw gives us the all clear,” replied Hellbilly. The general muttered something under his breath about insolence, but Hellbilly ignored him and focused on the upper lip of the crater. The aliens had somehow rigged explosives along the road, dropping a whole section of freeway overpass to trap the general’s convoy and turning the crater into a convenient killzone for the aliens. Hellbilly marvelled that the old man was still alive, but he had decided to keep that thought to himself.
“Are you going to give me a weapon?” asked General Van Doorn, eyeing Hellbilly’s holster. Hellbilly, doing his best to keep his bearing, said, “Sorry sir, can’t relinquish my weapons.”
“What’s your rank, soldier?”
“Movement! Keep your head down, sir.”
A Thin Man had poked its head out from behind a burnt out bus, triggering reactions across the squad. Hellbilly fired his laser rifle, the red lance shooting forth and hitting the area above the alien. Another red lance narrowly missed the alien and Mendiola’s minigun burst did nothing to pierce the cover. As Hellbilly was compensating his aim, there was the crack of Ravenshaw’s sniper rifle and the Thin Man disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
“Chariot 5 pushing into the crater,” said Mendiola, and there was a loud thump as he landed on the asphalt 20 meters away, and started to move forward. Next to Hellbilly, General Van Doorn said, “Oh my God, what is that?”
“He’s one of the players on the soccer team, sir.”
Hellbilly scanned the crater as Mendiola pushed in, presumably to draw out the remaining Thin Man. From out of sight, on the other side of the bus, a volley of plasma raced towards Mendiola. He staggered backwards from the hit, and the squad opened fire on the out of sight alien. Hellbilly resisted the urge to get to a new position, remaining by the general’s side.
“Contact down!” cried out Strawberry.
“Let’s get the package back to the Skyranger. Chariot 6, you still good for escort?” asked Ravenshaw over the radio.
“Roger that, Chariot 1,” replied Hellbilly.
“Let’s extricate the package from the crater, then.”
Hellbilly removed a fresh laser battery from his belt, loading it into his laser rifle and said to General Van Doorn, “Sir, we’re gonna get ready to move. Keep your hand on my shoulder at all times, and follow our commands.”
An annoyed look crossed the general’s face as he said, “I don’t need to be babysat, soldier.”
“Well, just keep your hand on my shoulder and you can call it what you want. Let’s go.”
Grumbling, the general placed a hand on Hellbilly’s shoulder and they started to move up the asphalt ramp, leading to the still standing part of the freeway. He couldn’t move as quickly as he liked with the general in tow, and as he emerged topside he saw Ravenshaw crouched behind a concrete barrier, with Strawberry and Sans Leon behind a destroyed car. He slid approached an overturned pickup and once the general was firmly in cover, he looked up the destroyed freeway at the Skyranger and saw multiple Thin Men between him and it.
“We’re getting flanked! They’re crawling all over the highway!” shouted Hellbilly, firing at a Thin Man crouched behind an SUV. The beam connected and the alien disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The rest of the squad rushed forward, taking cover against the new threat as plasma sailed overhead. Thomas Strawberry fired his laser rifle as well, striking a second Thin Man and killing it.
“Move up move up!” shouted Ravenshaw, and Hellbily rushed towards a nearby SUV. The general was right behind him and they both slammed against the side of it, keeping their heads low. Sans Leon and Thomas Strawberry both ran past, taking positions further along the highway. There was more gunfire, and Leon shouted, “Move up!”
Slipping out of cover, Hellbilly moved further along the highway and towards the Skyranger. Strawberry and Leon provided cover as Hellbilly darted from car to car, the general right behind him the whole time. As they got closer to the Skyranger another volley of plasma fire sailed past, and instinctively Hellbilly turned and forced the general down. Through the window of the car, he could see a Thin Man standing at the edge of the highway obviously staring at him. Its firing arm was still raised, carefully aiming at Hellbilly, when there was the crack of a sniper rifle and the alien’s head disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
“Go go go!” shouted Ravenshaw, and Hellbilly dashed towards the Skyranger. He quickly closed the distance to the Skyranger with the general behind him, and both men were securely inside the cargo bay, and Hellbilly called out, “Package is secure.”
“Fall back, fall back!” ordered Ravenshaw, and Hellbilly saw the rest of the squad scattered amongst the cars. They were performing a rolling retreat, firing at aliens that dropped in behind the squad. He saw on Thin Man jump up onto the highway and immediately get taken out by Mendiola as the rest of the squad ran towards the Skyranger. After a few moments, everyone in the squad broke contact and sprinted for the Skyranger as plasma splashed all around them. Strawberry, Leon, and Ravenshaw all dashed up the ramp as Mendiola moved more slowly, spraying an approach Thin Man with his minigun. It disappeared in a cloud of smoke and he ran towards the ramp as the rest of the squad covered him. Once he had ran up the ramp, Ravenshaw shouted to the pilot, “Go go go!”
There was a lurching sensation as the Skyranger started to ascend, lifting off of the asphalt. Hellbilly could see a few aliens left on the ground, staring up at the Skyranger as the ramp started to close. Feeling the tension of a battle won fell off of him, Hellbilly exhaled and took a seat on the bench. He glanced over at General Van Doorn and saw that he was still staring at Mendiola, seemingly captivated by the exoskeleton. Hellbilly laughed and took a swig from his canteen, when Mendiola glanced down at the general and said, “See something you like, sir?”
The general nodded and said, “Christ, man, how do you fit inside that thing?”
“It was pretty easy after they chopped off all my limbs,” replied Mendiola.
The general laughed and said, “Funny. How do you operate it, though? I’d like to get some of those for my men.”
Hellbilly cocked an eyebrow, wondering if he should break the general’s heart, but opted for closing his eyes and trying to get some sleep.