"You ready, David?"
David check that his pistol was loaded, then nodded. Together, he and Scott positioned themselves on either side of the door into the bunker. Once they were ready, Scott raised three fingers, then counted down. David kicked open the door, then ducked in, pistol raised.
"It's empty." He said quietly, looking around the small room. "They must be holed up further in."
"Then let's find them, shall we?" Scott said, smiling sardonically. "That's our job."
David rolled his eyes. He still couldn't believe that his superior officers thought that he'd be able to work with someone else so soon after...
Don't think about that now, he told himself. Stay focused on the mission.
They moved forward, tense with anticipation. Slowly they proceeded through the underground bunker, but didn't encounter anyone.
"Did they clear out before we got here?" David wondered out loud."
"Not likely." Scott responded. "Even though they're jumpy after us finding their spy, they wouldn't abandon this place so soon. That is, if our intel is good."
David rolled his eyes. The intelligence department was never quite able to get 100% accurate information.
Scott held up his hand to halt David as they heard a clattering noise up ahead. Silently, they stalked up the corridor, fingers on the trigger.
As they rounded a corner, they saw a large man in a Kevlar vest pushing a large cart ahead of them. He had a pistol on his belt, but he didn't see them.
They followed him until he reached an iron door, and punched in a code into a small screen on the left side. As the door opened, he pushed the cart into the room ahead of him. David could hear him speaking to someone.
"This is the last of it. We should be able to leave soon."
He was cut off by the clang of the door closing.
"It?" David mouthed at Scott.
"I guess intel was right after all." He whispered back. "This is where they're making it."
"What did he mean by 'leave?'" David asked. "There's only two ways out of here, and that's not one of them."
Scot shrugged. "Either way, we gotta stop them."
Scott rolled his eyes, then walked up to the door. Taking a small device out of his vest, he held it up to the door, then stared at the small screen.
"At least six people in there, according to the thermal."
David considered. "But about half will be scientists."
David sighed. "Let's do it."
Scott took a strip of detonator tape and put it along the edge of the door. "Stand back. This new det tape has quite a kick."
David obeyed, stepping back, turning, and cover his ears. A few seconds late he heard a muffled explosion, then turned, and gun up, followed Scott through the newly opened door.
He blinked as he tried to register what he was seeing. Was that a train on the other side? Yes it was. It was being loaded with boxes and crates, and the rails went into a dark tunnel.
Then a bullet whizzed by his ear, and he ducked behind a stack of boxes.
Scott did the same, and raised an eyebrow at David as they heard the enemy finding their own cover.
"They built an entire train line?" David whispered incredulously, frustrated at himself for hesitating and losing the advantage of surprise. Now they were at an standoff until someone made a move. "How did we not notice?"
Scott considered. "The tunnel must be lined with something that fooled our sensors." They ducked as another round of shots sounded.
"Let's worry about that later, hm?" David said. "What's the plan here?"
Scott glanced around their cover, taking in the situation, then ducked back as another gunshot sounded. "I think that there's... four armed? Nope, five. The one from earlier is on the train. The rest are civvies."
By "civvies," he meant unarmed enemies, most likely scientists and engineers.
"I'll take the ones on the left, you the right?"
Scott nodded. "There's two behind the same stack of crates, the others are more spread out."
"Alright." David took a deep breath, preparing himself.
"Are you okay?" Scott was looking at him with a concern.
David realized he was sweating, and his stomach churned. He swallowed, his mouth dry.
"Yeah," he lied. He didn't have a choice. They couldn't back out now.
"On my mark then," Scott said. "Go."
David stood and sprinted towards the nearest stack of boxes, firing towards where the enemy was hiding. He crouched, then crept towards his target. Then, with a quick motion, he leapt up and fired. The man crumpled to the floor. Blood pooled around him. The other soldier gave a pained noise as he watched his fellow die. His face was frozen, disbelieving. He said something in his own language, possibly a name.
David looked back at the corpse, and froze himself. The corpse had Alex's face.
Time slowed, but his brain raced at the speed of light.
A gunshot, and a grunt of pain.
David screamed as Alex fell to the floor, bleeding.
"David," Alex whispered.
"I'm here," he responded, crawling over, bullets whizzing overhead. "Stay with me."
Alex was struggling to breathe as David tried to stop the bleeding.
One last gasp, then nothing.
David could only sit in shock, his hands covered in his friend's- no, more than friend- blood.
"No," he whispered, watching another man die, his face similar to another’s, well known to David.
The dead soldier's comrade had tears running down his face. He looked up at David, mouth opened helplessly.
"I'm sorry." David whispered.
A sudden look of pained, feral anger crossed the man's face. He raised his gun, its muzzle leveled straight at David's head. David could do nothing but watch.
Two shots sounded. David's shoulder exploded in pain, and he felt a gush of blood flow down his arm. He groaned, grasping it, then realized what had happened.
Scott stood in front of him, breathing hard, gun still aimed at David's would-be killer.
David sank to the floor, gasping for breath. "I'm sorry, Scott," he said, his voice hysterical. "I just- When I saw his face I-"
"Calm down," Scott said gently. "You're not hurt bad, as long as we get you back to base quick."
David buried his head in his hands, tears streaming down his face.
"The mission's over. You'll be ok. I'm calling in our pickup." Scott grabbed his radio off his belt. "Scott here requesting pickup," he reported into it. "Objective is complete."
"Roger that, Scott," a crackly voice responded. "Be there in ten. You both alright?"
"I'm fine, but David's been shot in the shoulder."
"Copy. Be there soon."
Scott crouched down next to David. "Alex?"
David nodded silently, not raising his head. He was shaking. Probably going into shock.
Scott stood and casually strolled over to where the civvies were. They were still huddled on the train, but none of them were attempting an escape. The quick dispatch of their protectors had made it clear how far they would get.
"Don't try anything," he warned them. "Or you'll end up like these guys."
After double checking that none of them were armed, he came back over to David.
David was feeling dizzy. He grabbed Scott's arm and clutched it tightly. Scott looked him in the eyes and saw the desperation there, like a needle burying itself in David's flesh.
"I'm here, don't worry." Scott tried to reassure him. "I'll get you back."
The next ten minutes were among the hardest of David's life. He felt cold, and the dizziness still lingered. Scott had bandaged his shoulder with a wrap from the emergency med kit in his equipment pack, but the wound was still weeping blood.
Scott stayed right beside him, except to check on their prisoners. When finally they did hear the faint rumble of the helicopter outside, Scott helped David stand up and supported him with one arm while gesturing with the other for the scientists to move. In a few minutes, three agents came through the door, one holding a med kit. He wrapped David in an emergency blanket, and guided him to the helicopter while the other two assisted Scott in herding the prisoners outside. As David stumbled outside, the sound of the helicopter blades triggered another memory flashing across his eyes.
"He needs help. We need to go, now!" David was shouting, his heartbeat like a drum in his ears.
"It's too late, David," came the reply. "I'm sorry, but he's already dead. All the medicine in the world won't help him now."
"We have a mission to finish."
An hour later, as they flew back to the base, David sat in his seat, staring at the limp figure of Alex's body. At any minute he expected Alex to sit up, smiling like nothing had happened. They would go back to base, and life would be normal.
But the darkening mess of blood quickly dispelled that fantasy.
"Alex...." David whispered, dazed. He felt suspended, flowing between memory and reality.
They finally did get on the helicopter, and a few minutes later, lifted off, heading back to the Tower.
David didn't remember most of the flight, or the actual arrival. The next thing he knew, he was being herded into the infirmary, then someone was treating his shoulder. He sat numbly through it all, eyes glazed.
At some point, he could faintly hear Scott talking with someone.
"Between the shoulder wound and the emotional trauma, he probably has the worst case of shock I've ever seen."
Alex... I'm so sorry. I should've been able to save you, David thought, half dreaming. He could see Alex standing before him, hands in his jean pockets, black hair tousled, smiling.
I've been lying to myself the past few months. I thought I could go on. I put on a smile, kept on training. But that whole time, there's been this hole inside of me. I can't ignore it.
"Can you ever forgive me?" He whispered.
"What was that?" The nurse asked.
Alex grinned, then held a finger to his lips.
"We're going to give him some meds to help the shock and pain, but he's going to be out of it for a while."
David felt a needle slide into his arm, but he kept his eyes fixed on Alex. He couldn't forgive himself until Alex did.
"Please." He whispered again.
Alex's mouth moved, and a second later David heard the words: "It's okay."