The three Humvees spit up chunks of gravel and sand as they navigated the winding streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. The city was a combination of a modern metropolis mixed with post apocalyptic ruins straight out of a futuristic movie. The heat could only be described as pure unadulterated hell. It permeated the metal innards of the three military vehicles that made up the convoy. The elite US Marine unit had just provided assistance to the US Army in pushing back guerillas terrorizing civilians in the nearby area. The mission had been a success, resulting in multiple casualties for the insurgents. Nearly unscathed, the squad of Marines was headed back to base.
Sergeant Aiden Stone sat alongside the driver in the lead Humvee with sweat pouring down his face in streams. He ought to be used to the merciless rays of the sun by now. His roots were native Hawaiian. An alpha male to the core, during his senior year of college he decided to be one of the few, proud, Marines. Excelling at everything he put his mind and body to, Aiden quickly made sergeant in his company. Trying to keep the peace in Afghanistan, he was now in his third tour of duty. As usual, his squad mates were talking major trash, and he was stuck playing referee. He had been with this squad for the past six months, and they were definitely his band of brothers. Good or bad he could count on them, and they could depend on him.
"I'm telling you, that chick was all up on me." Private Owens said. He was also known as Huck. The squad had nicknamed the Kentucky native Huckleberry Finn or Huck because of his country bumpkin ways. He had spent the entire ride obsessing about a particularly curvy female Army mechanic back at base.
"You think every chick is after you." Private 1st class Mason Jones, or Jonesy, drawled sarcastically.
"What does she want with you anyway?" Sergeant James Carpenter the driver asked, adding his two cents to the conversation. "I heard she's hot for her old man back home."
"That's right: At home. She's probably got months before she gets to leave. Ain't nothing wrong with a little lovin' til then."
"Somebody is gonna kick your 90-pound ass, I swear," Jonesy who was married and had a thing against cheaters said. His wife back home was his heart and soul and the very thought of cheating deeply offended his sensibilities.
"Hey, Do I have to come back there and separate you two?" Aiden finally said, keeping his ocean blue eyes on the road and the unfriendly faces in the landscape around them. Even though the US military was there for the greater good, there were still some Afghanis that didn't appreciate their presence.
"Sorry Sergeant Spam." Huck apologized.
"I asked you not to call me that!" Stone looked at Huck with one raised eyebrow.
Aiden's subordinates had found out about his love for Spam, which was a favorite dish in Hawaii. He'd grown up loving the meat in the can, which his mother had used in alot of her soul food dishes. Since they they wouldn't leave him alone about it.
"Yeah sure Boss Spam!" Huck was elbowing Jonesy in the ribs while chuckling loudly.
"Shut it guys! Hold up! I don't like the looks of these civvies!" Aiden noticed that several civilians who had been milling about had quickly vacated the streets and gone into their homes. You could sometimes tell the mercurial moods of the Afghanistan atmosphere by the way the locals behaved. "I need you two to stay frosty. I've got a bad feeling and there's no telling when I might need one of you to man the .50-cal."
The .50-cal was the mean looking roof mounted machine gun positioned on top of the Humvee.
"Sir, yes sir." The two repeated in unison. Now they too were alert to everything that was going on around them.
"Carpenter, what is that?" Aiden squinted out the driver's side window, the glare from the windshield obscuring his vision.
Carpenter saw the hooded figure also, his eyes widening in horror. "What the f--"
His words were cut off as the Humvee was rocked by an explosion from a rocket propelled grenade. The explosive missile hit the vehicle dead center, sending deadly projectiles of shrapnel flying. Like miniature diamonds, shards of glass pelted the marines as the Humvee was knocked off its wheels. The Humvee was flipped on its right side, as it's highly vulnerable underside was peppered with heavy weapons fire. Ready to ignite a spark, highly combustible fuel dripped from the tank and flames danced along the side like demons.
Even though he was wearing his helmet, Aiden felt like he had been struck in the head with a boulder. His entire body was jolted by the impact. A vice grip of pain held Sergeant Stone's ribs as he coughed up blood. Momentarily deaf and disoriented, he didn't hear the other vehicles in the convoy open fire on the ambushing insurgents. Though his other senses were deadened, his nose worked just fine and he could smell diesel fuel. The cabin started to fill with tendrils of gray smoke. Things just went from bad to horribly worse. Clumsy, bloody fingers fumbled for his safety belt as he called to his squad mates.
"Carpenter, Jones, Owens, sound off!" He coughed, his tongue feeling like it weighed fifty pounds. He had to help them get out and fast! Otherwise this fuel leaking truck would become their coffin.
Finally freeing himself from the harness, he scrambled around the interior of the vehicle, desperate to save his fellow Marines. "Carpenter!" He shook the driver hoping to shake him into consciousness. The Sergeant's neck was moving loosely on his shoulders. The private's mangled face came into his view, and he could tell that the man was already dead. He cursed aloud. The outer skin incinerated, the entire left side of Carpenter's face was a bloody, gory, mangled mess!
"Get out." Carpenter's corpse uttered, his remaining eye open and focusing on Stone. "You gotta get out. It's not your time."
Even though his ears were ringing and he could hear nothing else, the clarity of Carpenter's words was crystal clear. Stone wondered what kind of hell he'd stumbled into. Shaking off the terrifying hallucination, Stone checked the other passengers. One look and he could tell they were also deceased. A ragged sliver of metal had buried itself in Huck's neck. Thick black blood oozed through the wound like oil. Jonesy's eyes were wide open and unseeing, a single bullet wound on the side of his head.
"Ya gotta get out, Boss." Huck gargled, ichor bubbling from his mouth. "Go, go. Get out.
Please tell my wife I love her. Please." Jonesy uttered, his dead eyes focused on Aiden.Deeply disturbed, he climbed over Carpenter's body, urgently pushing the driver's side door open. After several tries, the door opened on its own filling the interior with harsh sunlight. Strong, friendly arms lifted him out of the death trap and to safety. Hurriedly they hustled him onto a nearby sidewalk. As a field medic checked his vitals and tended to his wounds, his saviors started to go back for the others. The exploding Humvee knocked them all off their feet. The marines had killed the ambushers, but the price had been the lives of three marines