Moran was woken up by the loud rumble from an AC-130 as it cleared his tent by just thirty feet on its morning harassment run on the Soviets. He rolled out of his cot head first into the cold dirt and fumbled for his watch. "Damn. I'm late," he mumbled. He struggled to put on his BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) and made his way out of the barracks area toward the mess tent.
Moran took the shortcut through the landing zone, walking through the choking dust kicked up by the Nighthawk helicopters as they began their day chauffeuring the airmobile troops to their patrol areas and hauling artillery and ammunition to advance bases in the sector. Dennis Reed was just finishing up a cup of coffee and going for another as Moran arrived.
"Hey Phil, you want a cup?" Reed shouted over the noise of the helicopters.
"No way man. How can you actually drink that military issue shit?" Moran replied.
"I know, I know. It looks and tastes more like tar but this is the only caffeine that we will be getting in awhile."
"What do ya mean by that?"
"Well you should have woke up at revile like I did so Cap could tell ya. We are going out on another run starting today going for 5 days. Best stock up on the good MREs before all the grunts take 'em."
Moran swiped the cup of coffee out of Reed's hand and sprinted back to his tent. Once there he sucked down the coffee and gagged on the last gulp. He picked up his ALICE pack and stuffed an extra BDU, a few pairs of socks, his mess kit, shovel, extra ammunition, and other equipment in the pack and before he left he picked up a couple canteens, his sniper rifle, and ghillie suit and ran to meet Reed at the supply depot.
"So Dennis," Moran yelled to Reed. "You anxious to have some of those meals rejected by the enemy this week?"
"Ah they aint that bad, Phil," Reed replied.
"Figures. Anyone who can actually like military coffee would just love rations too."
"Change of plans, boys," Captain Joseph Everly snuck up behind the two snipers.
"What's that, Cap?" Reed said.
"You guys aren't gonna go on your hop today. A group of Green Berets over at Ft. Brag lost their snipers last night in a V3 attack. The Special Forces don't have any scout/sniper replacements ready yet so we are sending you two until they can get a few more guys out there. For a few weeks you will be honorary Green Berets."
"So we get to fight with the snake eaters, huh?" Moran piped in.
"Yup just don't call 'em snake eaters to their face. The unit you guys are assigned to is one of the best. Now double-time your asses down to the LZ, there's a Nighthawk taking some ammo down there and I told the pilot to wait cause I had a couple guys going that way. I took the liberty of having some grunts stow your shit away inside the helo so grab some MREs and get going."
"Yes sir!" Reed and Moran said.
* * * * *
Zaitsev spit out his cigarette and rubbed it into the dirt with his boot. Smoking was a bad habit, he thought, especially for a sniper. That craving for nicotine could give your position away and get you shot on the battlefield. Zaitsev had been on the move all day. The Apocalypse tanks had finally arrived and the offensive was gaining momentum. With their thick armor and heavy guns they needed no extra defense so Zaitsev was switched from clearing a path for the tanks to simply scouting for them.
Zaitsev glanced out the window toward a wall and saw a glint of something behind a large hole... It was the barrel of a Grizzly tank! Zaitsev picked up his 2-way field phone.
"Home base this is sharp eye one, home base this is sharp eye one over," he whispered.
"Sharp eye one this is home base, over."
"Home base tell all tanks in area 4 to watch out for ambushes. I found a Grizzly at grid square 24-17 hidden behind a wall, just it's gun visible. Over."
"Will do, sharp eye one. Over and out."
Just as Zaitsev hung up the field phone, two shells slammed into the wall, obliterating it and the tank behind it. Zaitsev leaned his head out the window to see what fired the shots. A rather stupid move on his part but curiosity overtook his better judgment. On the other end of the alley there was an Apocalypse tank, it's commander sticking his head out of the turret, he gave a quick salute and ducked his head back down. Zaitsev returned the gesture and packed up to move to another sniping spot.