The Coriolis Effect
“Cub?” the radio chirped softly. “Are you in position?”
“I’m ten meters out crawling on my stomach,” Cub replied slowly. His thick German accent was difficult to decipher through the coarse radio. “I’m on your side of the charred tree stump. Use your thermal cam if you can’t find me.”
“I can see you fine without it,” Whiskey stated, irritable as ever. “There’s a grunt about seven meters away at 60° northeast relative to your facing. He’s…” Whiskey trailed off, and an audible shuffling and click came through the radio, before starting again, “...not holding anything, but he might be armed. Standby to engage.”
Cub shuffled behind the stump, his ghillie suit blending in with the foliage so as to remain unseen. The air smelled of burning rubber and new asphalt.
“Must be burning tires with the bodies,” Cub thought. “Probably keeps the feral dogs away.”
“Cub, you are clear to advance. Take it nice and easy, don’t move into the spotlights. The pattern goes out in front of you; wait until it’s clear…” Whiskey whispered “ ....advance.”
With the command, Cub shuffled out from behind the stump over to a pile of garbage opposite from the alley, gingerly avoiding the spotlights and strips of wire.
“Make your way into the building. I can’t provide overwatch once you make it in, but I’m still on your com--” Cub heard an audible gasp. “Drop!” he hissed.
Cub hit the floor, his chest pressing the gravel tightly. He held his breath.
Cub held his rifle closer to his face. If he was ever going to act, now would be the time. However, the rules of engagement told Cub to keep steady.
He heard the shallow, somber sound of boots on gravel, and a man swore sharply in coarse Russian.
A million things went through Cub’s mind. Thoughts of his family were conflicting with himself saying to remember his training, and clusters of memories from his life were bouncing through his brain all at once.
A sound from his earpiece snapped him back to reality.
Nothing but a rapid-fire of barely-audible clicks followed by a significantly larger crack sounded from the earpiece, followed by a soft groan of pain from someone around the corner.
“Hot damn that was close!” Whiskey let out a soft *phew* over the radio. “You need to hide his body, hurry up.”
With the crackle of an ended transmission, Cub pushed himself up from the black trash bags and, still crouching, moved to grab the corpse of the dead soldier.
Cub moved to the side of the wall before doing a sort of half-crouch, half sprint run to the body. He let his rifle fall to his side and put his head in the body’s shoulder. With a heave of effort, he pulled his back up straight, and the body was along his back. Cub put his left arm through the man’s legs and grabbed the corpse’s right arm with the same hand.
The drill sergeant in basic had spent extra time on this carry, deemed the “fireman’s carry” due to it being used by firemen to take casualties out of burning buildings. Cub was very thankful for the extra training.
With what seemed like three strides, Cub gingerly placed the corpse by the trash where he lay just moments before. Burying the corpse was too risky, because a dog might stumble across the spot and dig it up. However, Cub had a better idea.
“Fit any better?” Whiskey asked.
“That guy was a size too small, I think. Plus, I was saving that ammonia for when I could use it to drink.” Cub was referring to the diluted ammonia tablet he had placed in his canteen to wash the blood out of the back of the uniform. Shuffling sounded through Whiskey’s earpiece.
“Don’t you think Uncle Sam could have purchased some surplus foreign outfits? This one really chafes.”
“Mission, Cub.” Whiskey sighed, irritated.
“Right, right… What’s the intelligence say about troop movements? I could fall in with a movement and they could take me over to the perch where I’ll break away from them when no one’s watching.” Cub had no idea when the next troop transfer would be, though.
“You’re joking, right? You seriously think that a guy with an American haircut, American accent, and American training will go unnoticed amongst a bunch of troops who have lived with each other since their basic training?”
Whiskey’s seniority was beginning to show through his condescending nature. Cub suddenly felt like an idiot.
“Right. You, uh… yeah that was a bad idea.” Cub sighed.
How was Cub supposed to win the favor of the States if he was dead?
Cub trudged through the tall grass, thinking of how grueling the climb to the shooter’s perch would be. He could see the entryway to the apartment building boarded up about a hundred yards ahead of him.
Whiskey had moved to a different building about a third of a kilometer west of the apartments. He would provide overwatch to Cub against anyone who tried to enter the building while Cub was grappling up the side. Then, Whiskey would move to accompany Cub once inside.
As he reached the side of the building with the wall blown out of it, he heard frantic yet quiet whimpering coming from a box, reminding him of his dachshund back home. Cub pulled his rifle to the ready and nudged the box with his boot.
It shuffled for a moment, and Cub hit the dirt behind a car tire.
“What’d you drop for?!” Whiskey hissed.
Cub remained silent.
“Damn it, Cub!
Then, the box tipped over.
“Holy Jesus, Whiskey. I nearly had a heart attack.” Cub couldn’t believe he’d been so shaken up by a cardboard box. “There was a box here and it was moving. Thought I might have had to shoot a snake or a dog.”
“Jesus, Cub turn on your communications! You’re in a new uniform!” A sigh sounded in Cub’s ear. “What was in the box, then?” Whiskey inquired.
“It was some puppies.” Cub replied blankly.
“Puppies? Wha- It’s probably a feral dog’s.” Whiskey chuckled.
“Unlike Haymikov? They might just survive another night.” Haymikov was the target to be. All Cub needed was a hop, skip, jump and he’d take the shot and be back at the rear by sun up.
Cub thought about calling his girlfriend again. The wind rustled the trees and swayed the aching concrete structures in response. A subtle “Oorah” chirped through the headset.
The nest was everything Cub had hoped for. That’s to say, there was a window without glass and a bucket in the corner. Of all things that Cub thought he would miss in the military, he never thought it would be a chair.
Whiskey had moved into the nest after Cub climbed in. It was cozy, the room just big enough for the two of them to set up their equipment. There was a faint hum in the air, barely audible amongst the other sounds of a burning Russian metropolis.
Boredom set in quickly for Cub. Whiskey sat still, calm and patient, waiting for the mark to rear his ugly head. Intelligence stated that Haymikov was travelling in an armed and armoured convoy.
He would stop approximately nine hundred meters in front of the perch and talk with the conspirator for a while before his men handed over the crates and crates of rifles, hand grenades, and rocket launchers.
The states had informants that told what would happen. Haymikov did the exact same thing each time a trade took place, like clockwork. Step out of the truck, always traveling on the right side and never the left. Shake hands with the dealer, negotiate amounts, check stock, unload, check it again, shake hands once more and leave. Every, single, time.
Cub swore he saw Whiskey twiddling his thumbs. “Was he actually bored? No, he couldn’t be. This is the man, the myth, the legend, Whiskey.” Cub chuckled softly.
“Are trying to get us killed? Stop screwing around, and look through the scope,” Whiskey hissed.
“Good ol’ Whiskey” Cub thought sarcastically. Could he hear Cub’s thoughts, too?
Skrrt. Shuffleshuffle. Action.
“Distance,” Whiskey ordered. He wasn’t asking anyways.
“875 meters.” Cub replied quickly.
“Windage” Again, not asking.
“8 to 7, west.” Cub was the best spotter in his battalion, and he felt qualified to take the shot, but senior holds the gun, so Cub sat out this round.
“Are you sure that’s him?” Whiskey inquired. “Can’t be wasting Uncle Sam’s money on shooting a grunt.”
Cub took his eye off the scope and looked at the picture tacked to the wall. Perfect match.
He eased his breathing. He looked at a flag that was planted in the ground next to Haymikov’s truck. It was flapping in a slight breeze to the left.
“Ready at gun?” Cub checked
“Fire. Fire. Fire. Fi-”
An explosion the likes of which Cub had never seen before erupted in the distance. A ring of dust flew up hundreds of feet in the air.
“Hold!” Cub hissed.
Whiskey had already taken the shot, and through dumb luck he had fired at the exact same time as whatever that explosion was. Something told Cub he didn’t want to know.
He checked to see where the shot had landed. It was a good shot, piercing through the abdomen and out Haymikov’s side. He wouldn’t be getting up from that any time soon. His squads sprang into action, a Russian medic diving to Haymikov’s side furiously wrapping him in bandages and pumping him full of morphine.
Cub knew it was futile. Whiskey had just eliminated Russia’s arms trade with a single bullet. He and Whiskey had been a team throughout, even with Cub’s lack of focus.
Maybe Whiskey would put in a good word for him back at the states?