Going Feet FirstbyDarkPulse©
Quick author's note: This is a story of a Vietnam era soldier, lost in a world filled with magic and creatures of fantasy. It is a plot-focused and action-driven story, but it still gets steamy later on. Enjoy...
Atop a round table in the middle of a kitchen, a small radio sitting beside a cup of warm coffee softly played an age old piece of classical music. The lady sitting beside the table in her yellow spring dress hummed along to the violin symphony and the low brass that joined in. A heavy 'thud' sound caused her to rise from her chair to retrieve the newspaper which just hit against the base of her front door. The signature jingle of a small bell following as the newspaper boy passed by on the street.
A smile crossed the woman's face as she approached the door, opening it up to a warm spring morning. In the tree beside her driveway, a small bird sang its tune as kids waited for the school bus to arrive. A small breeze picked up on the American flag flying off the front of her house and blew a lock of her long brown hair her across her face. She brushed it aside as she took in the fresh scent of spring in the air and went to pick her paper up off the stoop.
The whirr of an engine rolled up to her house to pull her attention toward the jeep as it pulled up. The vehicle rocked slightly as two men in Army class-A uniforms climbed out and donned their service caps. One of them holding his head low as he walked with his fellow officer up her driveway with a folded flag.
At first, she couldn't believe the sight of the two men; refused to believe that they had come. A terrible tremble rattled her knees as her tongue turned to a gritty piece of sandpaper. Her mouth was moving, but dry tears seized her throat in a stone grip to keep the words from coming out.
By the time the officers came to her doorstep, she was struggling to keep herself up on her own two feet. One of her hands was braced against the door frame while another was held against her mouth, holding her scream and catching the tears as they streamed down her face. One of the men caught her just in time before she fell, holding her up and allowing her to unleash all her tears into the breast of his jacket. The officer held her there for a few minutes as she cried on. When her legs could finally support themselves, the two men assisted her back into the house.
An hour later, when her tears had dried and her coffee had gone cold, the officers turned for the door and gave their final condolences for her loss. They tipped their hats and turned for the jeep parked at the end of her driveway. In her still-quaking hand, the woman held up the letter that the officers had left with her. Holding back her tears, she slowly re-read the final words from her boy.
A young soldier in Vietnam who had written one last letter home the day before he was declared MIA.
March 2nd, 1966
Happy birthday. I'm writing you this letter because I'm shipping out on my first operation tomorrow morning. The Major says I can't say nothing about it, only that we are moving to free some Vietnamese from communist forces. I know what we're doing is right, so don't bring that argument up again in your next letter please. We gotta keep the reds out of South Vietnam otherwise they could be looking at Thailand next. Captain says that if one country falls to the commies, then it'll go like dominoes and next thing we know, T-55 tanks are rolling through downtown Tokyo. So we're heading off to kick some commie butt outta these jungles and send them back to red square where they belong. It's what dad fought for in Korea. Could you put some flowers on his headstone for me? I want him to know I still love him. Command is calling lights out, so I gotta go. I'll write as soon as I can. Love you ma, always will.
Your Son, Private Galen Martin.
The roar of the C-130 Hercules' engines thundered in Galen's ears almost as loudly as the Sergeant's voice up front. Butterflies fluttered around in his belly as he held on tight to his M14 rifle. Every instinct and muscle he had clung to the weapon as though it were his own life. Where he was going, this rugged, lethal piece of steel and wood was going to be the only thing that was going to get him out alive.
Well, that and the sixty three other men loaded onto the aircraft with him. Each one of them boasted the patch of the 101st American Airborne on their shoulders just as Galen did. That screaming eagle sewn to their olive drab uniforms was a badge of honor, and most of them acted like that lone piece of cloth made them invincible, that as long as they wore it, not a force in the world could touch them. Every minute that passed by, Galen wished that were true.
Silent among his open and very chatty comrades, Galen mentally reviewed everything he got ready for his first combat jump. Though most of the ruck sacks on board were loaded and inspected to have the standard load out, some soldiers carried not-so-standard gear. A custom knife here, a bandana there, a personal sidearm over there. In the end, everyone carried the same ammo, knives, tools, water, and all the supplies they would need to survive when they got their boots on the ground.
Galen looked up to the soldier who had called his name. "Yeah?"
"You okay, kid?" he asked.
Galen nodded before he answered, "Yeah, just a bit nervous is all."
"Yeah, so am I. Just keep your head down and your rifle ready, and we'll be back at base before you know it."
"Thanks, Isles," Galen said before his gaze went back down to the floor.
Truth was that his feet were rattling in his boots. Corporal Isles' words couldn't stop the thousands of scenarios from running rampant through his imagination. What if his parachute failed? What if the AA got him? What would happen if a dozen NVA troops got him the second he landed? Or if he got separated from the Company? A thousand things could kill him before he was even on the ground. All the more reason to hold his weapon tight and hope for the best.
"Glory, glory, what a Hell of a way to die!" one of the troopers out front yelled, his voice loud above the roar of the engines. Without delay, the rest of the men on the aircraft joined in on the chanting of the ceremonial song.
"Glory, glory what a Hell of a way to die! Glory, glory what a Hell of way to die, and he ain't gonna jump no more!"
Galen's fingers dug into the stock of his rifle as he listened to his brothers sing. Most of them knew how much he hated the tune, being the freshest recruit of them all. Some of the men around him had seen action in Korea; others had fought the NVA already when they had been stationed at an FOB along the border with North Vietnam. Galen, however, was green as grass and as jumpy as tumbleweed. His lack of experience was the joke of every other soldier in the plane, and with the singing of "Blood on the Risers", they were sure to get one last laugh out of him before they arrived at the drop zone.
The order in which the troops lined up put Galen at the end of the line of paratroopers, which meant he was the last one to jump. This also meant he was the last one to touch the ground, and if his chute did fail, one of his brothers would be right there to collect his tags.
After they decided whether or not to mop him up of course.
"He was just a rookie trooper and he surely shook with fright!" the men chanted at the top of their lungs, some of them smiling as they were staring directly at Galen. "He checked off his equipment, made sure his pack was tight!"
To many of the others' pleasure, Galen did check the straps of his parachute and combat gear, making sure nothing was going to snap off or come loose.
"He had to sit and listen to those awful engines roar! You ain't gonna jump no more!"
By now Galen wanted to bury his head in the sand as the rest of the men went through the chorus. The Private pulled off his helmet and ran a shaky hand through the brown stubble on top of his head, wiping away a bead of sweat that had run down into one of his ocean blue eyes. The young soldier was still weeks away from turning twenty; most of the guys still treated him as though he were a kid.
Galen wasn't big and beefy as some of them were, but he was no cornflake. He could carry his one hundred twenty pounds of gear all day long without griping at the end of the day. It was just like what they had all done in training; ten miles with two hundred pound packs going nonstop before breakfast, days out in fox holes while it rained sideways, hours in the fighting ring, going hand-to-hand against his brothers-in-arms. Each one of them was a tough trooper, each one was trained to pull their weight and survive when everything was against them. Galen was no exception.
Before the Company could reach the next verse of their song, the engines of the C-130 throttled back, turning the inside of the cabin very quiet, much to Private Galen's relief. At the front of the plane, the jump master stood up and took his position by the door. The ominous, red jump light coming on signifying he was ready. When the jump master was ready, you were ready.
"Everyone, STAND UP!" he ordered.
At once, the whole of Charlie Company released their safety harnesses and stood up from their seats, turning to face the front of the plane.
There was a long series of clicks as everyone attached their parachute cables to the static line. Galen's hands fumbled as he shakily clipped his into place. Several seats forward, one of his fellow paratroopers, Michael, passed a glance back in his direction, giving him that one nod of assurance that told him everything would be okay.
Having joined a few years before Galen, Sergeant Michael Polson was one of the top NCOs of Charlie Company, having already done two combat drops before and racking up several kills. He was brutal by nature, raised out in the country by a hunter father. His eyes were green as the grass in which he prowled, his hair black as a moonless night sky.
Rumor had it that he had Blackfoot in him, and Michael played on it by shaving his hair into a thick bushy Mohawk and painting black lines down the side of his face before he went out into the field. Nobody minded it much, but they never had the heart to tell him he was emulating the wrong tribe. Nonetheless, he was one of the few men whose Company Galen fully enjoyed.
Sure, every man in this plane was his friend and brother. They'd all gone through training and ground patrols together, done several practice jumps together stateside, but out of every man aboard, Galen was the only one without actual combat experience, and Michael was the only man who didn't haze him for it.
The door opened and the air pressure in the cabin plummeted, a violent breeze whipping around between the troops. The jump master turned to the red light beside him, staring it down as explosions started to go off below. Galen nearly jumped right out of his boots as a flak round detonated beside the plane, flying bits of shrapnel tearing through the hull. The predawn light dimly glowed through the holes in the body, the flak fire intensifying every second they hung in the air.
Then the jump light went green. The jump master grabbed the first troop in line and shoved him to the door, "GO, GO, GO!"
The men began piling out the door, jumping free of the plane and into the eruption of flak and anti-aircraft fire below that ripped into the skies. The craft rocked as projectiles and detonations impacted it on either side. Just as the first half of the paratroopers were off the craft and in the air, an explosion tore open the side of the plane.
Galen was thrown to the rear of the craft with several other paratroopers. Those who were not sucked out the new hole on the starboard side of the plane had begun to run for the door. Galen rolled across the floor as the whole the aircraft began banking toward the side that had been torn open. Without warning, a huge bolt of lightning struck down from above. Where he saw a starry night sky only a second before, he could now only see blindingly bright light where the superheated bolt cracked the sky and narrowly missed the wing.
A line of bullets tore through the floor around Galen, followed by his screams as he buried his head into his knees. Then the lightning hit again, the massive bolt striking the starboard wing of the C-130 and setting it ablaze. Galen held nothing back as he unleashed everything, screaming at the top of his lungs and holding onto his rifle as the plane tilted to the side at a dangerous angle. The other C-130s that had been flying alongside them had dropped their troopers and were now breaking off, leaving the flak rounds to focus on Galen's plane.
Bursts of shells exploded alongside the aircraft, tearing more holes in the plane until it seemed more like a giant cheese grater with wings than a transport. Knowing he was in his last moments, Galen turned toward the front of the plane, toward the last few of his brothers who stayed on board. Those who weren't dead or lacked any common sense had already leaped from the plane. Of the sixty-four troopers that had come aboard, seven remained. One was Michael, holding desperately onto the safety harness as the great vacuum tried to suck him out the plane. Galen could only watch in horror as the plane neared the ground, the g-force of their descent pressing him against the rear hatch of the aircraft.
Right then, outside the cockpit window in front of the aircraft, three lightning bolts collided midair. A cascade of fire erupted in sky that completely engulfed the plane. The flak fire ended abruptly, likely because the burning wing was brushing against the top of the jungle canopy. The great steel beam tore through the trees until a deafening snap rattled the plane. Just like that, the burning wing was bouncing along the ground and the plane was banking hard toward the heavier side.
It was then that Michael's grasp on his harness was lost. Desperately, the Sergeant reached for any sort of surface he could, fighting as long as possible before he was at last sucked out the side of the C-130.
The last words to pass through Galen's mind before the crash was the line, "And he ain't gonna jump no more."
The Massive C-130 Hercules transport aircraft came in at a light angle down a hillside, tearing out a wide scar as it mutilated trees and sliced through two hundred yards of forest canopy. Trees of all sizes were shredded and ripped apart right down to the heart wood by the razor-like wings. Pieces of the craft tore off as it slammed into the forest floor, tossing huge plates of aluminum in every direction and littering them across the landscape. The shattered wing cartwheeled for a couple dozen yards after slicing several trees in half before coming to rest a hundred yards short of the aircraft's crash site.
The plane itself had ground to a halt in a wide clearing at the bottom of the hill, half of its outer hull missing and its remaining wing buried in the ground right up to the engine.
It was at that moment that the sun broke over the horizon.
Warm light cast itself on Galen's face, stirring his mind as the first breath of life came back into his body with a warm breeze. As the young soldier began to sit up, he realized he was pressed against the back of the pilot's seat. Pain surged through his left arm as he tried to move it, his neck giving audible cracks as he turned his head to see what pained him so much.
A glass shard the size of his thumb protruded from his left bicep, sinking in at least half an inch into his muscle. With a tear and a cry of pain, he eased the shard out from his skin and dropped it to the floor. He gave long sigh as his arm gained instant relief and full control over its motor functions. Next thing on Galen's mind was the wound left over from the shard. It had begun to bleed and if he didn't clean it, infection was bound to set in. In the jungles of Vietnam, who knew what kind of disease he would contract?
Still dizzy from the crash and running off automatic responses drilled into him in training, Galen pulled off the emergency field medical kit from the shoulder strap of his ruck sack. With a wince, he removed the pack and undid the buttons of his uniform to reveal the nasty gouge torn in his flesh. He bit down and tore open the medical package with his teeth, spitting away the excess and fumbled with a packet of white sulphonamide powder, dumping the whole of the contents into the wound.
When the packet was empty, Galen pulled the white bandage from the med kit and began winding it around his arm, knotting it the best he could and pulling it tight. The bandage snugged up right up against his skin, pressuring the wound enough to make the Private grimace at the pain. But with his arm dressed, Galen buttoned up his uniform and lay back against the back of the pilot's seat, giving a long sigh.
I survived. I live to jump once more.
The thought passed through his head with a bit of a chuckle. He inspected his body for any other signs of wounds, which, to his comfort, were only a few scrapes and cuts so minor as to not even be worth worrying about. What he needed to do next was see if anyone had survived, or if he was the only one. The dark cloud of horror came over the Private's head as he realized what he had to do.
Galen swallowed hard on the new lump that developed in his throat. This new task sent a nauseous wave through his stomach as he unsteadily rose to his feet, pulling the straps of his pack over his shoulders and checking the cockpit behind him for any sign of life from the pilots. From the fact that the scene looked like a flak round had blown off half the face of the plane, and half the pilot's head for that matter, it seemed that both the pilot and the co-pilot likely bought it long before the crash.
The other bodies in the craft didn't fare much better. A bit of bile worked its way up Galen's throat at the sight of the jump master. All his strength went to barely containing his stomach as he saw the man had been cut in half by a propeller. It probably came off one of the right engines, the ones that had been torn off during the crash.
Four of the other paratroopers were riddled with bits of shrapnel, blood soaking through their uniforms and coating the floor of the craft. It became too much. Nausea finally got the better of Galen as he ran for the side of the plane, leaning out a hole and throwing up the last bits of the breakfast he had eaten that morning. The vomiting knocked his vision out of whack as his mind drifted back into a state of light-headedness. For several minutes he stared at the ground over the side of the Hercules, not particularity looking at anything, only keeping still as he waited for his sickness to pass.
When his vision finally returned, Galen stumbled toward the starboard door of the plane. The whole craft had tilted toward the intact wing on the left side, leaving Galen stuck with a five foot drop to the ground. It wasn't much higher than jump training in basic, so the Private took a breath and jumped out the door.
Unfortunately for him, crash was the better word to use for his landing as he hit the ground. New pain pierced into his injured arm as it connected with the ground, sending Galen to a wail. Tears escaped his eyes as he grasped onto his bicep, trying to massage the pain away, rubbing soft circles around the wound before the pain faded and the senses returned to his head. Eventually, he coaxed his wobbly legs into standing once again as he braced against the plane.