• Published 2nd Jan 2013
  • 4,835 Views, 741 Comments

Slipping Through A Sideways Door - hornethead



A man accidently follows his friend, who was believed to be dead, to a strange and colorful land mired in conflict.

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1: Getting Lost

Chapter 1: Getting Lost

Clad in a stark white ensemble of a warm parka and matching pants, a large man trudged through the snow and wind. In his arms he cradled a very large weapon, a 7.62mm machine gun. Every few yards, he would cycle the bolt to prevent it from freezing shut. He was on a routine patrol in a desolate corner of the world, quite devoid of civilization. It was snowing and the last weather report indicated that a blizzard may be blowing through very soon. Because of this, the man tried to complete his patrol as soon as possible and return to his base camp where it was warm.

It was somewhere hidden high in the arctic circle, a desolate land barren of all but the most persistent of life forms. Even so, it was not an easy walk. Hard icy patches would suddenly give way to soft areas of deep powdery snow. The wind started building up, rushing fast over the tops of snow ridges and across flat stretches, throwing up sheets of the frozen ice crystals into the man's face. The man cursed the foul weather and pushed on harder, eager to reach the shelter and relative warmth of camp.

After a few more minutes of struggling against the cold wind and squinting though frozen eyes, his goal was finally in sight. The front half of a Quonset hut poked out from the base of a large mound of snow. So close to home, he quickened his pace to a jog and ran up to the door. He gave it a few knocks before swinging it open and stepping inside. The change in climate was almost immediate, warm heavy air blowing onto his face and melting the snow and ice that had accumulated on his body. He shivered and shook off the water droplets, the liquid splattering on the deck. On his right were a couple of men sitting at a low table and playing around of cards.

"A bit cold for ya, eh Jackie Boy?" One of them quipped.

"Yeah, just a little," Jackson replied as he began taking off some of his cold weather gear.

"What, doesn't it get cold where you're from? I though you Brooklyn yobs were tough chaps."

"Don't be an arsehole, Gary, everyone here knows yer the biggest poof 'round here." The man's partner joked, "Ya see anythin' interestin' out there, Jackson?"

"Nope, just the same whitewashed landscape it was the last few days. Anything new pop up back here?" Jackson asked.

"Not much. Oh! We did get a couple of more participants for the exercise."

"FNGs?"

"Nah, hard blokes, just back from the sandbox. Sound like a couple of Aussies."

That grabbed Jackson's attention, "They just got back? Where from exactly?" He asked, turning to the two Brits and placing his hands on the table edge.

"Dunno, didn't ask."

"They still around?"

"Yeah, took the bunk room down the corridor, third on the left."

"Thanks." Jackson left the two to their game and gathered up his weapon and equipment.

"Ha! Two for me heels!" Gary shouted at the table.

"What!? Oi! You fuckin' cheater!"

"That's another pint, Toph!"

First thing he did was head back to his bunk and stow his gear, putting up his weapon and hanging his cold weather gear up to dry. The building he was in was dug out of and built into a low earthen hill in the tundra, a great rarity in that part of the world. The hill had been hollowed out and insulated against the cold, bunks, a latrine and even a small mess facility being constructed inside. It's current use was that of a base camp for an international joint training exercise in escape, evasion and survival in an arctic environment.

Now in just his base uniform, Jackson retrieved a small photograph from a compartment in his footlocker and left to go find the new arrivals. He followed the SAS member's directions and came to the bunk room. It was empty of it's occupants, but they had deposited their gear there. Reasoning that they may have gone to the mess for a bite. Quick stepping down the hall, Jackson reached the mess, the pungent smells of cooking food assaulting his nose.

He looked around the room for a second before he spotted his quarry sitting at a corner table, eating some freshly fried powdered eggs. Striding confidently up to the two of them, Jackson politely nudged one on the shoulder.

"Hey, uh, excuse me."

They all turned and looked up at him with an uncomfortable stare.

"I heard you guys just got back from deployment not too long ago."

"Yeah, what's it to you, mate?" One of them asked, though not unkindly.

"I was wondering what you guys were doing out there."

"Bit o' this, bit o' that, why?"

"No real reason. Just... while you were out there, did you happen to see this man?" Jackson asked, holding up the photo to them.

In the photo was a group of five soldiers posing together in civilian clothing at a bar on one of San Diego's beaches. There was Bellis on the far left, in a simple outfit of a t-shirt and some shorts. To his left was Nix and Feng, both holding two bottles of beer together, high over their heads. Next was Jackson himself, standing tall, sporting nothing more than a mixed drink and pair of shorts with flip flops, dark swarthy skin and toned muscles exposed for all the ladies' benefit. Finally, on the end, stood an average sized man in a t-shit and jeans, one hand in his pocket, the other held a glass of rum, a slight smile on his face, dirty blonde hair shining a dull gold in the sunlight. To the man on the end, Jackson laid a finger.

The two Australians studied it for a moment before leaning back and shaking their heads, "Sorry mate, can't say we have. Friend of yours?"

"Yeah, real good friend of mine. Went MIA on us a while back."

"Ah, rough shit. Few of ours 're gone as well. Well, if we spot 'im ever, we'll sure give you a holler."

"Thanks, I'd appreciate that." Jackson said, his spirits lowered just a little.

Dejected, Jackson left them to their meal and went back to his own bunk room. When he returned, Nix was in there gearing up.

"Hey man, what you fittin' to go do?" Jackson inquired.

"What, you didn't hear?" Nix replied over his shoulder, "We're about to run the field ex, Bellis want's us up and ready to go in five."

"Already? He knows there's a blizzard coming in and fixin' to freeze our asses, right?"

"Recent weather reports say otherwise. Apparently, it ain't gettin' heavy for another day or two, so top brass cleared it." Nix told his teammate.

"Shit, well all right..." Jackson conceded and began gearing back up.

It only took them both a few minutes to fully assemble everything they would need for their mission. Nix strapped up with his rifle and pistol. For protection he donned a ski mask with goggles, leaving the latter resting on his forehead until he needed them. Jackson grabbed his 9mm and slung his Mk 43 over his back. Fully armed, they then made their way to the compound's cramped briefing room, where the rest of the participants were already gathered. Jackson nabbed a seat near the back while Nix went to go fetch some coffee. After a few moments of waiting, an officer finally walked in, dimmed the lights and switched on a projector that featured a map of the area around their camp.

"Good morning gentlemen, I'm Commander Bellis and I'll be your OIC for this exercise." He started.

While the commander spoke, Nix returned with the coffee, handing a cup to Jackson who gave him thanks, and then sat down.

"Some of you already know me," Bellis said, looking to the corner where Jackson and Nix sat, "but the rest of you here are from some of our Allied countries and I would like to welcome you all here on my command's behalf. Now, getting down to business..."

Bellis turned and began gesturing to the map projected on the wall behind him, "Pretty straight forward. We're looking at a mostly barren tundra, but about twenty kilometers to the south is a sparse forest. There, the terrain also changes some, plenty of places to hide. The objective for this exercise is for most of you to successfully evade capture or 'death' and survive in a hostile environment, eventually reaching an extract point here." he pointed to a black square some thirty two kilometers south east of the camp. "However, this won't just be some walk in the park. You will be chased by two hunter-killer teams that I will designate now. Now this is a joint operation so the teams will be mixed; Chief Jackson, you and Mayfield will be one team."

Jackson looked over to the SAS member he had talked to earlier, the one that had been playing cards with his friend Gary. The two exchanged a glance and a nod.

"The other will be Jaques and Yarhon." Bellis gestured to a Frenchman sitting near the front and an Israeli member of the Mossad seated in the middle of the room. "The hunter teams will be equipped with their firearms and the gel tipped training rounds. The training rounds are non-lethal and will only mark you with paint, but they hurt like a bitch and can still take out your eye so be sure to wear your PPE at all times." Bellis warned, "In addition, we have some inclement weather moving in. Visibility will be extremely low for the next two days with a blizzard expected to arrive on the third. That said, the exercise will terminate no later than the evening of the second day. In case of emergency, you all have your radios and flares. Keep your radios handy at all times, weather forecasts aren't entirely predictable. This evolution may just be a simulation, but the environment is very real. Getting lost is entirely possible and can be deadly. Other than that, gentlemen, good luck."

At the end of his speech, Bellis walked out of the room. A murmur rose among the men gathered in there while they all stood and stretched, eager to get the exercise over with and go home. Mayfield sat next to his friend Gary, poking the side of his head, fingers twisted in the shape of a gun.

"Right fuckin' here ya cheatin' twat, I'll peg ya right fuckin' here."

"Shut yer gob, Topher, ya gotta find me first."

"Oh, I'll find ya. Remember, in the head." Mayfield threatened as he stood up.

Jackson stood and lumbered back to his bunk room, nix followed close behind, "Looks like we're splittin' up. Try to avoid the crotch area, I need those bits for the weekend."

"No guarantees on full auto."

"Please don't."

When the two rounded the corner into the bunk room, they were a little surprised to see Commander Bellis waiting by the racks.

"Hey there fellas, how are you both doing?" He greeted.

"Good, sir." Nix responded.

"Glad to hear. You two be careful out there, ok? The weather around here can be lethal."

"Yes sir!" Both of them replied.

"Good. Nix, could you please give us a moment, I'd like to speak with Jackson alone."

"Of course, sir." Nix spun on a heel and left the room, leaving Bellis and Jackson alone together.

"Sir, something wrong?" Jackson asked cautiously.

"No, nothing really. I just wanted to check in on you."

"Sir?"

"Well after we lost Kaughn a while back, you dropped into a kind of funk, but you bounced back from that, if not entirely. I know you were bothering the Australians, trying to find info again."

"Sir, I apologize, I didn't mean to-"

Bellis held up a hand, cutting him off, "It's ok, no harm done. I'll admit, sometimes even I run a query through the network, just in case. What I'm worried about is more recent events, what happened with your wife, and.... Sophie."

"Oh...." Jackson looked down at the deck, sorrow flashing across his face, eyes on the brink of tearing up, "Yeah. I uh... I'm fine now. It still hurts, but..."

"I know," Bellis said, stepping forward and putting a hand on Jackson's shoulder, "If you ever need anything, anything at all, you know we got your back."

"I know, sir. Thanks, but I'll be ok for now."

"All right." Bellis said softly, nodding. "Now go out there and show them what a Chief can do."

A small smile crossed Jackson's face, "Yes sir."

=====================================================================



A long black barrel wrapped with strips of stark white tape spaced at different intervals poked out from a stand of trees situated at the top of a small rise in the landscape. Visibility was fair, but deteriorating, offering an ok view of the surrounding area. The barrel belonged to an L118A1 AW. Laying prone behind it's scope was an averaged sized man with black hair and green eyes, face blurred with some stubble. Behind him, leaning against a tree, was a large dark skinned man, a watch cap covering his bald head.

"See anything yet?" Jackson asked the man on the rifle.

"Not a effing thing." Mayfield replied, "Wait a tic...."

"What is it?"

Through his scope, Mayfield tracked a body trouncing through the snow and heading for the trees, "Aww, it's that arsehole, Gary."

"Gary, your squadmate?"

"The same. I'm gonna put one right in the side of his head..."

Mayfield lined up the shot, anticipating his quarry's movements. Once he was ready to fire, he carefully flipped off the safety and rested his finger on the trigger. Then slowly, ever so slowly, he applied pressure. Gradually, the mechanism moved to the edge before finally slipping free of the catch. Unfortunately, at that exact moment, the wind decided to gust, slightly alternating the path of the projectile as it sped on it's way. Because of this, instead of hitting it's intended target, the round splattered onto a tree trunk just in front of Gary's face.

The running man knew better than to stop and sprinted for cover. Mayfield fired off a few more rounds, but none hit their mark. Cursing, Mayfield stood up and pulled out his sidearm, a P226. Then he looked over his shoulder.

"Jackson!"

"On it!"

Jackson sprinted past, weapon already to his shoulder, and stomped down the hill.

"Watch it, looks like he acquired a pistol!" Mayfield shouted in warning.

"Noted!"

The weather was picking up now, flurries of powder were beginning to blow around, obscuring their vision. Great puffs of fog blasted from Jackson's mouth as he raced after his target. Gary was weaving through the trees now, trying to make himself as difficult a target to hit as possible. Except when you can toss a couple hundred rounds down range in a few seconds, accuracy doesn't matter all that much, which is what Jackson chose to do. Spotting an open avenue throug the trunks, the large man stopped and fired off a few bursts. Miraculously, none of them hit, instead plowing into the snow or smacking into tree trunks, leaving big splatters of green paint.

"Can't hit a target, mate?" Mayfield teased as he ran past.

Jackson started to chase after Mayfield, but stopped when his radio crackled, "Warning, weather is deteriorating...... than anticipated. All participants are ordered......... TB. I repeat, all.... ord...."

The transmission came in patchy and filled with static, but Jackson caught the gist of it. Bad news was coming. The wind was whipping all around faster and more violent than before. It was time to kick rocks. The situation turning urgent, Jackson now ran after Mafield and Gary not because of the hunt, but because their lives may very well be in danger.

Throug the deep snow he ran, desperately scanning the blurry white landscape for any hint of the two other soldiers. After a few minutes, all he could find was Mayfield standing in a small clearing and looking around.

"Lost 'im." Mayfield said in a disappointed tone.

"Well we need to find him, did you hear the radio?"

"No, what's it about?"

"Bad weather's coming in, we need to get back!" Jackson started to raise his voice to speak over the wind.

"Bollocks. All right then."

Jackson and Mayfield spent the next thirty minutes roaming the wood and calling out Gary's name. He may have not heard the warning over the radio, so they also repeated that, shouting it into the wind. Hopefully he wouldn't think it was some kind of ploy to get him to drop his guard. After a while, they still hadn't found him and it was starting to get dark. They needed to get back and find shelter.

"I can't find him!" Mayfield shouted over the rising wind.

"He's got the same training as us, he should be okay, but we need to find shelter, fast!" Jackson shouted back.

"Agreed!"

Jackson took out his compass and tried to get a bearing to find the nearest shelter, but something was wrong. At first, the device wroked as it should, fining magnetic north. But then it spun the opposite direction. Then it pointed east, southwest, northeast, it just woudn't stop changing direction.

"Shit." Jackson cursed.

"What?"

"The compass is goin' all screwy!"

"There must be a lot of iron in the soil here!" Mayfield suggested.

"Must be, but it doesn't do no good for us!"

Their directional tool unreliable, they both trudged on through the blinding white blasts of snow. They stuck together, niether letting the other out of his sight, to get separated now might mean death. They had to find shelter now, or else they may freeze due to exposure. For fifteen more minutes the stomped on, beginning to lose hope for themselves. Then Mayfield spotted something. Up ahead, through the wind and snow, an enormous outcropping of rock and ice. On the face of rock turned towards them, Mayfield could see an opening, a gap, through which one might fit and take shelter from the cold. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.

As they ran up to it, Jackson took a look the the snow and ice above the entrance, "I don't like the look of that. What if all that falls and blocks us in?"

"What if we don't go in and freeze to death out here?" Mayfield retorted.

"Good point."

Together they entered the small cave. The relief from the biting wind was sudden and greatly welcomed. Once inside, they found they could stand comfortably. The interior was spacious, but not overly large. It should be able to heat up quickly enough with what they had. Almost immediately, Jackson got to work with some heat sticks he carried in a side pocket.

"There, not so bad in here, is it?" Mayfield said cheerfully.

"Yeah, just as long as we don't get trapped in here."

"Oh, come now, we've nothing to worry about. I'm sure we'll be just fine in here, sturdy walls and all." Mayfield reassured, giving the cave wall a few solid smacks with his palm.

Just then, there was a slight rumbling. It grew and grew some more. Jackson looked over his shoulder and saw some pebbles fall by the entrance. Unfortunately, they were chased by a heavy amount of snow and rock that completely covered the entrance and plunging the two into complete darkness.

"Sshhhit"

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