• Published 23rd Apr 2013
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That Others May Live - CptBrony

Two USAF Pararescuemen must search through an unknown land to find their charge and make it back home alive.

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Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground

Duke and Frost got on the move down the mountain. Looking forward, the landscape wasn’t the most friendly; there were cacti everywhere, and the number of hills and mountains between them and whatever population was at the light was worse than he had expected. “This is what I signed up for.” Duke thought. He was retrieving an American who needed to be rescued; he was living his dream.

He and Frost looked up at the sky. Unexpectedly, the clouds had disappeared completely, revealing a much starrier sky then there should have been. “Yo, Duke. Isn’t this like a six on that scale of stars you can see in the sky?” Frost asked.

Duke looked over at him. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” he replied.

Frost ignored it and kept talking. “This sky is like what you would see in the Australian Outback. Something is up.” He was shaking his head as he spoke. Duke looked up at the sky; there were more stars than in Jalalabad, he could see that.

“Whatever, man. Let’s keep moving.”

They walked on, the dirt crunching under their boots like thousands of tiny ice cubes being crushed by an icemaker. The stars twinkled in an unnatural light. Even the landscape seemed off. “Maybe he has a point.” Duke thought. While he was reflecting on the oddness of the landscape, he he pulled out the pair of binoculars from his survival kit. “Hold.” he ordered. Frost stopped dead in his tracks. Duke pulled up the binoculars and laid down on the ground. The zoom was 14x; he would have to be still. He aimed them at the town. “I’m not detecting any movement.” he said. There were two large, decorated horses outside a building, chewing something in a strange fashion. He lowered the optics. “I got horses. There’s definitely people down there.”

Frost nodded. “How fast should we approach?” he asked. “We should try to get there by morning.”

They got back on the move. After about three hours of trekking through mountainous terrain, they were about halfway to the small village. Frost looked to their right and stopped. “Dude, hold on.” he said. Duke looked over; what was so interesting? “Check this out.” Duke walked over. It was just a cactus, nothing special. “Take a good look at it.” Duke rolled his eyes and looked hard at it.

Then he noticed. “It’s like, one really funky shade of green all over.” he commented. “Shouldn’t it have shadows? The moon is out.” That was when he realized another thing; the moon hadn’t been out earlier.

“Boss, something is seriously wrong here.” Duke couldn’t help but to agree with the sentiment.

“Let’s go.” he said, trying to ignore the cactus. “We have a job to do.”

Not five minutes after moving again, Duke was getting that feeling like something was going to go wrong. So he pulled up his satcom. “Overlord, this is Papa Romeo Two. Something is weird out here. How copy, over?” He listened; nothing. Comms were, indeed, down. “Frost, comms aren’t working.” He turned around, a scowl on his face.

“How? The radios are just fine. And the clouds are gone.” He turned around and looked to the village. “What the hell is going on?”

Duke shook his head. “Let’s just try to get the mission done. Then we can get outta here.”

Frost nodded. “Roger that.”

They walked on.

They arrived at a point about three hundred meters away from the village at one hour before dawn, up on a small cliff to remain unseen. The sky was just beginning to change, going from a dark black and blue to a glorious range of orange hues and purple clouds. It was totally silent; not a noise emanated from the area around the Pararescuemen. The valley in which they learned the village was located in was still coated with darkness, a foreboding blanket on an untamed land of hostility. The cool desert air from the night would soon be replaced by the blazing hot air of the day. The two men used their night vision to get a good view of the houses.

The horses were gone, nowhere to be seen. The men took that as their indication to get moving into the village to search for signs of the OGA boy. “Let’s roll.” Duke ordered. Frost nodded, and they descended from their small cliff down to the village.

They approached slowly and quietly, weapons trained on the village in front of them. They had no way of knowing if any hostiles were present in the village. Or the village could become hostile of OGA was here and they tried to rescue him. Either way, the Pararescuemen found it to be a better idea to keep cautious. “Stay frosty.” Duke said. He heard a small chuckle in his radio com.

“Am I ever not?” He smiled and they stacked up at the edge of the village.

They were next to the wall of a mud hut, keeping an eye in all directions. Duke moved out of cover first, but only a little. He scanned the area for hostiles and found none. “Move.” he said. He left the cover of a wall, followed quickly by Frost, and they moved through the village. None of the lights were on in the buildings. “They must have left for the night.” Duke thought. Up ahead, they saw a house that looked much larger than the rest in the village. If they were holding a prisoner, it would probably be in there. “House up ahead.” Duke said. Behind him, Frost grunted.

They advanced on the house, being sure to scan the areas around them for hostiles. Once they were at the house, they regrouped. “We’ll go around.” Duke whispered. “Search for another entrance. A window, if necessary.”

Frost nodded. “I’ll take point.” They moved around the house. When they were at the next wall, a light suddenly came on above them.

“Hold!” Duke whispered. They stopped dead in their tracks and listened.

“فماذا حدث لهذا المخلوق من قبل بضعة أيام?” a male voice said. They were speaking in Arabic.

“I thought they spoke Urdu here.” Frost commented. Duke nodded. He thought so too.

“اعتقد انه ذهب الى الملك للاسترشاد بها.” A female voice responded.

“Dang. This could be trouble.” They listened for a bit longer, but it was just more Arabic. They moved on to the back of the house.

They scanned the area from the corner before approaching the back yard. Once they confirmed that nothing was there, they moved forward. Around them were a number of articles of clothing hanging on a wire. But something was off. “Boss, this is too weird.” Duke moved to get next to Frost, who had moved to examine the garments. “They’re not anything I’ve ever seen another person wear.” There were strangely shaped shawls, bizarre ear covers... and several saddles.

Must be for their horses.” He looked around; there were no horses. “Let’s move.” It was getting harder to ignore the strangeness of the operation.

They approached the back door. It was closed, and they couldn’t hear any voices on the other side. “Frost, take point.” Frost moved forward and tentatively put his hand on the door. It was unlocked. “Breaching.” he whispered. He slowly pushed the creaky door open. There was movement inside.

“Hide!” Frost whispered over radiocoms. They ran from the house and hid among the garments. Shortly after, a figure, the visual obscured by clothes, came out.

“من هناك؟” the male voice asked. When he received only the night wind as a response, he went back inside and closed the door behind him. Duke let out a pent up breath.

“That was close.” Frost commented on his coms. Duke looked over at him; he was crouching on the ground in a firing pose. “Let’s move.” he said. They could come back to this house later.

They moved away from the back yard of the house and onto other homes in the village. Most were not so large; they were single level, maximum two room huts. Even then, only a handful were two room. “I’m glad I live in America.” Duke commented.

“True that.” They cleared most of the homes fairly quickly; the residents were either asleep or not home. “Is it just me, or are most of these homes empty?” They were.

“I don’t know.” Duke replied. “Let’s get back to the main house.” They were calling it the main house because of how big it was.

They returned to the backyard of the main house and crouched among the garments again. Up ahead, the house was silent again, the lights no longer on. “Could be a trap.” Duke thought. He looked to Frost; he was thinking the same. Frost pointed up at the roof. Duke cocked an eyebrow. “How?” He then pointed to a wall on the side. “Nice.” he complimented. Frost moved to the wall and leaned against it, cupping his hands. Getting a running start, Duke ran at him and jumped up, getting a boost from Frost on his way up. Duke reached up and got his hands on the edge of the wall and pulled himself up. He leaned over the side of the wall. “Your turn.” But instead of taking his hand, Frost ran at the wall and tried to run up it. He just hit the wall with a body slam.

“Ow.” he said, laying on the ground. Duke shook his head.

“Just take my hand, ice brain.” Frost moved back and took a look at the wall. He sighed in defeat and ran forward. As he leapt up the wall to get Duke’s hand, the lights in the house came back on. “Crap!” Duke thought as he yanked Frost up the wall. As soon as he was stably on the wall, they ran to the roof. Below them, they could hear someone walking out of the house and into the yard. But the sounds that came from his or her feet were unusual; it was like this person had four legs instead of two.

“الذي هو هنا؟ وأنا أعلم أنك هنا.” It was the man. When he got no response, he continued speaking. “إذا كنت ودية، وأنا لن القتال.” Frost looked to Duke, who was already looking at Frost. Neither had any idea what this guy was saying. After a few minutes of silence, the man sighed loudly. “ربما كانت على حق. ربما أنا أتخيل الأشياء.” He walked back inside.

Duke and Frost waited for a few minutes before moving. Being on the roof, they had the potential to wake up anyone who might be below them. They turned around on their bellies. Behind them, there was a pair of rooms on the roof, each with a door leading to the roof where they were. The two men stood up, weapons at the ready. “Move.” Duke ordered. They approached the two rooms and looked inside.

Duke saw something that changed how he was looking at this mission for good. Using his finger, he signaled for Frost to join him. “What is it?” Frost whispered. Duke pointed in front of them into the room. Before them, lying in a bed, was one of the horses that Duke had seen before they approached the village. It snored peacefully in the bed, its chest rising slowly as it took in precious breath. It was colored as strangely as the cacti in the region. Very monochromatic in spots, but overall, very technicolor in appearance. It’s head was shaped a tad odd, being somewhat more pointed at the snout. The eyes were enormous, taking up most of the horse’s face.

Frost backed up slowly, pulling Duke with him. “Boss,” he said. “I don’t think we landed in Pakistan.”

A noise came from a staircase in the corner of the room. Frost shoved Duke away from the line of sight of the window and moved to one side of it. He listened. “البكم الضوضاء، مع نومي بعيدا.” He moved away from the window a ways and dared a look inside; sure enough, the man was a horse too. Presumably, that was his mare in the bed. The stallion climbed in and slept fairly quickly.

Frost moved forward to pick up Duke, but he was already getting up. When Frost was up next to him, Duke had a spacy look on his face. “Boss?” he asked.

“Alright. We landed in a weird place where there are apparently talking horses.” Duke looked at his partner. “Did we ingest or smoke anything before we came here?” he asked. Frost shook his head. “Right.” He thought hard. “This might explain the lack of comms. And if that’s true for us...” It had to be true for the OGA boy; which meant that he was in this world too. “Frost, here’s the gameplan.” Frost knelt down and listened intently. “Logic says that the OGA boy must also be here, since he’s also not in contact with CENTCOM. We still have a job to do; so let’s go do it.” Duke stood up and moved to the other room that could be accessed from the roof.

Smiling cynically, Frost followed. “This mission is just getting more and more interesting.”

The pointed the barrels of their weapons into the room before peeking inside. There were two very small horses in two beds in this room, both sound asleep. The men moved in slowly, silently, making sure that they didn’t step on anything noisy that might awaken the small horses. Once both were inside, they looked around the room for any unlikely signs of OGA; that’s what they named their HVI. When they confirmed none, they moved to the staircase in the corner and descended into the first floor of the home.

At the base of the stairs, they scanned the room for any more signs of either OGA or hostiles. They saw nothing of either. “I’ll take left.” Duke said.

Frost nodded. “I got the right.” They separated into the two sections of the large house, each taking the time to investigate whatever room they came across. Duke went through the living room, what looked like a study, and what looked like a playroom for the kids. In them, he found no signs of OGA.

Frost went through a very stark room with a nice wooden floor. On the ceiling was a very expensive looking chandelier and several bizarre horse shoes on shelves off to the side. “Ball room.” he concluded. He investigated everything he could see, which wasn’t much. But he did find something.

“Boss, I think I might have something.” he said into his radio. “What is it?” came the response. Frost picked up a zippo lighter. “I think our guy might be a smoker. I found a zippo lighter.” Duke waited a moment to reply.

“Does it have a logo?”

Frost turned it around in his hand. “Negative.” In the other room, Duke was nodding to himself.

“Hold onto that.” Frost affirmed and moved on.

The next room he found himself in was the kitchen. There were numerous cupboards, two stoves, a fridge, a table, and an oven. “What?” Frost said quietly to himself. “What use do you have for these things when-” He stopped his thoughts. Something was off about all of this, more off than before. “Boss, how much light would you say came from these buildings earlier?” he asked.

“The amount you might get from a grouping of incandescent bulbs. Why?” Frost looked up; there were incandescent bulbs.

“Is there a generator anywhere?” Duke must have taken a moment to think, because he took his time responding.

“No, I didn’t see any.” There was a pause. “Just keep looking. We’ll figure this out later.” Frost nodded and went back to investigating.

The kitchen had been recently used, he could tell that much. The stove was still warm, the light bulbs looked like they were still glowing just a little bit, and there were dishes in the sink. Though no visible signs of OGA. “Boss, I got nothing- wait.” he saw something on the countertop that caught his attention. He walked over and picked up the item. “Scratch that, I think I got something.”

“What is it?” Duke asked immediately.

“I think I found his camera.” Frost turned the item over in his hands, inspecting it; no logos anywhere.

“Grab it, and meet me in the back of the house.” Frost put the camera on his gear web.

“Roger.” It wasn’t easy with everything he was carrying.

He went to the back of the house, where Duke was waiting for him. “Let’s see it.” he said, holding his palm out. Frost pulled off the camera and handed it to Duke. “This was our guy’s alright. He was definitely here.” He stuffed it into his parachute pack. “Let’s move. The sun’s coming up.” Frost nodded, and the two men ran off away from the village, questioning what exactly was real and what was not.

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