The Geronimo Breach Online - Russell Blake

Chapter 1

Bullets peppered the dirt around Al and his partner. They instinctively returned fire, the barrels of their automatic rifles pulsing from burst after burst of armor-piercing slugs. Thick smoke belched from a crippled station wagon lying on its side by the mouth of the rural alley where they’d taken cover. The glow of burning fuel intermingled with the unmistakable stench of seared flesh, creating a nauseating haze. A slug ricocheted off the peeling wall, gouging a chunk of brick from the dilapidated surface.

A flickering of illumination from ancient streetlights succumbed to the gloom of late evening, casting otherworldly shadows over the rustic thoroughfare – now transformed into a killing zone.

White noise and static shrieked from their radios – not that they could distinguish anything in the cacophony of the firefight. The concussion of gunfire had devastated their hearing, and the ringing from tinnitus obliterated all sounds besides the percussive chatter of their guns.

Squinting down their sights at the blurs of motion on the rooftops of the bombed-out buildings across the street, they paused, turning to give each other a knowing glance before returning their attention to their assailants and squeezing off their last rounds. They weren’t going to make it. This was a deathtrap; they’d been boxed in with no hope of escape. Help was at least fifteen minutes out, assuming their base had received the solitary frantic distress call before the radio had been taken out. It didn’t look good.

The incoming fire escalated to a hail of screaming death. Rifle ammo depleted, they un-holstered their army-issue Beretta pistols and fired intermittently in the direction of their attackers, to no obvious effect. They exchanged panicked looks – this wasn’t supposed to happen; just a routine patrol in a secure area with no reason to expect hostiles, much less heavily-armed ones intent on slaughtering them. It was supposed to be a cakewalk.

Dave’s gun jerked as he reflexively squeezed the trigger, again and again, even after his magazine was spent. Al glanced at him with alarm and then elbowed him back into the fight. Dazed, Dave stared at the useless weapon in his hand, before dropping the Beretta and frantically fumbling for the scarred knife handle protruding from his belt. He almost had the serrated edge free from its sheath when his head exploded in a blast of bloody emulsion.

Al spat out the essence of his mutilated partner and expended his last rounds in a defiant salvo, squinting at the shadows in an effort to make each shot count. Cursing silently when his ammo ran dry, he tossed the handgun aside and bared his trusty blade for the final reckoning.

Shouts in an unfamiliar tongue drifted from beyond the dense smoke at the alley’s mouth. A bright flash momentarily blinded him as a flare bounced down the length of the cobblestone passage before coming to rest a few yards from his now trembling body.

Four figures emerged from the gloom, cautiously approaching the soldier’s hiding place through the fog of burning oil, their rifles trained on his blood-spattered profile. Pointing at the ludicrously inadequate combat knife clutched in Al’s shaking hand, the tallest of the bearded, turbaned warriors barked a guttural cackle. He handed his firearm to the figure beside him and from beneath his filthy robe withdrew a gleaming, viciously curved blade as long as his arm. He sliced at the air with it, savoring Al’s horrified gaze as it whistled its grim tune. The turbaned warrior grinned maliciously and moved forward.

The angel of death had arrived, and it was time for Al to die.

He shielded his head with his arms, all thoughts of attacking with the knife now gone.

The bearded executioner smirked.

Sobbing, the last thing Al registered as the scimitar descended to sever his head was a bloodcurdling scream from his executioner; a victory yell as old as the god-forsaken hills of the foul dustbowl that had claimed his mortality.

Al bolted awake, the image of the flashing blade still vivid, even as the specter dissolved into a muddy, waking awareness.

What the hell?

His chest heaved from the adrenaline rush triggered by the brutal nightmare, his heart trip-hammering in his chest as he shook off the bitter remnants of the dream state. He sluggishly scanned his surroundings; dimly visible silhouettes of furniture offered a quiet reassurance he wasn’t anywhere near a gunfight in some non-specific shithole, or being decapitated by a malevolent mullah straight out of central casting. Damn, that had been realistic. He cleared his throat, wiping the sweat from his face with