Flashback: Guns on the Run

March 01, 2018:

Two militaristic individuals must rely on each other in the aftermath of an ambush.

The Desert

It's deserted. And sandy.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

May 2, 2008…


Usually with the level of talent assembled for an operation like this, things go off perfectly and with terrifying precision. But the desert is an unforgiving place for outsiders, even well-versed international spies and killers.

The ambush was wholly unexpected. The three trucks were attacked a hundred miles from any known insurgent activity. Everything had been perfectly choreographed, but this landscape refuses to be tamed, and not all of its people can be paid off or convinced to help a foreign force.

The lead car hit a mine and exploded into a giant fireball. The other two vehicles were attacked from all sides in a hail of gunfire. There was no reasonable chance to fight back, though a contingent of soldiers stood their ground and fought back.

It's been several hours now since the initial attack. Two survivors have been hunched unmoving against a hillside, waiting for twilight so they can try and backtrack towards a town they passed after several hours of driving. One of the men is on the roster as 'Willis Cornwall,' a CIA agent on the mission in an intelligence gathering capacity. He's distractingly blonde for the country they're in, with a beard and a close-cropped haircut. He's been cradling his assault rifle in the way of a man who could field strip it in minutes. He's covered in dust and blood (not his own) and there's a suspicious cluster of holes through the sleeve of his fatigues, though no bullet wounds are visible. His fellow survivor hasn't seen him in action yet. There was too much chaos. But the fact that he's alive when the others aren't says something for his skill.


"We stop movin', we die. You know that, right?"

Also armed with an assault rifle of bullet firing capability is an agent of some recognizable ability, perhaps due to the dog tags that hang around his neck that label him as 'Erik Stevens'. He's decked out in his own modified version of fatigues, though clearly fits the SEAL program's dress code. There are a couple more guns attached to his person as he prefers to be well armed when on missions. Especially missions that don't go the way they were supposed to go in the first damn place.

Perhaps his words are in response to the way they are just hunkered down behind this hillside. It looks like a rabbit or a frog, constantly ready to rush out there and jump at the chance to get away from being locked down like this. He doesn't like to not be free to roam and fight his way through hordes of enemy soldiers.

He hasn't taken any opportunity to clean off any of the dust or blood from his fatigues or face. Some of the blood may be his own and some of it may not. He hasn't taken the time to check. He's focused on preparing for their opportunity to make it back to the town for extraction. He doesn't seem as though he's going to be able to keep himself from moving onward much longer. Staying in one spot is like painting a target on his face. At least that's the way Erik looks at it.

"How far back is the town again?"


The man calling himself Cornwall looks down at his watch, then up and out at the landscape. He gives the face a tap and it changes from a plain-looking field watch to a small and vivid LED screen. "56 miles. Though there's a farming settlement about twenty back and about four off the main road. It's not confirmed friendly, but it's not tagged hostile either." He sounds…convincingly American. If one dissected accents, they might peg him as from somewhere outside Boston. "The big bosses know we got hit, but if they missed this ambush, there's no telling what an extraction team might meet."

He pats himself down and checks supply levels, then he squints out across the landscape. "We passed an abandoned house only a few miles back. It looked like it used to be some kind of waystation. That'll get us out of these foothills and into a defensible position. Then we can assess in the morning whether we try for the settlement or make our way back to town." He checks his ammo levels, then looks over at Erik. "Unless you got a better plan."


"Let's hit that house. We can rest up and then hit the farmhouse before dawn. If they have a vehicle, we'll be our own extraction plan." Erik seems to be very intent on making sure that they get out of this on their own. He's probably thinking about how many people knew about this operation in the first place and then it goes bananas? There's very likely someone on the inside doing things that they probably shouldn't be doing. His trust levels are low.

"You lived long enough to be standin' here so let's keep each other alive." He reaches up to tuck the dogtags back into his vest, along with the ring that hangs from the chain there. He can't have that clinking around when they're trying to run or something. This won't be the most stealthy of survival missions but he doesn't want to draw any more attention to them.

"Lead on, Ivory." Erik cocks his weapon to show he's ready.


'Cornwall' looks at Erik at that nickname. Then he shrugs. "Been called worse." He gets to his feet and starts to move quietly and strategically down the hillside. If Erik has any worries that he's gotten stuck with someone incompetent, he will likely be reassured. There's nothing about his carriage or his movements that suggests either fear or inexperience.

The 'road' they entered on is barely a road at all. There's the occasional stone here or there and tire tracks that appear and disappear into the sand. "The only thing on our side…" he says, keeping his voice low, "…is the hope that this area is newly claimed. Which means they might not know it much better than we do."


"I've said worse." Erik has to throw that quip in there even though he's taking up in step behind the one that knows where they're going. Then again, he was paying attention so he may know where they are going as well. It might just be better to have someone else in front in case of bullets and ambushes. He's still got his eyes on everything around them, though, because he's ready to shoot at shit on sight. "I'll take whatever advantage we can get." Erik's voice lowers to a tone that matches Cornwall's because he's still trying not to be too damn loud. This is a stealth operation of staying alive. "If you can get me to a working jeep, I can get us out of here." He may not know much about this land but he damn sure knows how to get the hell out of it.


"Specifically a jeep? What about a nice hot rod or a classy SUV?" In spite of the situation, Cornwall smiles a bit. "Damn I wish I hadn't lpst my sunglasses back there." He's squinting a lot in the dying light. "Damn near burnt out my corneas earlier."

There's an eerie stillness around them. There's not even a lot of birdsong or animal noises. Instead, everything is still and desolate.

He refers to his watch to keep them pointed in the right direction. "Mhmm. I don't like the shadows and this flat, empty space. But going too far off paths means we risk land mines or worse."


"Motherfucker, if you get me a bicycle, I'll get us out of this." Erik seems almost annoyed at the quipping but his playful anger is used to keep the situation and the conversation as light, but focused, at the same time. They are definitely trying to make sure that their chatter is useful.

"Here." The only time one of his hands is off his gun because he's pulling out a pair of sunglasses from one of his own pockets and stashes on his outfit to hand them up to Cornwall with some relative quickness. He is, of course, wanting to keep the eyes of this escape from burning too much. "Don't lead us to any minefields and you can keep 'em." Erik's focused on listening. It's too damn quiet.


As himself, Michael would say 'cheers,' but his current persona instead drawls, "Thanks." He slips them on to his face. The light is dropping quickly, so he won't have very long to wear them before they're useless. But in the meantime, the polarized lenses help him distinguish shadow from shape.

…though the real reason he wanted glasses is to up the contrast level on his ocular implant and make sure that Erik doesn't notice anything strange about his right eye. Normally he would feel confident the subtle changes wouldn't be noticed, but the dossier he read on the man next to him for mission prep provokes an abundance of caution.

« Rule Britannia, this is Tower Actual. We have a read on your position. »

The text message filters across his vision.

« Advise extreme caution. Drone launched for the mission was shot down approximately one hour ago. HUD overlay in ocular systems is out of date intel, but indicates heat signatures approaching your location. Advise securing defensible position as soon as possible. Mine activity off main road is negligible. Road itself contains mines but should not be triggered by footfalls. »

He makes a soft sound and clucks his tongue, then pushes the sunglasses up on top of his head. He raises his weapon and scans across the horizon. "Let's double-time it. We're losing light fast and my topographic readings…" he waggles his wrist hand, "…aren't showing much cover until we get to the house."


Erik doesn't actually have a comment this time because he's focused on listening in and paying as close attention to the fact that this person knows where they're headed. Which is why he's taking up a quicker step, moving right into double-time to make sure that he doesn't get left behind in this running. He hasn't heard any signs of possible ambushing or doesn't see anything too out of sorts so it's all kind of coming down the pipeline of how to get from one place to the other without getting killed.

Erik's running seems to be only stutter-stepped to make sure that there's no one coming up on the sides of them or anything. He's got his gun and he's trying to make sure he's got it aimed (while running) just in case. Never know when somebody's going to pop up and start shooting.


It seems Michael's intel is good. It takes nearly a half an hour of brisk movement across uneven surfaces before the house looms into view. It's almost completely pitch black. There's no artificial sources of light to be seen in the immediate area - and flashlights would give away their position immediately.

The house is nothing more than a basic structure with a roof that's barely still on. But it's located on top of a small hill with a view of the road. If anyone comes at them, they should see them coming. In the dying light, he makes hand signals to indicate that he's going to sweep the interior and that Erik should check the perimeter.


Erik is good with following hand signaled orders when he wants to. And since he wants to stay alive long enough to get to a cool vehicle and get the hell out of here, he's going to just roll with the punches of the person he let take lead. Besides, Erik's got more guns and probably more field time than whoever this dude is so he's pretty sure checking the perimeter is a better idea for him anyway.

Half-Time kicks in, as opposed to the double time from before, as Erik takes stealthy and silent footsteps, armed and ready for any sort of firefight that may break out. He's just waiting for somebody to cross their path so he can make them stop existing. The perimeter is going to be safe and sound if Erik has anything to say about it.


There's really nothing more to the structure than a defensible position. Inside, it's a dirt floor with a few broken pieces of earthenware. Anything of any value has long since been carted away, including most bits of broken furniture (for firewood) and old grain sacks. Michael sweeps the space with thorough efficiency, then starts to move what detritus he can find to cover up the two paneless windows. Once he's done, he calls out softly, "Clear,"

Outside, there's no sign of life either. There's not even footprints leading from the road to the structure, which suggests this stretch is not well-travelled. Otherwise travellers would no doubt have made use of the structure the same as they have for temporary shelter.



Erik gives his related call back to Cornwall and then he's, for the first time since they survived an attack that he doesn't know much about except that a lot of people died, Erik relaxes. He lets the gun hang down off the strap that's attached it to his shoulder in the first place and he makes his way inside the temporary shelter.

"We'll get this place locked down as tight as we can. I'll take first watch. I'm too wired to sleep anyway." Erik doesn't remove his gun but he does keep it out of the way in favor of using both hands to help with making the structure have one way in and one way out.


Michael's already made good headway on that by the time Erik enters. The place only has two windows and a door, and there's barely enough detritus to secure all three. There's also a conspicuous hole in the roof. However, it's fairly unlikely (though not impossible) that they're be attacked from above.

"Have you checked yourself over for injuries?" he asks as he pretends to struggle with shifting over a heavy piece of door to block the window. He could do it one-handed, but he's fairly adept at not revealing his true strength. What's harder to hide is the bullet holes in his clothes without corresponding bullet holes in flesh.


"I'm still breathin' so I'm fine." Erik doesn't even dare to try and be too worried about whether or not he's injured. He's on pure adrenaline right now so he's more just paying attention to different things and holes in ceilings than he is to whether or not he's injured. "What about you? You ain't gonna' die on me before we make it outta' here, is you?" The question is asked with a bit of a smirk, as if he's already started planning how he's going to do this without him. "I don't like paperwork. An' somethin' tellin' me you dyin' equals paperwork."


"Oh, you have no idea," says Michael dryly. "Although we're both in for a mountain of it to explain what happened back there." He pulls out a handgun and checks his ammo levels. Like with his rifle, he seems like someone who is perfectly comfortable with an instrument of death in his hand. "Bad fucking intel, that's what that was."

He looks down at himself and shakes his head. "May have gotten grazed, but nothing serious." In fact, he took some strafing damage, but nothing was hurt but his clothes.

As he looks at Erik, his HUD helpfully displays a dossier with a laundry list of what the military considers accomplishments. « Keep your wits about you, Rule Britannia. » declares a text message. « This isn't a man to let your guard down around. »


Stevens only seems to be focused on making sure that he's not bleeding out or anything more than that. He does take a moment to roll up one of his sleeves to check a possible arm graze. This reveals a couple of marks on his skin but he doesn't keep that sleeve up long enough to be too much of a hassle because he's paying more attention to Cornwall's words than his own possible pain.

"It happens. We'll deal with the fallout after we get out."


The night is dark and full of leg cramps.

Time passes slowly as they change off on watch duty. Though, Michael never actually sleeps. He can go for a few days quite handily without rest. Still, he takes a few moments of an excuse to close his eyes to review what mission data and topographical surveys Tower Actual sent in to his optical implant.

With the first rays of sun comes movement outside. At first, it's only quiet shuffling, then there's shouting and slamming feet. And then someone launches a grenade right at their front door. They only have a few seconds to dodge before the thing explodes outward.

Good news? It was the opposite side of the structure to where they are. Bad news? That's still pretty fucking close.

He's up and on his feet in seconds, ears ringing with tinnitus, body sprayed with dirt and debris. There's a few more holes in his clothes but no corresponding holes in flesh. He knocks a bit of a hole in the window barricade and fires out at the approaching insurgents. They're coming from all sides. And they're well-armed.



Erik Stevens wasn't asleep but he wasn't on guard duty at the moment when the attack of death came in this particular direction. He gets rocked a few different degrees and tries to get back to his feet as much as he wants to. He gets up, still wobbly and possibly bleeding from the shrapnel that's in his arm. He doesn't feel it though because he's got his gun up and cocked. He's already ignoring the pain enough to get to a different window than his not-chosen partner and he starts firing out of it.

Headshots Only.

He's quiet because he's keeping count with the way his lips are moving even in silence. Somewhere in between blowing off someone's head he has a chance to say something else, "We gotta' move. /Now/." He's hoping this dude can figure out the best path to getting them the hell out of here. He's got the kill count rising so he can cut a path if he needs to but there may be other options.


If Michael, aka Cornwall is shaken by the situation, he doesn't let on. He's cool, calm, collected, even as the insurgents get closer. He reloads his rifle in a brief moment of quiet, then swings it around a half-second before a man appears at the rubble-blown wall.

Only headshots? He can do that.

It helps when your HUD tracks movement and sends a signal of when to fire and how to align your rifle perfectly. Even without that assistance, he'd be almost superhumanly accurate. He ducks out of the hole and gets a bullet in the arm for his trouble. Or…a ricochet to the arm that tears a hole in his shirt. "All right, here's what we're going to do. I'm bulletproof, so you're going to stand behind me. And we're going to clear a path and make for the road." His American accent is still in place, but it slips a little when he says, "Got me?" He looks to try and catch Erik's gaze for a split-second to judge the other man's reaction to that admission.



Erik's expression is only shocked for long enough for him to take another person's head off which makes him forget all about the revelation that has just happened. Of course, though, he's pulling up and away from the window in the next moment and looking as together with this idea as he can figure out. "Say no more, fam." He's definitely willing to just jump into the mix with whatever plan of attack that this bulletproof (allegedly) person is positing.

"After we get the hell outta' this? I wanna' know everything." Yeah, Erik Stevens wants to know what the hell he's working with.


"Fair enough," says Michael with the intonation of a man not really thinking past the next ten minutes. He pats his back in an invitation for Erik to place a hand there so he can check his pace and make sure that his human shield doesn't accidentally leave him behind.

He pulls out a small cannister that looks like a grenade at first blush, but he twists it in a way grenades are not meant to be twisted. "Smoke bomb," he calls back, "But it only affects visibility. I can still make targets through the smoke. We'll clear it within two minutes, and then you'll be able to fire. When I pivot, you stay behind me. Got it?"

And without waiting for full confirmation, Michael lets the smoke bomb loose. It puffs up quickly with a great plume, to the shouts of the insurgents.

What happens next is likely a disconcerting experience for Erik. If he does as he's told, he'll find himself in a sort of dance with Michael as the agent swivels in response to blindly firing men to make sure they either dodge, or that the bullet hits him instead of the other man. True to his word, the smoke starts to clear right at the two minute mark. Erik will see that they're at the road, and he's got a clear shot of five men who just came out into the open when the smoke started to billow.


Erik is doing two things at this moment. The most important being that he's memorizing and learning. He's committing to memory the way that Cornwall acts, moves and it only takes him a couple of steps to have the dance down pat. He's a very fast learner and he's always willing to add more moves to his arsenal and his various ways to handle being surrounded. He does all this with eyes closed and one hand on Cornwall's shoulder.

He's been counting, his eyes open at the two minute mark and he immediately brings his gun up. He doesn't even hesitate. In fact, he almost seems to smile as he cocks his weapon and just steps right out of time with Cornwall's movements and onto the road. He takes single shots this time that are aimed at kidney areas, faces, skulls and chests. He's not even going to make any quips. He's just going to kill each of these five bastards that are in the way of them getting the hell out of here. Erik doesn't even wait for the last one to fall before he glances over his shoulder with a quick word, "Clear."


Sure, Michael could have raised his weapon to help Erik take out those men. But after their smoke dance, and being caught unawares, he calculates that the man who goes by Killmonger would appreciate a little quick and bloody revenge. He's been there, himself.

"Let's move," he says, as he breaks into a light jog towards the road.


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