Prologue

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Falluja, February 3rd 2009

"Man down! Medic!"

"Where the fuck are Recon?"

David moaned from the floor. Both Ryan and Chris were pushing down on their friends' chest. Chris wiped the blood from his eye protection as he looked down at his injured friend. "Shut up man, save your strength." Incoming small arms fire cracked over their heads then moved down into the base of the ditch that they took cover in. The dust that was kicked up all around them made it hard to see enemy movements.

Instinctively they tried to get down lower, waiting for a lull before returning their own fire. Ryan was on his radio. "Charlie Company, we have a man down. I say again man down. Our co-ordinates are..."

Chris turned and started shooting back, recklessly throwing himself over the top of the ditch. The deafening thump of the machine gun drowned out all other noise. Ryan looked over the top to where Chris was aiming. He tapped Chris's helmet and pointed; three men with rifles were running towards them from their left.

"Three O'clock!" Ryan shouted. Chris tried to move the gun, but its awkward size hampered his movement.

Ryan leaned over his friend, pinning Chris to the dirt and let loose three rounds. He scanned the area to his left; none of the men were moving.

Changing his magazine was almost second nature to Ryan now, he shouted over to Chris as he did it "What's our co-ords bud?"

Chris let loose another round before replying. "David's got the Magellan."

Ryan took another look in the direction the three men had come from. It looked all clear. "You okay, dude?"

David gritted his teeth. "Yeah, man. Finding it fucking hard to breathe though." He tried to sit up but Ryan pushed him back down.

"Stay down, dude. We got this." He fished the Magellan out from David's combat vest. "Fuck! It's in bits."

Chris looked down. "Fuck! Get back on comms and ask where Recon are. We need to find them, Ryan. We're fucked otherwise."

Ryan clicked the mic, still watching his friend's back. No movements could be seen in his sector. "Charlie Company, Charlie Company. This is Private Ryan Butler. We have a man down. I repeat, we have a man down. We need immediate evac. Over."

The speaker burst into life. "Roger, Private Butler. What was your last known position?"

Ryan whacked Chris on the back. "Our last check point was 'Blue 2' right?" Chris thumped a few more rounds into the buildings in front of him, before leaning to the side to get out his map.

"Here, I checked them off as we went. Hurry up, Ryan. Davey Boy looks like shit." Chris turned back to the buildings, almost daring anything to move.

Ryan scanned the map. Charlie Company and Recon were to take Route Blue, up to Point Four. He remembered all that from the brief before all of this had started. He followed it with his finger, noticing the cross of points Chris had marked. He looked up.

"Fuck! Movement to my right!" He got back onto the radio. "Charlie Company, we are on Stage Two on Route Blue. Over."

Chris didn't look back before shouting at his friend. "Deal with it, Ryan. I'm busy here!" He let off yet again another round. "That'll keep their fuckin' heads down."

Ryan steadied his breathing. A man was crawling over bombed out rubble and Ryan couldn't tell if he was armed or not. "Just move away, man. No need to come any closer. Move the fuck away!"

His finger pushed gently against the trigger as the man continued crawling closer, keeping low to the rubble. He could hear Chris letting loose another round behind him and shouting something at the recipients.

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