Chapter I: Visitors
Camp Zion: Front Door
Everything seemed to be in a fog, voices were distant, disconnected and chaotic. The pain wasn’t though, the pain was very real. It penetrated his entire body, it covered him like a wet suit that was a size too small. The pain smothered him, making it difficult to see anything beyond that very moment. It caused his head to spin and made his gut tighten up, as if it was preparing to evacuate everything that was residing within it.
Slowly, thoughts started to reform in his mind, like puzzle pieces finding their place. He was in a car, the shooting, the crash, Reyna and Trigger were hurt. Reyna! Where is she? How is she? As he opened his eyes, they were immediately assaulted by bright sunlight. Instinctively shutting them, Jay tried to raise his right hand to shade his eyes before a second attempt at opening them. His arm hurt, but no more than the rest of his body. Squinting his eyes he tried to open them once again. He could see some people moving around quickly, as they continued to shout over each other. Their bodies where covered in various forms of camouflage and their faces were black as night. The effects of the crash combined with the pain made it difficult for Jay to organize his thoughts and piece back his memories. He turned his head as he heard some of the military clad men approaching him.
“This one is alive,” Voice One said, almost sounding disappointed.
“What about the girl?” Voice Two asked.
“Not good, pulse is weak, there’s a lot of blood. Won’t really know until I get her back and check her out,” Voice One replied.
“Wait, we’re taking them back?” Asked a third voice, sounding a little younger than the other two.
“The girl here had a note from Grandma, so yeah, we’re taking them back,” Voice Two answered with a hint of aggressive authority in his voice.
Jay tried to reach out to one of them, extending his arm in the direction of the voices, “Reyna, is she okay? Will she be okay?”
Voice One, calmly grabbed Jay’s arm and placed it back down, resting it on Jay’s chest, “Just relax buddy. Your wife will be okay, we’ll get her patched up. Just rest up, ‘cause we have a lot of questions for you.” Voice One paused for a second as he turned his head and yelled out, “Tommy! Get over here and help me with these two, we don’t have much time.”
Jay laid back as another man, presumably Tommy, ran over to help. Once Tommy arrived Jay could feel hands reach under his armpits and another set of hands grab both feet as the two men attempted to pick him up. The moment that his legs were moved, pain shot through him like a lightning bolt through his veins, setting every nerve ending on fire. The pain sliced upwards from his left shin up his left leg as he screamed out in pain.
“Put him down!” Voice One yelled out, “Looks like his leg is broken. Go get the truck and bring it over here, we’ll load both of them onto the back of the truck.” Voice One paused for a moment, then leaned down and directed his comments towards Jay, who was now laying there with his left forearm over his eyes, trying to will the pain to pass. “Sorry about that, I didn’t notice your leg was broken. Don’t worry, we’ll load you and your wife up and get you back to the camp where the doc can fix you up,” the voice paused for a moment before yelling out again, "Tommy, get the dog, we're taking him too."
Jay laid back, his head pounding, as he heard a truck rumbling towards him. Voices started to overlap as sounds began to distort and disfigure in his mind. Laying back on the ground, eyes closed, he could see Reyna standing in front of him as clear as day. She wore a simple, yet elegant, white flowing dress. Her dark hair fell softly upon her shoulders as she smiled and turned towards him. With both hand she motioned to him, like a mother would motion to her child to join her. He felt the pain in his leg fade as the desire to join Reyna increased, as everything started to melt away into silence and darkness.
Thirty Minutes Prior
Front Door Overwatch
ARC pulled back from his sighting scope and picked up his handheld Ham radio, “Front Door to Zion, come in over.”
“This is Zion, go ahead Front Door,” a voice crackled in response over the handset.
“Zion, this is Front Door, we’ve got two fast movers approaching. How copy?” ARC asked before looking through the scope again checking the distance before reading off the data for the shooter lying next to him, “When they reach the white rock they will be fifteen hundred meters out, wind is one minute, full value from three to nine o'clock.”
Without saying anything, the shooter who was laying prone on the ground reached up to their scope, keeping their cheek welded solid to the rifle stock, they turned the knob on top of the scope to make the needed MOA adjustments to compensate for the increase in crosswind.
“Front Door, this is Adam. What's the status on those fast movers?"
"Adam, this is Front Door, they are determined. They don't seem to be slowing down any. Hold one,” ARC looked through his spotting scope once again as he heard gun fire ring out from the lead car. Once he confirmed that the car in front was shooting at the second car, he quickly got back on the radio, "Adam, this is Front Door, fast mover one is firing on fast mover two. How copy?"
“Front Door, this is Adam, do you have a strike team nearby?"
"Copy Adam, Strike Team Axe is here,” ARC looked again through the scope and called out, one thousand meters and closing, wind is the same."
“Front Door, send Team Axe, you and Angel keep overwatch. Angel has the ball,” Adam said before cutting off communication, leaving the Ham radio empty of life.
Knowing there was no time to waste, ARC patted the shooter on the back as he said, "You got the ball, make the shots count. I'm going down to inform Axe and his team, I'll be right back." He did a backwards belly crawl of sorts to back out from their hide. Once clear, he stood up and hopped down from the rock outcropping and signaled the Team Leader of the strike team to come on over.
Axe was a big guy, at one time he had made a living as a long-haul truck driver. In his younger years, he signed up with the Army right after high school, but after one rotation he realized that the regimented lifestyle was not for him. He had no real family, except the brothers he got in the service. When he got discharged, he pooled all the money he had been saving up and used it for a down payment on a Mack CH613 sleeper truck. After three decades of driving from one side of the country to the other and back again, he had carved out a nice savings account for himself.
Approaching his sixties, he had bought some land in Montana and planned on living out the rest of his days alone. When the lights went out, it didn't really affect him, he was already self-sufficient, but when the President stood there and said America was gone, well that did affect him. He had fallen in love with this nation he had spent years criss-crossing, even with all of its quirks and imperfections. Now, many years after taking his uniform off for what he thought was the last time, Axe was the team leader of his own QRF strike team.
"Hey Axe, I need your team to intercept two fast movers approaching our front door. I'm staying here with Angel, we'll have your back," ARC said as he half-walked, half-jogged over towards Axe.
"Roger that,” Axe responded in his typical gruff, short manner.
Axe turned and quickly made his way back to where the eight other team members that made up his strike force were waiting. Strike Team Axe was a nine man team counting Axe. "Listen up, we’ve got two fast movers inbound, we have to move now!" Axe hopped on his dirt bike and started it up, swinging his M-16 around so it was slung across his back allowing him full control of the bike. Once it was started, he raised his right index finger, pointing it straight up, he moved it in a quick circular motion, a signal to the rest of his team to roll out.
"ARC Angel to Axe, how copy over?” ARC asked calling into the handset.
"Lima Charlie Zion,” Axe responded.
"Copy, Lima Charlie. Be advised, fast mover Alpha just crashed into a ditch, fast mover Bravo has three confirmed Tangos. Angel will take Tangos on your call,” ARC answered back.
"Copy, fast mover one is down, fast mover two has three confirmed Tangos. Give me thirty seconds then send it down range. Echo team will clean up, Echo one out."
ARC put down the radio, peered through the scope and called out his final readings before starting a thirty second countdown in his mind. Once he reached zero he spoke up, "Send it when ready."
Angel pulled the trigger on the FNH .338 Lapua rifle, sending the copper jacketed round down range on an intercept course with its mortal target. Without hesitation, and as smooth as breathing, Angel lifted the bolt up and back as the action ejected the spent .338 brass and prepared a new round to be inserted. Then following the same motions, though in reverse, the bolt was pushed forward setting the new round, before the bolt was pulled downward, locking it into position.
The concussion of the round being fired hit ARC in the chest like an invisible wave. Despite the pulse of energy that just rocked him, ARC remained steady and professional, staying on task and keeping the shooter informed, "Hit. Wind steady, Tango two in range." Again the wave of expanding gasses from the controlled explosion inside the rifle’s action rushed up against ARC's body as the force again punched him in the chest causing him to unconsciously flinch, ”Hit. Strike team at target location. Hold for new target."
Angel, listening to her spotter, pulled the bolt up then back ejecting the spent .338 Lapua brass out onto the rock outcropping. The hollowed brass shell made a distinctive sound as it bounced twice on the rocky surface then rolled until it stopped at a crack in the rock just six inches from the shooter and two inches away from the previously ejected brass. Angel pulled her cheek away from the rifle stock momentarily to visually find the two spent shells before reaching over with her right hand, grabbing them and without looking, placed them both in her right thigh pants pocket. Like any good sniper, she knew the importance of picking up her brass.
It was back when she was a much younger girl, the Olympic Winter Games were being played in Salt Lake City, practically her back yard. Even at her age she knew that this was something special, so she begged and begged her father until he agreed to take her to one of the events. It was by dumb luck that they ended up at the woman's Biathlon event. Skiing, or in this case cross-country skiing, was nothing new to Angel, she lived in Utah after all, but the cumbersome combination of shooting a rifle and skiing added a new excitement. It took another year of begging, but finally her parents caved in and got her a rifle, with one caveat, that she took shooting lessons and learned how to properly shoot.
Sometimes things just come naturally to people, in the case of Angel and shooting a rifle, it was as natural as breathing. Within two years of getting her first rifle she was competing in Amateur Long Range Prone Rifle competitions and winning, a lot. It was during these early years that she was introduced to Alberto Richard Christian, but everyone just calls him ARC. Originally the call sign ARC was in reference to Noah's Ark because Alberto was so old, but when he joined up with Angel to be her trainer and spotter, the two person team received the ominous call sign, ARC Angel.
ARC was a former Olympian himself, finishing 16th in the Men's Biathlon, and after seeing Angel shoot immediately offered to be her coach and spotter. Instantly, ARC, Angel and her family became good friends and all spent a lot of time together. They were together at Angel’s house preparing for their last meet before the Olympic trials when the lights went out. At first, like the rest of the nation, they thought they would just wait it out. However, after a week and a half they realized that staying put wasn't an option. Thinking that things were getting too dangerous in their neighborhood, and that things couldn't be any worse on the road, ARC, Angel, her parents and younger brother packed up their essentials.
By the time they found the Zion group only ARC and Angel were left alive. What happened to her parents and her little brother is still unknown. Since the day they were rescued Angel hadn't spoken more than a dozen words and ARC refuses to talk about it. The only thing that is really known is that ARC Angel are one of the deadliest protectors that Camp Zion has and that the two refuse to be separated.
Looking through his spotting scope ARC picked up the radio, "Wrap it up Axe. I don't like sitting out here after so many shots have been fired. I’m getting an uneasy feeling, like when Highwaymen are lurking.”
A second or two passed before Axe responded, "Copy. The two unknowns are banged up good. We're loading them in the truck now then we're heading home. Do you see any movement? Any Highwaymen?”
"Nothing yet, but I don't want to be here when they show up. We'll cover your exfil then rendezvous back at Camp. If there are any Highwaymen the Ravens can deal with them.”
"Copy that. Axe out,” Axe clipped the radio back onto his vest before turning back to his team, "Alright, let's get them loaded up and get the Hell out of here."
The team’s time at the target site was well spent. Everyone on the team had a job and they completed their assignments with tactical precision. Some were assigned to gather intel from the dead bodies and cars, others rigged the cars to blow. This way if they missed something important it wouldn't be left behind in any usable condition. Finally the third group attended to medical needs if there were any. With all the tasks completed and the two visitors and their dog loaded up, Axe and his team was ready to blow it and roll.