Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 20
Rescue and Attack

Chapter Twenty: Rescue and Attack

 

Highway Two

Sonolovichyrevko, Rivymiyitevko

October 24, 2008 0210 Rivymiyitevko time (0010 Krakozhian time)

 

Lieutenant Dimitar Kezhanka yawned for what he felt was the hundredth time as he waited for dawn to break over Rivymiyitevko. His body wanted to return to the sleep rudely interrupted by the tank driver, but he knew that it was his turn on watch duty. If only I had some coffee, he thought. Even that kolkhoz bullshit would suffice right now.

 

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw something move in the bushes lining Highway Two. He quickly manned the machine gun on the turret, aimed it at the bushes, and shouted the day's challenge. "Oxygen!"

 

"Dinner plate!" was the reply. Kezhanka waved over whoever it was in bushes. It turned out to be two flyboys from the Air Force, still clad in the drab olive flight suits and matte black helmets that were facsimiles of the tanker uniforms worn by men like Kezhanka.

 

"You must be from that bombing sortie that kept me and my gunner awake, and gave my driver an adrenaline rush," he told them.

 

"That sums it up perfectly," replied one of the flyboys, whose name patch said ISLENIN. "There were supposed to be four of us, but our pilot and copilot were captured by the rebels before we could meet up with them."

 

"Where were they last, Comrade?"

 

"Yutsky Prospect, Comrade. Why?"

 

Kezhanka leaned back on the turret hatch. "Okay," he said. "I'll see if there are any other units here that can take you to Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base, and then we'll worry about your pilot and copilot."

 

Yutsky Prospect

Sonolovichyrevko, Rivymiyitevko

That same time

 

Major Abdullah Nestorovich Haruyenko was in a daze.

 

He remembered pulling the ejection lever that got him out of his doomed bomber. He remembered landing hard on an empty street in the middle of Sonolovichyrevko, and that the first living things that he saw there were stray dogs feeding on another dog's carcass. He had shooed a mouse that was trying to eat the soles of his boots, and then extricated himself from his ejection seat with great difficulty. He remembered that he was supposed to meet the rest of his crew at a secret location known only to them, but he and Lamitalovsky—whom he met after getting out of his seat—were captured by the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement before they could get there. What he couldn't remember was what he told his captors during his interrogation. He knew what he was supposed to say—name, rank, serial number, and mat—but after a rifle butt hit his right temple, he couldn't trust himself anymore. That was what was putting him in a daze.

 

Through the fog blanketing his eyes, he watched as two rebels unceremoniously threw Lamitalovsky into his cell, or whatever place he was being held at right now. The Captain staggered for a while before crawling to a place beside Haruyenko. "Jamal," he said. "Jamal Aliyevich, what did I tell them?"

 

"Don't worry, Abdullah, you've told them nothing that would jeopardize the Krakozhian force in Rivymiyitevko," replied Lamitalovsky.

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Yes. I was there, you know, along with two other flyboys."

 

Haruyenko groaned. "Please tell me that they haven't captured Georgiy and Nikita, too."

 

"No. At least, not yet. But they came from the same flight as ours."

 

"Ah, that is good to know."

 

The two were silent for a few minutes, until Haruyenko finally broke it. "It's my fault, you know," he said, "us getting shot down."

 

"What are you talking about?" asked Lamitalovsky.

 

"It got to me, Jamal. I wasn't thinking clearly. Mikhail Mikhailovich had just lost his son on the ground during the attack at Sevenivov, and then he himself was killed. I mean, some of those rebels had to die, right?" He almost said bastards, but he held his tongue in time.

 

"Well, life's like that. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I know it's a bitch to accept, but it's the truth."

 

"So, do we have any chance of escaping this…place?"

 

"There are guards at every corridor in here. We're lucky if we live after taking the first step. But, I think I have a way out." Lamitalovsky took the canteen on his belt and opened it, revealing that instead of water or vodka, it contained a portable tracking device. "I had a friend in the KGB give this to me as a favor," he told Haruyenko after explaining how the device worked.

 

Suddenly, the door to their cell opened, and two more Air Force personnel were thrown in with them. Haruyenko immediately recognized one of the men. "Hey!" he said. "Your name is Aleksandrov, right?"

 

"Yes, Comrade Major," he replied. "And to answer your next question, I told them, "yob' tvoyu mat'!'"

 

Haruyenko adjusted his position to a more comfortable one. "How are you feeling?" he asked Aleksandrov.

 

"I feel fine, Comrade Major," he replied. "Besides, God is with us. I know it."

 

Outside Sonolovichyrevko, Rivymiyitevko

0630 Rivymiyitevko time (0430 Krakozhian time)

 

"Are you sure you don't want to come with us, Gavrina?" asked Lev Arigov. "You're missing out on all of the fun!"

 

"Come on, Lev, we both know where the real fun is!"

 

Lev and Gavrina, along with their respective squads, were onboard two different Mil Mi-8 Hips. Gavrina was on the Hip from the battleship Rivymiyitevko, while Lev, who had lost his ride during the Battle of Sevenivov, was riding on a Hip borrowed from the Army Air Corps. Both were part of a huge air armada that was carrying most of the Krakozhian Third Army, which was charging its way to Sonolovichyrevko to commence the final battle in the Rivymiyitevko campaign.

 

"Most of our forces have been tasked to the charge," said Arigov. "There won't be much in the way of support where you're going."

 

"We can take care of ourselves," replied Kumilyova. "See you later."

 

The Spetsnaz Hip banked to the right, breaking off from the rest of the formation. Through the small circular viewport beside her, Kumilyova could see a flight of MiG-29s and Q-5s roar their way to the capital of Rivymiyitevko, possibly to mop up the targets that the bombers failed to totally disable or were not able to hit last night. Below, a huge column of tanks, troop transports, and mobile artillery was making its way into the city via Highway Two. Such a large mass of friendly forces could really help her team in their mission, but they were about to leave all that behind.

 

"ETA to target building is two minutes," said the pilot. The signal from Lamitalovsky's "canteen" was like a shining beacon to the satellite that Krakozhia had managed to place in the sky on the back of a Russian Energia rocket, and this satellite fed the information to the radar system on the orbiting Beriev A-50 AWACS, who then guided the Spetsnaz team to the location.

 

Unfortunately for them, while the target itself was clear, the way to it was not. "RPG!" shouted the pilot, the copilot, the crew chief, and both gunners. The pilot began taking the helicopter through a series of dizzying maneuvers, trying to avoid the rocket-propelled grenades as fast as they came. Finally, after a minute, they burst out of the gauntlet unharmed.

 

That was exciting, thought Kumilyova. "Are we still on track to the target?" she asked the pilot.

 

"More or less, Comrade," he replied. "Thirty seconds!"

 

Soon enough, the target building was in view. The starboard gunner readied his weapon, and then he fired at the rebels on the rooftop, downing all three in a single burst. The pilot circled once before landing on the rooftop. "We're clear!" he shouted. "Go, go, go!"

 

Haruyenko was watching the two rebels guarding them bring in some bread and water when he heard shots being fired inside the building where they were being held. And then, one of the flyboys, a young man named Potapenko, got up tackled both guards, who had been startled by the shots. Potapenko picked up one of the rifles that they dropped and then ran out of the room. "Yakov, wait!" he managed to shout, but he was too late.

 

The major got out just in time to see Potapenko strafing the rebels at the end of the hallway. Suddenly, a rebel popped out of an adjacent room and shot Potapenko in the chest. Everything then seemed to slow down for Haruyenko again. He picked up Potapenko's rifle, and then, while cradling the injured man in one arm, fired a burst at the rebel.

 

The sounds had become lower, as if someone had adjusted the volume and then dunked him in a pool of water. Through the rapid beating of his heart and the ragged breathing of Potapenko, he heard a voice say the words, "Red October!" Although he knew the reply to the challenge, his mind took a whole year to transmit the necessary signals to make his mouth and tongue move and give the reply. His first attempt didn't come out well, either. Although he thought he heard himself say, "Corruption," the one who gave the challenge asked him to repeat. In a louder and more forced voice, he said, "Corruption!"

 

A female Spetsnaz trooper wearing the black suit of the force moved into Haruyenko's view. The face looked very familiar, as if he had seen it many years ago, but he couldn't be sure, as the adrenaline in his system had clouded his vision literally. He could see her lips moving to form words, but he couldn't hear what she was saying. He felt hands grab his shoulders, and then he was being shaken hard. Suddenly, everything began to speed up, his sight returned to normal, and then he could finally hear the Spetsnaz soldier shouting, "We have to go now, sir! We don't have a lot of time left!"

 

"Uh, yes, of course," he replied. "Jamal, help me with Yakov!" he told Lamitalovsky, who took hold of his legs while Haruyenko handled his arms. Together, they followed their rescuers to freedom, while a confused and sleepy Aleksandr Aleksandrov brought up the rear. With great difficulty, Abdullah and Jamal loaded their injured charge into the helicopter, hauled themselves in, and then helped Aleksandrov in. Under a great hail of gunfire, the Hip took off for safer surroundings.

 

Above Highway Two

That same time

 

"Get ready for a little jolt, comrades!" shouted the pilot of the Army Air Corps Hip.

 

Suddenly, the bridge underneath the helicopter exploded and collapsed, taking with it three BMP-1 troop carriers. A pair of MiG-29s—obviously the ones who had fired the shots that destroyed the bridge—made a pass over the bridge, which had a bridge-laying vehicle already at work on the gap.

 

"That was some little jolt," Arigov muttered as the helicopter passed through the jets' wake turbulences.

 

"We're coming to our landing zone," said the pilot. "Get ready to deploy!"

 

Their landing zone was actually the parking lot of a rest stop located just off of the highway. As he got out, Arigov watched a tank that had managed to surmount the antitank ditch dug around the city crush a car like a tin can. He didn't think of the result had there been a driver inside the car.

 

He gave a thumbs-up to the pilot, who returned the gesture, saluted, and then lifted off of the parking lot. Arigov and his men were now alone; although there were a lot of helicopters dispatching their troops to different parts of the city, the wide open expanses of Sonolovichyrevko were enough to make a person feel small.

 

Arigov and his men had a single, simple objective: clear as many buildings of entrenched rebels as possible. And what looked like a heavily defended structure was right in front of them. "To the restaurant!" he ordered. The restaurant in question was the same heavily defended structure that he had seen earlier, and a direct or frontal attack against the structure was definitely out of the question. He needed to distract them so that he can flank them. "Lay as much covering fire on that restaurant as you can!" he said. "Maria, get some guys, and get ready to run to the building beside the restaurant when I tell you to!"

 

"What? Why me?"

 

"Hey, that's an order!" Lev fired a burst from his UMP-45 submachine gun. "Concentrate your fire on the front of that thing!" he shouted. "Maria, when I tell you, run for that building and flank them! And, go! Comrades, lay some covering fire!"

 

"Why do I always have to flank the enemy?" Maria asked herself as she ran for the building beside the restaurant, followed by a few soldiers foolhardy enough to join in the attack. She reached the wall of the building, and she pressed her back to it, and this was immediately imitated by the other soldiers. She crept towards the restaurant wall facing them, through which she could see that the rebels had not seen her or any of the others. Their attention was still focused to their front, where they were taking the most fire. She took a grenade, ordered the others to do the same, pulled the safety pin, and then threw it through the shattered glass of the restaurant. That seemed to make the rebels aware of the fact that their enemy was not stupid enough to be pinned down in front of them, and they began pouring lead at Atolova and her men, but just as they did, the grenades blew up, showering both sides with deadly shrapnel. After the initial shock of the blast, they recovered and fired back. But now that their attention was divided between two foes, Arigov was able to move a little closer to the restaurant, and he used his new position to blanket the restaurant in lead. Finally, the last burst from an enemy rifle was fired, and the restaurant fell silent.

 

"That was exciting," said Maria through the broken window to the side.

 

"I know, right?" asked Lev.

 

Suddenly, machine gunfire opened up on them, forcing Lev to duck. From his crouching position, he could see that it came from an armored column on the street; specifically, a GAZ-3937 Vodnik, a V-150 Commando, and a BMP-1. And then, while the Vodnik's gunner was busy reloading his weapon, two rockets came from nowhere and struck the vehicle. In revenge, the Commando's turret turned around and began firing at the Krakozhians. "Govno!" shouted Lev. "We need air support!" He immediately ordered the squad's radioman to do it. "I have two Hinds on the way," he told him after finishing his transmission. And then, as if on cue, two Hind gunships appeared from the north and began strafing the Commando and BMP-1 with antitank missiles. The Commando went up in a great fireball, but the BMP went through its flaming wreckage as if it was nothing. "Turn those Hinds back!" shouted Arigov. He knew from prior experience that gunships only attacked once during the beginnings of large battles. But before the radioman could put the microphone to his mouth, the Hinds turned around and fired everything they had at the BMP, which finally blew up, spitting out fire and debris.

 

Elsewhere, in other parts of Sonolovichyrevko, scenes like the one that had just occurred with Lev and Maria were being repeated, some with variations, but otherwise with the same conclusion: the defeat of the rebels. That night, Konstantin Benin would appear on television to assure the citizens of Sonolovichyrevko that they were safe, that the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement Armed Forces would expel the Communists from their land, not knowing that it would be the last time that he would be seen, for immediately after leaving the stage, the broadcast was interrupted, and famous Telekrakozhia newscaster Aglaya Borisova replaced Benin on the screen and proclaimed the return of The People's Television to the People.

 

The Siege of Sonolovichyrevko had begun.

 

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