Canyon:The Traveler Series Book Two

By: Tom Abrahams


JANUARY 3, 2020, 2:31 PM



The IED ruptured without warning, blasting pieces of pipe, shards of glass, ball bearings, red fur, and carpenter screws into three of the six soldiers on patrol near Abdul Wahhab Agha Hospital on the city’s western edge.

The concussion blew Captain Marcus Battle from his feet, slapping the back of his helmet on the cratered pavement of Assultan Suliaman Alqunoony Avenue. He was dazed, a sharp ringing in his ears overpowering his thoughts.

For an instant, as he stared into the cloudless pale blue sky, he thought he was in Killeen, lying in the grass with Sylvia. Almost as quickly as the delusion formed, it evaporated. The muted sounds of shrieks and pained screams accompanied the high-pitched tone of the ringing.

He rolled over onto his side, facing the spot where the tattered Elmo doll had exploded. Two of his comrades were on their feet, tending to what was left of the other three. Then he saw one of them spasm. He shuddered, his head snapped backward, and he went limp in a spray of red.

The second soldier dropped to his chest, quickly engaging his HK416 rifle, thumping random targets as he searched for the source of the gunfire and took two shots in his left leg.

Battle, still dazed, rolled over and found his HK416 on the ground next to him. He dragged it into position, pulled himself to one knee, and started firing.

He couldn’t hear and could barely focus, he didn’t know who was dead or alive, but he stood and started moving toward the gunfire. Bullets whizzed past his head and ricocheted off the ground around him. He took one in the side that slugged his Kevlar. It knocked him back for a second and felt like a thick punch to his gut. Battle kept moving forward, fully exposed, until he emptied the thirty-round magazine and found some protection behind the overturned charred frame of a pickup truck.

“Battle!” the wounded soldier called during a momentary lapse in gunfire. He’d managed to find adequate protection behind a concrete road barrier, having dragged himself there with one good leg. “I’m pinned. The others are gone. Get out of here. Try to find us help.”

Battle couldn’t hear him. The dog whistle piercing his ears hadn’t subsided. At least his vision was clearing. He exchanged magazines and looked through the holes in the truck’s frame. Behind him was a three-story building. Most of the windows were shattered or cracked, but he couldn’t tell from which spot the sniper was taking shots. Battle looked back toward his patrol partner. It was only a matter of minutes and he’d be dead. He couldn’t leave him.

Battle, his back pressed against the underside of the truck frame, said a prayer and spun around free of the truck. He aimed up at the building and pulled the trigger, releasing a quick burst for cover. He dashed across a short field of debris to the building’s entrance and bolted through. He found himself inside a narrow concrete stairwell that stank of urine.

Battle bounced up the first flight of stairs, and feeling the vibration of gunfire against the stair rail, he knew it was coming from a higher floor. He pressed his eyes closed against a searing headache and clenched his jaw as he climbed the second flight of steps. He stood still and felt the vibrations of the gunfire, unable to distinguish from which direction they were coming.

He was about to move to the third floor when, through the ringing, he heard a garbled, guttural-sounding discussion between two men. They were on the second floor. No doubt.

Battle stood to the left of the door, his back against the wall, and with his left hand pulled on the handle to swing the door wide open. He guessed he had maybe twenty-five rounds left in the magazine. He took a deep breath, spun the handle, and moved into the open doorway with his HK416 leveled at whatever waited on the other side.

Nobody was there. It was an empty hallway. It was dark, except at the far left end. From the corner of his eyes, he saw movement in that light. An open door led to the two men unleashing the barrage onto his fellow soldier.

The men were preoccupied with reloading what looked to Battle like a Kalashnikov AK-103-4. One of them was pacing back and forth with a pair of binoculars. He was pointing wildly and yelling at the other man, who was manually loading a new clip. That explained the long pauses between volleys. Behind them was a window devoid of glass and an armoire pressed up against it they were using for cover.

This was his chance.

Battle took another deep breath and took off in a full sprint. As he bounded along the hallway, yelling at the top of his lungs, he tapped the trigger.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

The spotter turned to face Battle as the bullets slapped into his chest. He dropped the binoculars and stumbled backward. Battle pressed the trigger again as he reached the open doorway.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

The second volley found the man’s neck, throwing him against the corner of the room in a violent heap. Battle burst into the room, shifted his momentum, and slid toward the dead spotter. To his right, the shooter was still on one knee, trying to engage the magazine. He was too late. Battle held down the trigger.

Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!

The bullets tore through the shooter, rattling his body as they knocked him onto his back. Battle lowered his weapon, aiming it directly at the shooter’s head, and tapped the trigger for good measure.

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