Author's notes: Hello loyal fans I know I'm still not done with a few other fanfics for gunslinger girls but I've had this in the planning stages for a while and I figure I need to get going on it. I'm working on a few other fanfics but with work and all it can be hectic. Well here we go a cross between one of my favorite animes and one of my favorite video games. Gunslinger Girl and Battlefield Bad Company. Enjoy and please review.
ITALY, outside Rome.
Preston Marlow looked through the scope of his assault rifle. The building he saw through the thick brush and trees looked very old, he'd almost think it was some kind of monastery from the architecture. It probably was until it was bought by the Italian government. He turned to an adjacent building it looked very new, state of the art kind of new; Sweetwater could probably figure it out. The second building was about five stories high with a glassy exterior shimmering in the late morning sun, an odd counterpart to the rustic old relic nearby. The two buildings just didn't fit together; Preston decided he liked the older one better.
"That second building looks like a medical facility Sarge," said Sweetwater, crouching to Preston's right. "I've seen the design before, very popular in the EU." Sweetwater might have been able to talk a bullet into most people's heads, but he did come in handy. So handy in fact, that if he'd learn to stop griping he really wouldn't be so bad. He'd even look more soldierly if he'd just wear contacts instead of the birth control government issued glasses; the kind Clark Kent would wear.
"EU... What kind of geek talk is that?" asked Haggard to Preston's left. Haggard was a classic hillbilly. He refused to shave, wore a stocking cap instead of a Kevlar helmet like Preston and Sweetwater. Haggard's tactless gung-ho attitude toward blowing things up (enemy and friendly) earned him the coveted craziest soldier in BAD COMPANY; US Army 222nd Battalion, B-Company. Despite being reckless, his coolness under fire and encyclopedic knowledge of explosives makes him an invaluable asset in combat.
"European Union, Haggs!" Sweetwater growled in reply, actually with his voice it came off sounding like a high pitched whine than a growl. Sweetwater's fussy demeanor was annoying but somewhat understandable. He had joined the US Army for the college opportunities and benefits; with his intelligence and computer skills he figured he'd be kept in the rear with the gear (where he liked it). But then he accidentally infected a secured military network, which he wasn't supposed to be accessing in the first place, with a virus. Before he knew it he was dodging bullets and mortars in Bad Company, surrounded by people he was sure were just as likely to kill him as the enemy. B Company of the 222nd Battalion was the army's junk yard, it was where they put all their misfits and trouble makers deemed expendable by the high command. A lot of the boys of Bad Company could probably been sent to prison for what they did, but the army needed cannon fodder so the B Company just happened to fit the bill.
"What's that some kinda labor union?" Haggard asked. "I sure as hell never heard of it." Haggard was the best man in the army for making big and dangerous things go boom, but unfortunately his stubbornness and backwoods disposition sometimes bogged down his more likeable character traits. It was Haggard's obsession with explosives that got him transferred to Bad Company; he blew up the officer's latrine at his base camp. After seeing the result of boredom on Private Haggard, his chain of command decided to send him someplace where he'd never go bored. Bad Company definitely took care of the boredom problem, but no one ever wanted to work with the man; and it wasn't because they didn't like country music. Haggard may have helped increase Bad Company's mission effectiveness but he also increased the unit's mortality rate (already the highest in the army), unintentionally of course.
"Seriously man, am I the only person in this squad who knows his history?" Sweetwater asked exasperated. "Alright look, after the second world war..."
"Oh, just shut up! Both of you!" the African American Sergeant interrupted. "Let's try to stay on task here." Preston thanked God for Sarge sparing them all another study session with Professor Sweetwater. Who else in the entire US Army could tell you where the name Cossacks (Russian cavalry) came from, or name all four Japanese aircraft carriers sunk at the battle of midway, or that in World War Two, the allies almost made an aircraft carrier completely out of ICE? And history was just the tip of the ice berg with Terrance Sweetwater, a few days fighting beside him and you'd be ready for pretty much any college exam.
"You, got the camera ready Sweetwater?" asked Redford.
"Sure thing, Sarge," Sweetwater replied, as he fished the advanced digital camera the Special Actions Division had given them for the mission. "What you think is so special about this place, Sarge?" asked Sweetwater. "I mean it has to be important right? Or else they wouldn't have sent us in."
"What are you asking me for?" Redford snapped. "You think they told me any more than the rest of you?" Despite Sweetwater's ability to become a human encyclopedia at will, Redford was the real brains of this squad; and he knew it too...not that he had to like it. He was supposed to be retired all most a year ago, but one thing led to another and here he was, still in Bad Company, still doing whatever suicidal odd jobs the army wanted him to do and still with the same squad; which he no longer particularly minded, this bunch never seemed to die (unlike all the other squad's he'd been part of in Bad Company). They were an odd ball team to say the least but they seemed to have something that all the rest of Bad Company didn't, LUCK. Luck that would make a rabbit's foot sob with envy.
Sergeant Samuel D. Redford, Squad lead of C squad, was a career man. He'd always loved being in the army and what it stood for, until he was attached to Bad Company and he realized how much the army had changed. To everyone's surprise, Redford was the first soldier in history to volunteer for Bad Company. He had made a deal to cut his career short, but as it turned out the only thing he figured cut short had been his life. He was disgusted with the army for the way they treated Bad Company, as far as command was concerned they were all nothing but expendable assets. Sarge had to admit that most of the soldiers in Bad Company were pretty bad, but not nearly bad enough to deserve what they were getting; not in Redford's book anyway. He had grown to trust and even admire his present squad though. They made him crazy, but after all they'd been through there is no one else in the army he'd rather be with. All four of them knew it, even though the man would never say it himself.
"He's got a point, Sarge" Preston pointed out. "Why else would command send us in? The Italians have got to be up to something here, and since they're technically one of our allies it's got to be something big." Private Preston Marlow was the more sensible side of the four, his grasp of logic and relatively easy going mentality also made him the more likeable side. He'd been the glue that held the team together several times and his coolness under fire added to his comrade ship with the squad. He had been anxious to follow family tradition of joining the army in a time of war, defending his homeland, his family and his friends. Fighting for Truth Justice and the American way and what not. Unfortunately once he got in he realized the undeniable truth that being in the army involves a lot of boredom, when you're not under fire that is. After several weeks at a base camp in Europe, doing nothing, his boredom finally got the better of him. He liked to tell himself that if he'd just parked that chopper a few yards to the left no one would have ever noticed. Instead of sending him to prison, they sent him to Bad Company. This had at least kept him from dying of boredom, at one point he'd even gotten a chance to improve on his piloting skills.
The squad had been through impossible missions against overwhelming odds. They had been the spearhead in taking entire towns from the Russian military, battled through and behind enemy lines, invaded a sovereign nation, decimated an entire Private Military Company (PMC), destroyed a lost weapon of mass destruction from World War Two and halted an entire Russian Invasion force; all single handedly. The four men were, without a doubt, a proverbial "Band of Brothers". None of them, not even Sweetwater, would be moved or reassigned to any other squad if they had any say in it. All of them knew that after how far they had come and all they had been through to get there, they could depend on each other.
Naturally the squad's skills, endurance, reputation for being unorthodox and pure dumb luck had not gone unnoticed by the high command. Squad "Bravo-One-Charlie" had been recruited by Special Actions Division for a black op in the country outside Rome. It went against all logic that they should be taken out of the combat zone, while still fighting off an invasion in Alaska, to hoof it through the Italian backwoods just to take pictures of a government complex. But after all they had been through in South America the squad had no intention of complaining about being assigned away from the fight, even though they all sensed something funny about the whole thing. They were just glad to not be under fire for a change. Preston just hoped it would stay that way.
"Look let's just get those pictures command wants and get out of here," Sarge sighed. "You're probably right though, this could very well be something big and with that in mind we should get this over with quick. This isn't like Saduristan, this isn't just a neutral nation; it's a sovereign nation and a partner of ours in the UN," Sarge explained. His seasoned wisdom made up most of his strength in leadership, although most might argue that it was his no nonsense attitude and his witty commanding nature. "Do you have any idea how many, treaties we are violating here? If we get caught, our Uncle Sam will deny all knowledge of us. At that point they'll probably label us terrorists, which will be easy to do with all the terrorist attacks going on in this country."
Sarge was right. Preston had heard in a news bulletin once that the Italian peninsula was considered by some to be the Belfast of the 21st century. The Five Republic's Faction, the Red Brigade, corruption in the government, not to mention the mafia selling arms to the terrorists. Not that Italy would have lifted a finger to help the US against the Russians otherwise. But Italy was in up to its neck in a world of shit at the present time. The four of them getting caught creeping around in the woods outside Rome taking pictures of some government installation wouldn't end very well for them. Command had even ordered them not to open fire at all, which with this squad was kind of asking a lot.
"They'd better appreciate this Sarge," said Sweetwater as he snapped a photo of both buildings from his vantage point on a fallen over tree trunk. "I got a really bad feeling about this."
"You got a really bad feeling about this," Haggard mockingly repeated. "Do you ever have anything good to say? I swear you're always so negative. We're finally doing something other than taking on the whole Russian army single handedly and all you can do is complain!" Haggard finished and huffed a sigh from behind the trunk of a pine tree.
"Come on Haggs, even you have to be able to tell that something is rotten in Denmark." Sweetwater insisted as he placed the camera back in his bag. "With the Russians still gunning for Alaska, why would they send their number one dirty job unit off to spy on a friendly nation when we could be raiding some Intel center or supply base up north? This can only mean serious trouble here!"
Haggard pause for a moment in thought. "Well we're not in Denmark, but I see what you're saying," he said with a nod. "But with that in mind, why not just send in the CIA or someone trained for spying?"
"They told us that already, remember, because if we do get caught we'll be easier to pass off as mercenaries; we do have a history of going AWOL," Sarge explained.
"That's command's polite way of saying, 'because you're easily replaced and you won't be missed'" said Sweetwater. "We ARE Bad Company remember?"
"Let's just get this over with," Redford growled. "I might have that fishing trip yet," he said. Redford had been counting down the days until he retired to the Caribbean for way too long. He didn't love his country any less, but he still couldn't wait for the day the only thing he'd be fighting would be marlin and blue fin tuna. "Let's move to our next vantage point. Preston, lead the way."
Preston nodded and led the team further into the woods. The canopy of evergreens over their heads shielded them from the mid-summer sun. Of course the sun wasn't nearly as bad here as they had experienced it in the deserts of Turkmenistan and the jungles of South America but still would have been unpleasant; unpleasant enough to get Sweetwater going anyway. Preston couldn't complain. As crazy as most of their missions were, he would never trade any of it for sitting around in that base camp twiddling his thumbs. Besides Sweetwater was right, something about this whole thing just didn't add up. And with the Russian Army on the brink of taking Alaska, trouble with Italy would not be a good thing for the US's interests in Europe.
The more he thought about it, the more urgent Preston felt as he crouched and pushed his way through bramble and past tree trunks. He wasn't even sure which made him feel more urgent, finding out what was going on at those two buildings or snapping all the photos Intel needed and getting out of there before trouble showed up. And given the nature of the mission, it's location and not to mention the fact that some CIA spooks stopped them before getting on the chopper back at Naples and told them that once this mission was over it was over and threatened them with treason if they ever told anyone in the civilian or military world about anything they may witness in Italy, Preston wasn't particularly interested in seeing the "trouble" once it showed up; especially if it was big enough to get the CIA all growling and snarling at the guys who were about to risk their necks to go get their info for them.
They came to a vantage point several hundred yards to the rear left side of the older building. They paused there for Sweetwater to snap some more shots of the building. Preston looked through his assault rifles scope and scanned the building. All the doors and windows were shut; odd for this time a year, Preston figured they had air conditioners on the roof. In a fenced in yard he spotted a small vegetable garden, the kind a child might plant with his or her parents. Preston wasn't sure of what to make of that, but he kept silent about it. He could just imagine the taunts Sweetwater and Haggard might have in store for him if he called their attention to a small garden, eventually Preston figured it was planted out of boredom by one of the inhabitants of the building. He couldn't get a visual of anyone inside the building though, most of the windows had their blinds down, others were draped and the rest were empty. Preston was also impressed at how well kept the building was. Its design looked at least two or three hundred years old but was updated and kept looking fresh.
Sweetwater had just finished placing the camera back in his pack and Sarge was ordering Preston to get on point, when the familiar crackle of automatic gunfire broke tranquil silent back ground of the forest. All four turned their heads in the direction of the gunfire, about a mile or so away from the rear of the old building. "Sarge?" Sweetwater asked worriedly.
"What in the hell was that?" Redford asked rhetorically.
"Shoot, Sarge your age must be catching up to you," said Haggard. "We've only been away from the front lines a few days now and you've done and forgot what gunfire sounds like," he finished with a grin.
Sarge looked at Haggard and sneered. "Fine then Haggard since you're so damn smart all of a sudden; you're on point for this one. Squad, let's move. Whatever we're here to spy on the Italians for, half my lousy ass paycheck says it's over there," he said nodding in the direction of the gunfire.
Haggard sighed and shook his head. "Great job Sweets, your negativity has become contagious," he said as he moved to the head of the squad.
"Well, maybe if you'd learn when to shut the-" Sweetwater began his comeback.
"Sweetwater do you seriously think you're in any position to talk here?" Redford asked loudly. Sweetwater lowered his head and went silent. "Everyone check your weapons, from the sound of things this could get ugly," he ordered as the rattle of automatic weapons crackled off and on.
Preston recognized the pattern; it had to be a firing range. But why would there be a firing range right beside a non-military facility. All firing ranges are at least nearby some kind of medical facility, in case of accidental injuries, this was a non-military Italian government medical facility; owned by the Social Welfare Agency, the CIA told them in their briefing. As far as the CIA knew the Social Welfare Agency (SWA) was a medical corporation bought out by the Italian government, allegedly being on the cutting edge of medical research and technology. "Why in the hell, would a medical agency be running a firing range?" Preston silently asked himself. Finding no answer for himself, he sighed and continued following behind Haggard.
The squad made their way through the trees and bushes, the sound of gunfire becoming louder and clearer as they came closer. When they were about a mile away from the source of the gunshots Sarge ordered the squad to halt and take cover. They all hunched down behind a short mound of rocks near a small clearing in the trees, giving them a far off view of the firing range. It was walled all around by ten foot concrete. Dummy buildings and obstacles were visible from over the top of the wall but it was too far off to get a visual of the shooters with their own eyes. "Sweetwater you're up," Sarge said with a nod. "I hope that camera has a decent zoom in setting."
"Don't worry Sarge," Sweetwater said cheerfully. "Say whatever you want about the CIA, but they have some really sweet toys to play with," he said as he fished the camera out of his pack. He brought the camera up to his face and looked through the sight. Sweetwater thumbed the zoom knob to the max and scanned the range. "It's definitely a firearms training range," said Sweetwater after scanning for about half a minute. "Still no visual on the shooters though, the walls and the trees are in the way. Is it alright if I get a little closer?" he asked. Redford nodded.
Sweetwater climbed over the mound of rocks they were all crouching behind and moved about ten yards down hill, taking position behind a boulder. He scanned a few moments longer. "Still no visual Sarge, I...wait!" Sweetwater froze in mid-sentence. A hush fell over the entire squad.
"What do you see Sweetwater?" asked Redford. "Is it the shooters?"
Sweetwater was quiet, too quiet. Sweetwater being this quiet couldn't be good. Much as the rest of the squad had and would tease him about how much he talked even they could tell Sweetwater was staring down the sight of that camera at something that either shocked him beyond words or scared him speechless. Either way it meant trouble. Sweetwater finally broke his own silence. "No," he gasped. He pulled the camera away from his eyes and squeezed his eyes shut really hard then opened them again and peered through the camera again. "It can't be...how could they...the rumors were true!" Sweetwater was almost whispering, but the whole squad could hear.
"What are you talking about Sweets?" asked Haggard. "What do you see?"
"Damn it, Sweets. Do you see the shooters?" Redford asked, getting annoyed. Preston was silent. He had a suspicious feeling that whatever was making him and Sweetwater feel nervous about this mission was now plain in Sweetwater's sight.
"Yes, I see the shooters Sarge," the half traumatized soldier finally answered. "But...I kinda wish I hadn't," Sweetwater said as he continued to stare at whatever he saw. Sweetwater suddenly jerked backward, pulling the camera down from his face. "Oh Shit," he gasped. "Sarge, I think one of them saw me!"
"Impossible, they're a mile away," replied Sarge. Just then the loud and heavy thump of a sniper rifle split the air, shattering the camera in Sweetwater's hands and knocking him over onto his back. Sarge cursed in surprise, the gunshot had taken the whole squad by surprise. Preston brought up his rifle and aimed down at the range but it was too far away for him to see anything with his rifle scope, if only he had a sniper rifle.
Sweetwater screamed in surprise and pain. The fallen soldier clutched tightly at the right side of his chest where the bullet had hit. "Sweets!" Haggard yelled and stood up to go help his fallen comrade.
"I'm alright!" Sweetwater growled loudly, biting back an immense amount of pain. "Stay down, they haven't seen you guys," he shouted urgently.
"To hell with that," yelled Haggard. "We've got to get out of here!"
"No stay back," Sweetwater shouted raising his hand. "You have to-" Sweetwater was cut off by another sniper shot. A bullet ripped past his hand, barely missing it. Sweetwater dropped his hand to the ground instantly.
"Shit! He's right, that sniper's got him zeroed!" Redford shouted.
"We can't just leave him here!" Haggard insisted.
"They'll kill him if we leave him!" Preston broke in.
"You have no choice," said Sweetwater with sad desperation. "You gotta get back to command; the camera's been destroyed so we have no photos. Just tell them that the FRATELLO are real, tell them I made visual confirmation."
"The what?" asked Haggard. "When will you geeks learn to speak plain damn English?"
"What the hell are the FRATELLO?" asked Preston.
"What are you talking about?" Redford demanded.
"There's no time to explain you guys, just get out of here before they spot you. I'll think of something!" Sweetwater shouted with a painful growl on the edge of each word.
"Bullshit!" demanded Haggard. "We ain't leavin without you!"
"What are we gonna do Sarge?" asked Preston still looking down his rifle trying to find a target.
Sarge was silent for a moment. He was staring off into space in deep thought. Redford banged the back of his head against the large rock he crouched behind. "Shit!" he finally growled. "He's right, we've gotta move."
"Hell no, we ain't leaving him here!" yelled Haggard.
"Sarge you can't be serious!" said Preston.
"We've got our orders, we can't engage the Italians and we have to get word back to command," Redford roared at his two subordinates with shame and guilt. "If Sweetwater's FRATELLO shit is legit, command'll send help to get him outa here."
"No, Sarge we can't-" Haggard began.
"We are leaving, NOW!" Redford cut him off and grabbed him by the shoulder.
"Just get out of here guys, I'll bullshit them and by command some time," Sweetwater shouted again, his voice fading back to fear and pain.
Sarge more or less dragged Haggard off into the trees. Preston headed after them then turned back. "Stay alive, Sweetwater!" he called to him painfully. Preston turned and started running after Redford and Haggard, he knew better than to look back this time. He kept his head low, he figured if Sarge or Haggard looked back they'd think he was ducking bellow the branches and bushes; they'd never notice the drops of water falling off his chin.