"Over the deep and the deadly sweep
The fire and the bursting shell
While the very air is a mad despair
The throes of a living hell"
— Phil Ochs, "The Men Behind The Guns"
"Alright Walker, what do you see?"
At his sergeant major's command, Master Sergeant Richard Walker popped out the gunner's hole in the Humvee, binoculars in hand. The truck had come to a full stop, in time for him to see what was going on. The night vision upgrade was still working even after centuries of disuse, furthered by the fact that radiation had swarmed the Earth for several years.
"Anything yet Rich?"
Richard motioned for his partner, Delta Force Operator Officer Cadet 'Robert' to be quiet. He looked back up at the base. No Vulcan or NATO forces. Instead men with Iron Crosses sewn on their shoulders were what appeared. Richard knew what that meant. He looked to Robert and told him of the base.
"Confirm that they are renegade deserters".
"I have visual on a HK764 Assault Rifle. Trust me; I don't think it was confiscated".
Robert called into his radio about the rifles, and Sergeant Anderson replied immediately.
"Unless Dingham broke into an arsenal and didn't tell us, then that means the renegades are back on foot and are stronger than ever. Rob, get permission from Pete to infiltrate the compound."
"Negatory. I received written permission to wipe out any renegades we may encounter in this patrol mission. By extension that includeswhole bases".
"WILCO. Rendezvous with Dennis and I in their backyard, and we'll move in through the warehouses. We're Oscar-Mike now".
"Alright. Hang on Rich, this is gonna be bumpy".
With foot on the gas, Robert steadily made way through the forest. Until recently it was filled several unique features (likely as a result of mutation), but human activity in the past few days drove them away, either to designated 'reserves' (on the order of President Jackson) or under the protection of troops gone AWOL.
"Don't you think those guys would hear us?"
"Don't worry Rich; we use the same engine as the Scavengers, except more 21st Century".
Richard wasn't impressed.
"Well that's good to hear" he replied. "At least it's nice to hear we won't get stuck with guard duty".
2 more men were present at the back. They recently joined, disillusioned by the current policies regarding mutants. Unlike the renegades however, the moderates were only concerned with the preservation of the mutants and not total annihilation of Americans.
"You guys awake yet?"
Private First Class Barrera jolted, grabbing for a piece of paper (he thought it was a gun). He saw Richard and Robert driving, and promptly went back to sleep.
Corporal Anthony stretched his hands to fight back his sleepiness. No one in sight except for Barrera, who was still dozing off.
"Well, guess it's guard duty again".
The deserters had an unspoken rule during secret operations: whoever gets out first gets to operate, whoever is to slow gets to sit around with booze and a rifle. Generally, guard duty was looked down upon as aside from 'not being able to contribute to the effort', sitting around in dirt and grease wasn't a thing that many people looked up to, even if they had a gun and all the booze they could have (in other words, 2 bottles).
"Damn it Barrera, get the fug up!"
Antonio lazily crawled over to the gunners post. After a long yawn, he looked at the surroundings. He went back down.
"No one in sight, as usual. And don't finish both bottles this time!"
"Anderson. Are you in position yet?"
Robert took out his sniper rifle and went behind a vantage point. Richard brought back out his binoculars.
"Not yet. Any estimate on enemy troops?"
"25 to 1 in their favour. Not gonna be a pretty fight, so we have to get what we need and bust out like bosses".
"Hell, alright. Hang on, I see a vehicle moving out of a warehouse".
"Crap, you kidding me? Rich, eyes in the open".
Richard turned his eyes to the compound. What appeared to be an elephant was brought out, together with several metal boxes.
"You ain't gonna believe this".
He gave the binoculars to Robert, who had the same reaction.
"Able 14 Actual, we have confirmed visual on an elephant with several crates being carted off".
"You mean ancient psychic tandem war elephant Rob".
Robert was surprised at the revelation. He swiped Richard's binoculars and was breathless at the sight of the beast.
"Holy crap, really?"
"Affirmative. Dudes in azimuth suits walking along with it".
The radio went quiet for a minute. Richard continued staring at the base.
"Those guys are getting stuff out of the boxes. Get Anderson's word on this".
Robert was half-asleep when Richard shook him. He took out the radio and called for Anderson.
"Yeah. They're getting sticks of some thing. You're the Christian scientist guy with the Rainbow Sparkles keychain, you do the explaining".
Robert zoomed in with his sniper rifle and set his sights on the transpiring events.
"I have visual on some possibly radioactive elements. Stand by for further confirmation".
Robert zoomed in more and saw the tubes had a blue element concealed in it. Furthermore, the element was heavier than usual isotopes, as several men had to load it into some kind of machinery. Robert had one thing in mind when he saw this.
"You mean Element 115? As in like Above the Call: Undead Nightmare?"
"Yeah. Same thing that caused all those zombies in 2025. Also the same thing we use to power up our starships".
"Damn. So that thing those 2 cool dudes with demon blood swords and stretchy hands was a walking nuke?"
"I don't think that could actually take place Anderson. Though I still don't like having a giant mutated elephant mow on our asses. No friendlies in the area except for Barrera and Martin, who're probably lying in a puddle of booze. You 2 stay frosty stay frosty".
Dennis and Anderson headed off to the vantage point, while Richard began spotting guards.
"Tango on your 1, wind 5 knots west and range to target, I'm sure you could handle it. Make sure that suppressor of yours is working".
Robert aimed the Zeller-H Anti-Materiel rifle a notch above a guard's head, and fired. Another body on Robert's hands.
"One up. Get moving into the compound. We'll deal with the others".
Dennis took and moved first into the fenced part of the forest. Tents that probably housed up to a hundred renegades were facing the entrance, just behind a few concrete structures.
"Wonder how the hell NATO didn't see all of this s-"Anderson radioed in.
"That's why we're here with Mallard and his crew. Avoid detection at all costs".
With that, Robert sniped another guard single-handedly. Dennis meleed another one that was snooping to close.
"Heh, nice one Den. Richard tells me there's another path to the warehouses. And hurry up, the elephant's already finished eating up the juice".
Anderson left no reply; instead Richard saw them running at the path he directed them to go. It was well covered by several trees, no guard posts in sight. Dennis emerged with his face bloodied. Anderson had said there was a slope, so it must've been an accident.
"You sure your face could handle it?" Robert asked while searching for guards. Richard saw Dennis shrug, who knew he was watching. Anderson came out moments after and signalled Richard to come down. Robert followed. His Zeller was replaced by a PDW-57, a SMG sating from the 2nd Cold War (2023-2025). The guards posted at the front entrance were taken out, their Iron Crosses splattered with blood.
"Take point Rich. No surprises in this turf".
Richard did as ordered, moving forward a few steps in front of Robert. The guards were still lying there, with no one else around.
"Must be watching the main event".
Robert took the gun of one of the guards and examined it. Genuine Heckler and Koch Assault Rifle. These guys must have been taking it big, Robert thought. He checked for any stamps that indicated authenticity. All there. He radioed in Anderson to be really cautious in infiltrating the warehouses. Turns out they were almost done searching. Nothing but boxes and old AK-47s. Richard proceeded to turn his eyes on the elephant. Vehicles were set to be sent with it. They used several kinds, ranging from 4 Wheel Drives to Tracked Vehicles.
"Crap. Rich, call in Pete about this. He needs to know, or we're all dead by sunrise".
Richard brought out his radio and flicked the switch. Instead of the Lieutenant, however, Anderson was reporting several deserters surrounding them. They weren't friendly.
"Hang on. Fireteam support is on the way".
Robert led Walker through the compound on to the warehouses. Bits of glowing lead were flying across the air into Warehouse 9B, where Anderson was searching for any suspicious objects. Robert suddenly grabbed onto his leg. A bullet had wandered off to his location. Richard, having undergone a crash course in medic training dropped all of the body armour and found nothing to worry about.
"Just a flesh wound. Seems all those plates were useful after all".
Robert went back to his feet after his wound was patched up. He brought his knife out and as if by instinct, he swung behind him. Unfortunately, it was an unmanned vehicle that sneaked behind him, and with his gloves damaged, experienced a mild shock. He grabbed his handgun and promptly shot the AI processor. No significant effects.
"Damn guys have this tech, huh?"
Upon further inspection though, the flags of NATO and the European Union were on it. This was bad.
"Damn. Alright, just move slowly and maybe it won't notice us".
Robert never learned about his robots, and an alarm went ringing off. In NATO forces, that meant armed forces were present in the vicinity.
A single swear was the only thing Robert was able to say before gunships began circling the compound. By now the renegade deserters had their attention on the incoming NATO forces. Richard could see the emblem of the 222nd Infantry Battalion on one of them. Bad Company. Only such a force could be sent to conduct operations such as these. With the renegades distracted, the 2 of them moved quickly to the warehouse. No significant damage, yet. Anderson and Dennis were shooting everyone around them, with quick breaks for reloads. Robert was able to blend in with the renegades, and quickly shut the door after Richard got in.
"The hell's going on out there?"
Anderson hadn't received the news yet. Richard went in and explained. Dennis brought out a can of red phosphorous and gave it to Richard.
"You know what to do".
The warehouses were marked and the vehicles along with it. The squad quickly scattered, with the Vultures heading in quick. A push of a button from the pilots and the warehouses were all but heaps of rubble. A renegade officer was watching nearby. He dropped his weapon and approached Robert.
"Have you realized what have you done?"
He proceeded to stab Robert. He was electrocuted from the body armour, his body dropping cold on the ground. Bad Company started to retreat, with radio chatter about some of their men getting dilated pupils with the sclera turning green and then randomly turning on their squadmates. Obviously not radiation, as Element 115 wasn't known to have such effects.
"That was a tough day. Let's get back to Pete and tell him mission accomplished".
A NATO soldier was aimlessly walking around the ruined battlefield, probably as a result of shellshock and being separated from his group. And then he saw the thing. Near it was a box that stated 'SCP-682-RP', indicating some sort of malignant force. He read too late.
Robert had read tales of the secret CIA task force, but only believed it when he himself saw the same SCP when he was still in active service. Renegade troops have started to regroup and were getting ready to strike again, only to turn back at the sight of the object. And then their commander stepped forward, a jewel embedded in his beret. He walked to the creature and whispered something to it.
Richard was lying on a hospital bed in the renegade camp. He was separated from the squad when they were ambushed tin the forest. It was good, the commander thought, as he was about to test his new pet on him. As Richard regained consciousness, the first things he saw were the dark eyes of the skull headed creature. And then his eyes too became dark and dilated.
Skull headed creature?