Overlapping the hum of the approaching armored vehicles, somewhere ahead there was a loud sound, like a lot of layers of some rough fabric being torn at once. Then again, this time further ahead.
“It’s a KPVT!” Sullen warned. “Everybody pay attention, they are coming!”
I peered into the thicket so hard I started feeling pain in my eyes. Adrenaline hadn’t started gushing from my ears yet, but my heart was pounding, my hands were sweating (hooray for my gloves), the only thought inside my head was “Dear Santa, don’t let me screw up!" Another sound of "torn fabric" changed into a shattering crash when the heavy bullets from the KPVT hit the pines 10 meters to our left.
“Sniper, are you alive there?!” Sullen shouted.
“OK, watch the thicket, they’ll try to come through it!”
The roar of the engines roar now sounded like the armor had stopped. Several more bursts of KPVT fire shattered the forest, but they were clearly shooting blindly. Fuck, where are they...
“Bitch!!! Take this!!!” A mix of Sullen’s swearing and PKM fire was heard from the right flank. In response to that, a few bullets of a not too serious caliber hit the pines over our position. Damn, what am I supposed to do?? What if I’m needed there?? But what if I go there, and they attack here?? Finally, I decided to stay where I was until further instructions.
“Sniper! Come fucking here!! Mosquito, to the left flank. Watch the thicket!”
I squeezed past Marine and Mosquito to get to the primary position. No one was popping out of the trench, the boss was carefully considering something on the opposite side of the road, and Handyman was simply sitting on the ground.
Sullen briefly explained the situation: "They came from the north side! Keeping to the lowlands so I can’t get them! There are more at 1 o’clock, in the thicket! You try to get them, and we will cover you!”
Hmmm... Well, an order is an order. After selecting a more or less comfortable position, I started to check the 12-to-1 o’clock sector. The view was obscured by the forest, but the trees were far apart so I could see something. Hell, it’s torture to try to work as a sniper from a squad’s position. If I survive this day, I will find myself a nice good place in the forest, 200-300 meters from here. So... Nothing-nothing-nothing-BANG!—my eye barely caught some movement through the scope, and my index finger immediately responded. Interesting, how do they shoot with semi-automatic sniper rifles only using scopes? I lose my focus after a shot, so I need 2-3 seconds to find the target again. Well, probably it’s a matter of habit.
“What?!” Sullen cried.
“Some movement in the thicket!”
“Did you get him?!”
“Hard to tell.” Realistically, there wasn’t a chance; I had pulled the trigger too sharply and spoiled the shot.
“Fuck! All right, keep looking!”
I just tried to pop out a bit and immediately the Ukes on the other side of the road opened fire. The bastards were rooted just 50 meters from us, right on the other side of the road. Because of the terrain—we were five meters above them, between us were two slopes, two ditches and the road on the top of the mound—there was no clear line of sight between us and them, and we could only thrash the trees above each other. And that’s exactly what Sullen joyously started to do, sending a half-belt of PKM rounds toward the enemy.
Assessing the low efficiency of his efforts, he grabbed his Kalash and launched a couple of rounds from a GP-25 in the same direction. The Ukrainians seemed to be impressed by our firepower, and their attempts to make us squeeze to the ground went to rare bothering shots. That was good, but once again the hum started to approach, and to meet the source of it properly we needed our grenade launchers, which couldn’t be used inside the trench. And if we went out of the trench, we would become easy targets for the enemy. Besides, the Ukes’ activity 12 o’clock intensified again, including the fucking KPVT with its 14.5mm bullets, plus occasional shots from God-knows-where, and all of that was flying by in unpleasant proximity to us. One consolation was that the U-group on the other side of the road, apparently, did not seem to have UBGLs, otherwise it would’ve been much more fun. Interesting, and where is all the rest of our company?
“Pa, tanks!” the sharp-sighted Handyman called out.
The three of us intensely peered between the trees.
Sullen reacted quickly: "It’s an APC! Kiddo—the pipe! Afrikaner—watch the thicket! Both of you, don’t get under the exhaust!"
Yeah, a great warning, sure. How the fuck should I watch the thicket and Sullen with the RPG at the same time? Well, to hell with it. I peek out, studying the forest. Sullen meanwhile lifted himself out of the trench with the pipe on his shoulder. Handyman and I started dashing aside to avoid the place where the back end of the RPG was pointed. For sure, due to that maneuver, our attempt to suppress the Ukes in the thicket was not very successful. The enemy wasn’t blind and, noticing Sullen’s courageous torso over the trench, began shooting. After a few bullets whizzed by a couple of inches his head, Sullen rolled back into the trench and, using rich expressions, explained to Handyman and me what he thought about the quality of our cover. Being used to his manner, we were not particularly distracted by the deserved reproaches, and began to shoot all suspicious bushes on the opposite side of the road and the forest behind it.
Simultaneously, an RPK started working from the rear—Nomad couldn’t remain sitting in his trench and had moved closer to us, as it turned out later. Sullen sent two UBGL rounds in the same direction, and the Ukrainians got quiet for some time, except someone started screaming hysterically, "A-ah-ah-ah!!!! I’m shot!! A-ah!!!! Help!!! Help me, guys, please!!!” Curious, he was yelling in Russian, not in Ukrainian. Where the hell was his patriotism at the moment?
We sent a few 40-mm painkillers from our UBGLs to alleviate the poor guy’s suffering (don’t know if it helped, but he shut up at least), and then we were distracted by an APC, which had slumped to 200 meters and continued to approach slowly, sending short bursts towards the roadblock in our rear. Sullen grabbed the RPG again, but set it aside a few seconds later. “There are only two cucumbers, damn it! " he explained. "We have to keep them in case they send the tanks. Sniper, why the hell are you sitting on your ass? Go and watch the 10-to-2 sector! "
As you wish, my lord. I climbed into the foxhole and began to study the slope in the designated sector. Nobody, nobody...and what is that...the deafening roar of the PKM (the muzzle less than 1 meter from my head) hit my ears so that I instinctively crouched in the bottom of the trench. Sullen was sending short bursts of APIBs through the trees to the approaching APC.
"You fucking imbecile! Are you insane?!" I respectfully expressed my dissatisfaction with the commander’s action. Sullen, however, with the face of a child who has received a long-awaited gift for Christmas, continued shooting. The belt spent, Sullen threw the machine gun to Handyman for reloading, grabbed his Kalash, fired a magazine and a UBGL round into the thicket, took back the PKM and fired one more belt of APIBs towards the APC, and then it stopped. Absolutely. I mean the APC, not our commander—though he looks inhuman sometimes, I wouldn’t call him “it” due to subordination. There was neither smoke nor too much damage to be seen, but the engine stalled, and nothing was going on. The Ukes fell silent for a few minutes, probably wondering what the hell happened.
Sullen was thinking aloud how to get around an APC, cut it off from the rest of the government forces and take it as a trophy. Well, you never know, it could work. Alas, the calm did not last long—the second APC opened fire toward us from somewhere behind the first one, then the thicket ahead was swarming with U-infantry, just three hundred meters from where we were, and they immediately opened fire. Judging by the sound, at least two SVDs were there too. I tried to do something, aiming at any movement at the thicket, looking for colleagues, but honestly, I doubt very much that anyone was hit, except accidentally. Still, shooting at a target when there is time to calmly take aim, and shooting during a battle at hazy figures dimly flickering in a thicket are two different things. Especially with those figures firing back at you and with mortar shells landing all around. The need to tighten the scope after every 3-5 shots also did not inspire confidence. However, based on the fact that I was still alive, we can conclude that on the opposite side were "experts" of similar caliber. The second APC, under the cover of infantry and mortars, moved to the first one. The mortar shelling intensified. Judging by the explosions, they were shooting from the light infantry mortars located nearby behind the hill. They got quite close, the shells were landing just behind our trench. Apparently, they were afraid to hit their own, that’s why there were no direct hits on our position. With a sense of relief, we sheltered in the dugout. Handyman managed to jump out of the dugout in between the explosions to explore the area for some Ukes creeping close under the mortar fire. As expected, the Ukes were not that crazy. Our Kiddo is a real imbecile sometimes. In a good sense. He reported that the Army was towing the damaged armored personnel carrier using the second one. When some Nonas joined the concert from a few kilometers away, it became clear that the fun was over for today, the Ukes had admitted the failure of the attack and were pulling back to their camp at the T-shaped crossroads.
While all of us were relaxing after combat (even Sullen grumbled something unintelligible, but apparently approving), restless Handyman ran to the main crossroads. He returned with the message: "It’s a fucking mess there! And two dead! It just flew into their dugout!"
Curiosity prevailed over fatigue, so I went to see. So... “Fucking mess and two dead” indeed. The checkpoint was completely destroyed (direct tank shots, no joke), and the surrounding are —well, not the lunar landscape, of course, but the forest was whittled down to slightly less than full. I came closer to the blown-up dugout. Since some genius had built it with an entry the whole width of the dugout (in other words, one wall was missing), the two guys that were inside had no chance. It's a pity. One was literally torn to stripes and the second one was not much better. Apparently, they had died instantaneously. While walking, my habit to analyze things pulled itself together after the impressions of my first real fight. As a result of the analysis, I came to the conclusion that we—the entire company covering the crossroads—were just lucky that the man in charge of the outpost had turned out to be Sullen. Otherwise the bad guys would’ve quickly stormed the crossroads, after which, judging by the activity of the remaining platoons of our company, the fight would have ended.
After dinner we went to the other side of the road, finding traces of boots, empty cartridges, bullet holes in the trees, and some bandages. And traces of blood, which was a delightful thing to see.
At sunset Sullen looked at Handyman with cunning