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Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 29 - Attack Mode


Chapter 29
Attack Mode

     As if every second was connected to his heartbeat, Major Taklin moved very fast but calculated each and every steps of the way. The nearer they go, the faster the beating. Taking a deep bated breath, he briefly paused and took cover with his two remaining men under thick foliage through which they could see the panoramic view of an imposing Mt. Sungcal.
           “Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls ” he uttered to himself while reviewing the perimeter of the target through his telescope.
          “There,” he said, seeing the gentle waterfalls gliding swiftly down into deep bushes underneath whose natural beauty evoke feeling of awe and enchantment. Guarding the façade are four armed rebels wearing camouflaged seven colors military uniform carrying telescopic carbine. And below along the slope were several others; two were playing chess and all the rest on lookout for possible intruders around.
          “That’s where we intend to zero in,” he said to Sgts. Robles and Marquez who took their turn viewing the dangerous target.
           Recalling what the ten year old boy said earlier, “Now you can make my day,” Taklin declared. He was damn right of the focus unless the computation of perimeter was wrong. Maybe, the first serving of the menu would be remiss of the target but definitely, not the second let alone, the third.
          “This is the day to destroy  and drive unwelcome visitors of  the mountain away. Never mind if we would disturb the spirits of anitos’ dwelling and protecting that sacred mountain. We would  probably be disturbing their silence. The anitos would understand us why not we helping restored their domicile back to them away from the grip of unwanted and dangerous temporary boarders,” he said in jest.
          “Give me three fried chicken twenty four by twenty nine degrees heat,” he radioed Lieutenant Benjamin in-charge of the field artillery battalion ten kilometers away from enemy line. Soon, three huge deafening  explosion with Boybaracks manning the artillery came rushing by in sweeping cycles flying cutting the skylines felling trees as they hit the ground revealing great damage of rebels camp sending hapless rebels  scampering for cover from the unrelenting succeeding outburst of 105 millimeter diameter Howitzer artillery mortar.
          “There,” the first shot finally unleashed hitting the mark, Maj. Taklin might have exclaimed seeing the rebels helplessly in panic running wild berserk like ants looking for cover from the blitzkrieg attack downstream. Seeing the rebels dropping to the ground dead perks him up wasting no  time inflicting some more damage.
          “Planting rice,” he commanded his artillery men through his radio. Soon again combined artillery attack from 89 mm and 91 mm in diameter mortars dropped all over the target hitting seemingly one after the other resulting to numerous casualties. No way the rebels could retaliate given the far distance of the field artillery battalion from their location. The attack was indeed very costly and lopsided causing severe damage among the hapless rebels. One was overheard griping in vernacular ‘Walay canyonan, walay bazookahay’ desperately running away from the target saving his dear life.
          While they were on the big kill, Major de la Rosa knew that they were just barely scratching the surface starting their offensive and anything can happen depending on whose cause is lucky.
Conquering Mt. Sungcal would be an icing of the cake. Unless they have hoisted Philippine flag over it, it’s still immaterial and inconclusive claiming they could safely bring home the bacon. For instance he is aware that those killed outside the mouth of the tunnel are merely forward observers of the rebels probably representing an excess of the rebels’ strength whose great majority were spread everywhere notably inside the bunker. That’s giving them great challenge in penetrating the controversial hideout and it would be the next thing they have to do as soon as the MG 150 would be hovering on the air providing them air cover and spearheading an air attack. The arrival of additional combatants would be the start of ground attack. By then, the simultaneous approach would facilitate their victory faster.
          “But that is probably easier said than done,” Taklin thought.
          “The ground attack is most likely more of the advantage for the reds being hoss and in complete control of the terrain of the area.”
           He was right. Penetrating the enemy location even after the smoke cleared is just like going into the proverbial eye of the needle.
          “But if this is the bridge we have to cross now,  then be as it may.” As tacitly agreed between him and Commanding Officer, the four routes towards the bunker would be exploited from the northeast to southwest, western portion to southern practically swarming the tunnel as planned. Unfortunately, as has been averred in the past, guerilla warfare played on the ground would in the end be on the rebels’ favor the way Vietcong overwhelmed the Americans last Vietnam War.
          Reaching the base of the cave, Major de la Rosa heaved a sigh of deep bated breath anyway. For the first time, he got nosebleeds feeling the heat and thinking of his family back home.
          “What if he would be brought home in casket too,” the thought playing on his mind.
“Good,” he answered himself.
“But what if only it is his dog tag left, his body maybe  charred  beyond recognition or left rotting in the forest,” an ugly sight further pops out.
. . . . . . . . . . .

          “The ten year old boy seemingly was damn right,” Taklin recalled. It’s just like scaling two more additional Mt. Sungcal wiping out the reds on the road, trees and along the slope. This he felt as the heat of the war was on.
          True enough, the snipers had their day full hitting the military combatants one after the other in the counter-attack that ensued. Aggravating their entry were numerous traps, landmines buried in many strategic places killing sizeable armies, maiming some and worst, blowing many others into bits and pieces beyond recognition rendering their dead bodies bloody mess. The unfortunate ones died eating poisonous fruits, tropical ones like mangoes, guavas injected with poison same for those who were unable to control their thirst sipping water laced with poison by the spring. Good that reinforcement just arrived on time providing the necessary cover and support. What would have been a winning rally by the reds gradually turned to the armies’ favor. How could they sustain their strength anyway when they were practically at the mercy of military gunship inflicting severe damage through its violent offensive spree downstream?
          By Taklin’s rough count, more than hundred reds were probably dead some  their bodies littered on the ground. Fine, but this was made possible from military attack down low. Giving the coup ‘d grace is what he is sent for, the notion now occupying his mind.
          “Where are the rest?”
          “They are definitely holed in the bunker,” he thought after the firing halted giving them fleeting glimpse of the devastated surroundings.
          “Now go . . . .” the command from the base Camp said on his handset giving him the signal.
Wearing gasmasks, Major de la Rosa heaving sigh of deep bated breath threw poisonous hand grenade inside the bunker as if announcing their entry and business of going there  He waited for any reds coughing to death but there was none. After the smoke cleared, what meets them were Immovable Feast on their eyes: ammunition laboratories, sophisticated facilities, software, laptop and all that, conference room complete with audio visuals, a big generator, library and makeshift war room. On the left wing was a huge storage on which ‘Department of Health’  was posted revealing tons of rice, canned goods, medicine supplies and kitchen utensils and other stuff.
          “Excellent camp here with all facilities,” the Major noted. But what stand out was there was no exit except for the window overlooking pasture land down below where hundreds of heads of cows thriving on feedlot securely fenced by barbed wires was seen. Farther down on the distant horizon were nipa huts and an artillery range where field artillery battalion unleashed earlier their fury. This what Major de la Rosa and his men  passed through earlier towards  their entry to Mt. Sungcal. No indication of life there. No semblance of trade and industry as usual nothing resembling life whatsoever.
          The area was familiar with Taklin. It was the same territory he  entered twice, in both cases managed to come back alive. This time not sure though depending if  chance is on his side what with their entrance sealed with iron bars.
          Taking this cue from Lt. Colonel Lim in the War Room, Sgts. Robles, Marquez and him leading the pack of the advanced troopers finally made their move lest might  suffer reversal of fortune. Walking further, they reached a subterranean blue lagoon and feels that it’s their only way out for freedom in so far as the main entrance was sealed already with iron bars.
          As if facing the blind wall, Major de la Rosa fidgeted two of his men to prepare swimming across the underground river and to find out what they got inside. As there are no sunlight silhouetting the bunker, the water dark only the splash and their echo heard frolicking in the foam.
          “That fast!”
          Setting the tone of his offensive, Major de la Rosa sent two of his men swimming across the underground river to find out what they got inside. As they are in a bunker with no sunlight, the water only flickered from the reflection of waterproof flashlight used by the divers.
          “We’ll manage. Wait we’ll be right back as soon as we would be in,” Sgt. Robles uttered before diving into the water from the instruction of Major dela Rosa. Those left were  stupefied catching their breath waiting for the feedback. But none.
          Three, five, ten and thirty minutes passed there were no indication whatsoever of life from them.
          “Whatever happened to them that they were not able to send words back to us!” Major Taklin noted unease.
          “Must have been hooked on treasures they might have discovered inside,” he said in jest obviously covering up the reality – real danger – over  there.
          “But that’s what not they were sent for rather to see the area and ferret out whatever vital information there is.”
          The other story far real seeped into his consciousness and this one made him sick.
          “Must have been also held captive by rebels.. . . Quiet a possibility considering their hideout they are in,” the vicious cycle of insecurity feeding the group’s impatience growing and courage cankering but whatever confidence left on their hearts. To give him benefits of his doubt he sends anew third serving three of his men for follow-up mission.  As in the first, nothing was heard from the second and now third. All is left was himself and his few remaining men. And there’s no other choice but to join the fun.
           Whatever happens indeed why in the world not one  returned? There were even no gunshots heard only silence they way they left earlier. The answer was seen as their flashlights spotted fresh  blood mixing with water all over coming out from the other side of the bunker! Major dela Rosa almost vomited what he saw.
          Wanting to probe whatever is inside on the other end; he fidgeted his remaining men to prepare. And the only way is swimming on the blue lagoon as it is the only way going there. The rest were strategically on the ground their arms cock-ready for any eventualities.
          “Negative,” Sgt. Robles promptly answered back to Major de la Rosa reaching the other side. But it was the last word he heard as the receiver went off.
           “Seems to me we’re heading on to  the big surprise of our lives,” he said to himself.
          “Bring it on baby, ” he said in jest.
          “This is it!” he uttered in disbelief..
          The heat is on as Maj. Taklin knows they’re caught in ”No Exit!” dilemma. And now the last straw – he and his few men remaining.
          “No way a person survives after three minutes breathing or their lungs exploded while underwater,” his conservative synthesis. Half men of his company were on guard this time and ready to return firing when provoked and upon slightest instruction.
          But “Negative,” he reported to his superior.
          As advised, the MG 150 would be in stationary hovering before the gaping hole directly facing the waterfalls covering the entrance of the tunnel. Bad luck. The red’s retaliation was on time. The Sikorsky military gunship was blown away anew its fragments easily disintegrating into the air, its main trunk and propeller dropped straight to the ground washed away by strong currents of waterfalls down into the circuitous del Carmen river noted of pythons and deadly man-eating crocodiles. And before his two eyes could close for prayer lo the two lifeless bodies of Sgts. Robles and Marquez gradually sliding down carried by flowing waterfalls. On their forehead were marks of  identical holes most likely complimented by the rebels sending home the message specifically their fate how far they would go proceeding with their intrusion on the other end of the bunker. Soon the dead bodies blood protruding from the forehead followed the current of water one after the other down swiftly catching the destroyed MG 150 barred by huge lumber by the river.
          Instantly, his radio sent a signal. “Congratulation Officer you just made my day. Welcome aboard!”
          “You are probably requesting us to do our favor like what we did to the fate of your two sergeants and some members of your platoon.”
          “But if you wish, again you still have enough time to make up your mind. . . . . to save your own soul.”
          “As your resilience might dictate you, go ahead further. You might be even able to get us as you already did with our  fallen comrades. Thanks for the compliment of shedding their blood of this our hallowed ground.  By all means, let us continue this hostility and let’s see who make it at the end of day. . . .” said the voice more resolved defending the cause of the movement.
          “If you think you can conquer this camp and leaving this place alive Major. Think again! You can, why not. That if you’re too good outsmarting us. But no way, you and all of your men are now caught in fix.... in a trap no less!”. Voice off. And then it came back.
          “How hard-headed you pigs are and what a show of arrogance . How short is your memory that no way you could annihilate us. But no way given our impending victory awaiting us. We’ve been there for many decades making our struggle the longest in the world.”
          “And there’s no let up here. That for us long evil persists. You may kill us. That’s fine and no problem there as we are most willing to sacrifice our lives for our cause.”
          “Unfortunately, you can’t unless you could afford to kill many others who would come after us. You could of course by offering better idea. Incidentally, ours is better than yours, don’t you think so? Now if we can’t meet on common ground, let our atrocities continues,” said the familiar voice .
          “Yap, bring them on. All rhetoric here. . . .” Major de la Rosa uttered before the line was off short of saying ‘I’ll be right back!”
          Setting the tone of his offensive, Major de la Rosa all the way decided to sending five of his men swimming across the underground river and find out what they got inside. As they are in a bunker with no sunlight, the water was very dark so waterproof flashlight were given to each advancing party.
          “We’ll just manage. Wait we’ll be right back as soon as we would be in,” Corporal Donasco quipped before plunging themselves into the water leaving Major de la Rosa and the rest catching their breath.
          Three, five, ten and thirty minutes passed there were no indication whatsoever of life from them.
          “Whatever happened to them that they were not able to send words back. Must have been hooked on treasures they might have discovered inside. But that’s what they were sent for rather to clean the area and ferret out whatever vital information there is.
          “Must have been also held captive by the rebels. Quiet a possibility considering that it’s their hideout they are in,” the vicious cycle of insecurity feeding the group’s impatience growing and courage cankering but whatever confidence left of their hearts. To give him benefits of his doubt he sends the second serving  new set of three men for follow-up mission.      
          “Whatever happened indeed why in the world not one  returned?”
          “There were even no gunshots heard only silence they way they left earlier.” The answer was seen as their flashlights spotted fresh  blood mixing with water all over coming out from the other side of the bunker! Major dela Rosa almost vomited what he saw. But there’s no time to lose heart.
          “This is it,” he said to himself fidgeting his remaining men preparing themselves for the final show of force.
          The succeeding event gives the cue what in store for them next.
          From the top of the bunker, the door of iron bars dropped to the ground one after the other sealing their exit. Windows too was locked No use shouting challenging them to go out from their hideout. It would still be their voices re-echoing back to   them. Their only way out - to swim across the channel for freedom . The big catch however is it’s the same route Sgts. Robles and Marquez went in earlier. That if they could manage coming out from the water alive. 

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