Ashen Dawn

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The Stakeout

Posted on Sat Jul 31st, 2021 @ 9:06pm by Corporal Sascha Lorenz

Mission: 1 - It's The End (And I Feel Fine)
Location: Church Cemetary 5mi SW of Kalisz, Poland
Timeline: 0530 Local, 4/15/2000

Sascha yawned deeply, fighting the nearly overpowering urge to close her eyes and get some sleep. The sound of her jaw and ears popping as she yawned made her heart skip a beat though, helping her to stay awake. No one could’ve heard that, of course, but in the pre-dawn hours it seemed like any noise could carry. The sounds coming from the nearby church could attest to that. A handful of soldiers loitered outside the building, chatting, smoking cigarettes and huddling around fires for warmth as the night dragged on. At her distance of around sixty meters it was hard to make out details in the dark, but she could see and hear enough to tell that they were Polish irregulars, drafted in late and afforded little in the way of proper training or equipment. They were amateurs… waiting for their comrades being treated inside like they had no other cares in the world.

Sascha was fairly certain that she had comrades inside that church too, but there was no way she was going to wait just outside to get ambushed, or worse yet, give up her weapon and venture in, only to get trapped inside. But there wasn’t much that she could do while hidden out in a half-overgrown cemetery either. She’d been watching the church for over a day. Almost two. Eventually she was going to have get closer if she wanted more information.

Before the tired corporal could further dwell on the issue, she was met with the realization that her worst fears might be coming to pass. She heard the engines and exhaust first, and saw the headlights a few seconds later as a small convoy of vehicles approached the church. The convoy was an assortment of civilian model cars and trucks, but it formed an ominous procession nonetheless. The irregulars hanging out outside had weapons, but didn’t seem to be in the mood for taking chances, and shot to their feet and took off into the darkness.

Sascha shook her head at the sight, then watched a squad of uniformed soldiers dismount from the vehicles. She squinted, trying to squeeze a bit more clarity out of her tired, worn-out eyes. There wasn’t much light to go by, only a few small fires just outside of the church. She realized they were Russians just as a clergyman came outside of the church. There was a tense exchange initially, prompting the corporal to pluck a 40 mike-mike from her grenade bandolier. If they shot the priest, she was gonna light these guys up, and for the moment they were clustered pretty close together. She loaded the grenade into her underbarrel launcher, hoping the click as the action locked into place wouldn’t draw any attention her way. It didn’t. Normally she preferred to keep a round loaded… sure, it threw off the balance of her carbine, but she was trained enough to know how to compensate. But somehow it felt like a bad idea to keep the M203 loaded and ready to go while she was staking out a church she knew was sheltering friendlies. But now, these Russian soldiers might be the greater threat.

After a brief moment of tension and uncertainty, something unexpected happened. The lead Soviet handed his rifle over to the priest, and the two of them went inside. Very strange. The remaining soldiers appeared to relax, but Sascha could spot some subtle differences that made them stand out, especially when compared to the irregulars she’d been watching earlier. They looked relaxed, but the corporal could tell that they were still alert and scanning their sectors. They took turns smoking and sipping from their canteens, and didn’t appear to talk much. If they did talk, it was too low for her to overhear.

What really pissed Sascha off was how they spread out. If things went sideways, she might be able to get three or four with her 40 mike-mike, but by the time she switched to her carbine sights the rest would’ve gone for cover. If they didn’t fix her position after the grenade, they definitely would if she started shooting. A fireteam of amateurs might not have the skill or nerve to outflank her, but these dudes definitely looked like they were up to the task. They were bad news.

Fortunately, Sascha didn’t have to sweat the variables for long. After only a short time inside, the leader came back out, and the priest returned his weapon. The squad unceremoniously remounted their vehicles, and the convoy continued on, driving right by her position. She was fairly well concealed crouching amid some overgrown shrubs crowding a small mausoleum, but she still couldn’t help but feel one of the soldiers acknowledge her presence as the convoy drove past. What the hell.

As she tried to process all she’d just witnessed, Sascha finally got the information she’d been looking for. Soldiers, many walking wounded, streamed out of the church. The first one she saw definitely had a Ranger patch. Bingo.

Sascha stood and checked her gear, making sure nothing had come loose during her stakeout. There were a variety of methods she could use to identify herself as friendly, but who knew if any of them would work, with everyone having many good reasons to be on edge. Time to see which one would not get her shot at.

 

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