A scavenger leader takes a new member on his first mission.
"Anything on your end?"
Jake pulled the earpiece out so the Fungus wouldn't distract him. His eyes darted to every corner, every shadow, everything was important.
"Jake, do you copy?"
A long blink.
Jake let out a long breath as he tilted his head to put the piece back in.
And with that, he returned to peering into the shadows. The skylight he had been observing through was set in the middle of what once was a foodcourt. Great view, awful entry point. If the team were to drop down, they'd be prime targets fin a potential crossfire. One man, on the other hand, could get in quick and reposition. Yeah, time for boots on the ground. He tilted his head to put the earpiece back.
"Fungus, what's your location?
"I'm right in front of the auto center sir!"
What an eager little fucker.
"Reposition to the east," Jake looked towards the direction of the sun," 400 meters. You should be able to see clearly through the doors. Cover in the tree line."
"Yes sir, Jake, sir"
His voice tapered off in awkwardness. Jake had to smirk. He's got heart and he wants to prove himself. Good enough for now. Time to work. He rolled over to his cargo bag and pulled out a speed rope and pulley.
"What are you going to be doing?"
His voice was broken and winded. He must have been sprinting.
"Slow down, secure your area and then move. You should be crawling."
Jake looked in the new guy's direction when his voice came whispering over the radio.
Jake turned his attention back to the rope.
"I'm going to drop in to the food court, see if any of the restaurants still have a med kit, see if I can make it to the security office too. They might have something. Aside from that, grab anything useful." He strained the last word with a tug on the final knot. "15 minutes top. I'll be in and out of view from you, so don't shoot me as I come back out, got it?"
"How will I know it's you? I'm pretty far away."
Jake stopped and looked over to the field again behind the parking lot.
"Because I'm not wearing a damn trash can lid as a hat, Fungus!"
The young scout was slow in his response,
Jake thought back and remembered when he was green to SCAV. It was never easy. The regulars dropped all their responsibilities onto the new guys. It was a hazing, not a training. But the initiation is for good cause, there is no failure for a scavenger. Coming back empty handed is not an option.. A whole community depends on the squad, and sometimes you had to run split-comm, sharing your returns with another community. There is no weak-hearted here. There was no second chance.
Jake stopped for a second, closed his eyes and focused on his new partner. He's a great shot, so he'll be ok as long as he handles the pressure.
"Let's do this Fungus, there's normally radio silence when dropped in.. Because this is your first time, I'll whisper "out" when coming out. Good?"
"Absolutely." His relief was eminent in the speed and tone of his response.
"But pay attention because when I say whisper, I mean a mouse. Got it?"
The command in Jake's voice brought the fear back into Fungus.
"Good, I'm dropping on your go."
He double checked all the knots and the mount before rolling onto his back. Weapons check, ammo check, knife and grenades all checked with a quick tap at each on his combat vest as he completed his mental checklist. The flashlight he pulled out and checked the batteries one last time with a quick thumb click. Good. He tapped each pocket, everything else in its place. Everything should be there, because he checked it every day before leaving camp and when he returned. Another habit given to him by his mentor, always check your shit. The one time you don't is the one time you don't notice the hole in your bag. He rolled his head, popping and stretching his neck as the sun beat down on him from above. It would be nice to lay around and look at the clouds sometime. After his checklist was done. Personal med kit, mirror, small bottle of spray oil, another small bottle of paint, metal wire, utility tool, meal pack, fire-starting kit, map, compass....
"In position" Fungus chimed in and it sounded like he was in a hole. Good cover.
Less than a minute later, Jake completed his check. He rolled over onto his stomach and looked back through the skylight. Last check, drop zone.
"How does it look on your end?"
"Are you using your rifle scope or spotting scope?" Jake couldn't afford to not check.
"Good, " Real good. "Keep that up and you'll do fine. Eye's open, tell me anything you see that you shouldn't be seeing. All goes well, talk to you in 15 minutes. You set?"
"All set Jake."
"Was that excitement or nerves kid?"
Jake looked to the tree line again, knowing the young man couldn't see him over the railing. He knew he was shifting in his position because he could hear it on the radio. All nerves.
"Keep a steady hand. You'll be fine. Don't forget your 6 while you're watching mine. Going in 3, 2, 1."
With a grunt and a roll the rope bag fell into the darkness, followed by the cargo bag. Jake was only a second behind, slipping into the dark to find one more day's worth of gear. A job he chose, a job he had done hundreds of times before. Still, every time he went in by himself the old excitement came back. When his feet hit the clearing, he was smiling like a new guy again. He felt like Fungus, or how he imagined how Fungus felt. But no time for thinking now, he had a job to do.