I'm a soldier of freedom in the army of man
We are the chosen, we're the partisan
The cause it is noble and the cause it is just
We are ready to pay with our lives if we must
Gonna ride across the river deep and wide
Ride across the river to the other side...
Dire Straits - 'Ride Across The River'
We left our Marines as they had just been ordered by the mysterious army intelligence officer, Major Schuler, to cross over into Laos to recover a camera from a crashed F4 Phantom. According to the current I Corps rules of engagement, as delivered to the Marines by their CO Captain Veneziano on their first day at FB Tripoli, this was illegal. Schuler stressed they would be on their own in Laos, with no support.
Their first obstacle was fording a very wide river. Luckily it was no deeper than waist high, and there were a number of sand banks at the crossing point still above water. Because of the width of the river, the soldiers would be very exposed, and they knew few of their weapons had the range to cover the squad from the Vietnamese bank.
|"Roll to check for leeches..."|
With over two hours until sunset, and with speed of the essence, Lieutenant 'Coop' Cooper decided to bring the whole squad across as quickly as possible. Unknown to him, a small group of four Viet Cong were posted on the Laotian bank. They had decided to wait for the Americans to get within short range of their AK47s before they opened fire (to avoid any penalties from medium range). They had the Marines dead to rights out in the water when one of them was spotted by the Rat, who started shooting first. Some of the American soldiers were able to take cover behind sand banks as the VC shot back.
Technically, the communists were in a good position, in shallow trenches and hidden in the jungle, but their muzzle flashes allowed the Marines to pinpoint them, and the unit's two big killers - Rat and Billy Bob, got to work again, with a well-placed grenade taking care of two guerrillas, and Rat killing a third with his sniper rifle. The Marines' radio man, PFC Josh Edgin, was hit and badly wounded. Luckily for him, corpsman Arnold 'Arnie' Seine was on hand to treat him before he expired.
Having finished off the VC, Coop decided to leave the wounded Edgin with Seine on the Vietnamese side of the river, and pushed on towards the crash site with only six Marines. The downed Phantom was easily located, but there was no sign of the camera in the wreckage. The body of one of the pilots was discovered, and it looked as if someone had carved pieces off him with a knife. Tracks around the site revealed that the other pilot had survived and had been captured and escorted away by men in sandals.
The Marines decided to follow the tracks - it looked like the enemy were not making much effort to cover their trail, making it easier for Rat and Jugula to follow them. The Marines were helped by the fact that the VC were more relaxed this side of the river, and not expecting to encounter US troops in Laos. Towards nightfall, the Americans spotted torchlight up ahead, and approached a ruined temple, overgrown with vines and trees.
Inside the temple, Rat spotted three men standing by an altar, what looked like a North Vietnamese army officer, and two identical-looking American pilots. While Rat was observing, he was himself spotted by the VC sniper in a tree across the clearing, who opened fire on Rat. Coop decided to launch his attack on the temple, and the Marines swarmed in, shooting a third VC sentry and with Billy Bob popping a smoke grenade into the temple to screen them from the sniper. One of the pilots began chanting in a strange language, and Rat saw a wall of vines grow up around the trio by the altar, screening them from enemy fire (this was hidden from the others by the smoke).
Luckily for the Marines, the VC sniper's somewhat shoddy Chinese knock off of a Russian weapon jammed, and while he struggled with this, the Marines closed in on the altar. A wall of force was projected out at them from behind the vines, hitting them like a giant, invisible first, but Spirit rolls prevailed, and the Marines managed to down the NVA officer before he could do any damage.
One of the 'pilots' now chose this moment to flee straight towards one of the temple walls, impossibly seeming to disappear through it. Coop and Jugula gave chase, and found that a Gate spell had been used to create an emergency exit through the 15 foot wall for the fugitive. Following him through the gate, they saw him trying to flee into the jungle, now in his real guise of a Tcho Tcho shaman. Sadly for him, I was now nearly out of GM bennies, and three Marines began shooting at him with automatic weapons. He was scythed down in a vicious hail of lead.
|VC sniper decides it is time to leave.|
With that the fighting ended, as the lone VC sniper decided to fade into the jungle. The other pilot proved to be the real one, his feet strangely secured to the ground by vines. The camera was also found, next to the altar. Coop decided it was time for the Marines to leave, and they headed back to the river, taking the pilot with them. Seine and Edgin were picked up en route to their rendezvous with Major Schuler.
Schuler was pleased to take custody of the pilot and the camera, and said he might need the services of Coop and his men in the future. A medevac was organised for Edgin once the Marines were safely back in Vietnam.
Returning to base, the Marines were told the official story of the night's events should be that they were on an ambush patrol and tangled with some VC, end of story. However, it was not long before they were told they had earned two weeks of R&R in Bangkok. I like to think of them enjoying a few cold beers in a bar in Thailand, when they are approached again by Schuler, now wearing a loud batik shirt and mirror shades. Perhaps it is time to learn a little more about Delta Green?