The Few:  A Tale of the Marines in the Near Future


Chapter  6


Late Tuesday Morning, US Embassy, New Delhi  


Gunny walked down the red carpet back into the embassy. He motioned for PFC Rodriguez to leave Post 1 and take his position by the front entrance. Rodriguez licked his lips and came out, running his thumbs along the front of his dress blues, removing imaginary wrinkles. He patted Rodriguez on the shoulder and walked into the passageway to the left. As the detachment commander, he really didn’t have a mission. His Marines were at their positions, but he wasn’t important enough in the embassy hierarchy to stand outside or even to join the crowd at the consular building. 

     He walked down the passage to the Ambassador’s office where LCpl Jeb Kramer waited at parade rest.  “Head’s up.   The president is about two minutes away.” 

     “OK Gunny.” 

     He checked over Kramer. A former jock, Kramer was voted “Man for All Seasons” at his high school in Des Moines. Despite having heard this from Kramer about half a million times, Gunny still didn’t know quite what it meant. Something akin to homecoming king, but having to be a multi-sport star. Regardless, Kramer was still athletic, and he always looked good in uniform.  

     Inside the ambassador’s office, Gunny could see one of the local Indian staff , an older man named Dravid, laying out the antique Russian tea set.  He guessed the president would get tea in the ambassador’s office when he arrived, tea a few minutes later at the reception, and probably tea when he went to the head (which he would need after drinking so much tea in the first place). Gunny liked coffee better, but Ambassador Tankersly loved tea, and he thought drinking tea showed deference to India. 

     Gunny nodded to Kramer and walked back down the passage to the Cultural Affairs Section. This was a large office with windows overlooking the courtyard, so he felt this would give him a good view of the president’s arrival.  As he walked in, he was only somewhat surprised to see Major Defilice and the DSS Agent-in-Charge agent already standing at the window. Most of the embassy staff was at the consular building for the reception. 

     The major turned around.  “Ah, Gunny! Coming to slum with the peons?” 

     “I thought you’d be at the reception, sir. There’s food there, you know?” 

     “Ah, but half the diplomatic community is there, too. A mere major could never hope to fight off the Romanian Assistant to the Deputy Science Advisor when there is a buffet line in front of him.” 

     Gunny laughed and turned toward the window.  The DSS agent eyed the 9 mm at his hip but said nothing.  Directly in front of the windows and below were various embassy staff and spouses waiting for the president to arrive. Although he could not hear them through the reinforced windows, he could see the crowd outside the gates starting to intensify its actions. Both the color guard and LCpl Wynn came to attention.  

     “Well, I guess its showtime!”  murmured the major. The gate swung open and a line of black Suburbans drove in. There was a flurry of people jumping out of the first two Suburbans while the third drove right up to the red carpet.   A secret service agent moved to open the door, and the President of the United States stepped out.  Gunny had never seen this president in person, but he thought he rather looked just like he did on television.  Overall, a handsome man, he looked trustworthy. Hard to believe this was the man who’d destroyed the Corps. 

     SSgt Child brought the color guard to present arms, but the president did not acknowledge them. “Bastard!” thought Gunny.  He did acknowledge the crowd, though, waving like he was on the campaign trail.  Ambassador Tankersly came around form the other side of the Suburban and started to direct the president down the red carpet.  One of the accompanying secret service agents suddenly stopped and looked up. 

     Gunny thought that rather odd, still odder when the agent suddenly flung himself at the president, knocking him to the ground.  “Did you see that? He tackled the president!” He felt a jolt as the agent standing beside him swore an oath under his breath and pushed past him, bolting for the door. Out in the courtyard, SSgt Child faltered, slightly dipping the colors as he took a hesitant step toward the prone president lying at his feet with an agent on top of him. 

     The next few moments seemed to slow down to a standstill. They just couldn’t register on his mind. 

     There was a blinding flash in the courtyard. Gunny stared dumfoundedly as the color guard, the ambassador, and the staff secretary seemed to be pushed to the ground. In quick succession there were four more blasts, rocking the window.  Small ticks sounded as shrapnel peppered it, but the window held. The group of people standing outside in front of the window, though, collapsed almost en masse where they stood. 

     Major Defilice grabbed Gunny Mac by the arm. “Let’s go, come on, let’s go!”  They ran out the door and down the hall toward Post 1.  Inside Post 1, Little Mac was standing up staring open-mouthed out the front and down to the courtyard.  

     Seeing him, she started shouting “Gunny, Gunny!”   

     LCpl Saad was lying alongside the steps leading up to the entrance.  He was holding his right shoulder, and Gunny could see the blue fabric of his blouse turning red.  His mouth was open, and he was panting. Princess and Stepchild were huddled behind a stone column flanking the left side of the entrance. LCpl Van Slyke started to follow the agent, who was now rushing toward the president with a small, lethal-looking automatic weapon in his hand. 

     Rodriguez had taken a step or two following Van Slyke and the secret service. The agent charged toward the president when there was a rattle of fire and a burst of rounds cut him down. He pitched forward with the boneless flop of someone dead before he even hit the ground. Van Slyke went down as well halfway between the entrance and the president. 

     Gunny grabbed Rodriguez and pulled him to ground, sliding in back of the other stone column flanking the entrance.  There was a blast of answering fire from a secret service agent, and a shadowy figure on the other side of the front gate collapsed. A single shot rang out, and that agent fell.  

     Gunny glanced around the column.  There were a number of prone bodies lying on the ground in the courtyard.  A couple agents, whether DSS or USSS, he couldn’t tell, were upright and returning fire.  One agent rushed toward the president when he stumbled and fell to the ground.  He tried to get back to his feet when another round struck him, and he fell back motionless. 

     Off to the left, Gunny saw movement coming from the consular building.  It was Captain Leon-Guerro, running through the fish pond and into the courtyard. Several shots rang out from unseen sources, but they merely kicked up chips of brick and stone at the captain’s feet.  Gunny watched in awe as the captain ran, powerful legs pushing him along toward the red carpet.  A round hit the captain’s leg, instantly shredding his blue trousers, but he didn’t let that stop him.  Then, two rounds hit his chest. This wasn’t Hollywood. Captain Leon-Guerro did not go flying backwards in the air. He just collapsed. His momentum kept his body sliding across the ground after he fell, past the president, shoving up the red carpet, and up against SSgt Child and Cpl Ashley.  He looked up and lifted his arm toward the US flag and tugged on it, as if he wanted to take it away from the scene. Then his body stilled. 

     Within a few short moments, the remaining agents in the courtyard were down as well.  The gunfire slowed and ceased. 

     Gunny had pulled his 9 mm and with fumbling hands, inserted a magazine and chambered a round.  But he couldn’t see a target.  The crowd, which had rushed backward after the first blast and gunfire, was now crowding forward, looking inside the fence. Gunny could see Indian police joining them, taking in the carnage. 

     Then he saw three men push themselves through the crowd up to the gate and spray the courtyard with automatic fire, even though there was no obviously moving target. They started climbing the gate.  Gunny tried to get in position for a shot, but that was a long shot for a handgun, especially when made by a piss-poor marksman. 

     Over at the gatehouse, LCpl Wynn picked herself up off the ground. Even from this distance, Gunny could see the blood streaming down her face and neck. She calmly walked up to the gate as if she were back at Quantico getting ready to qualify on the range.  The three men saw her and started scrambling to get their rifles in position to fire, but Wynn coolly shot all three, one after the other, one shot apiece.   The men fell back over the gate into the pressing crowd.. She turned around, holstered her 9 mm, took a few steps back towards the embassy, then fell face first to the ground. 

     Gunny had five Marines down. And the president, and the ambassador, and a shitload of secret service agents.  In the momentary lull after Wynn’s shots, he jumped up yelling for the Marines near him to follow. Rodriguez, Steptoe, and Ramon jumped up and ran with him. Major Defilice rushed down the red carpet as well. 

     Gunny reached down to Van Slyke, but the Marine was pushing himself up. His face was covered in blood and his upper lip seemed to be hanging off.  “I’m OK Gunny, I’m OK,” he managed to get out of his mangled face, blood spraying.  Gunny kept going to the end of the carpet. 

     The closest person to him was Crocker.  The right half of Crocker’s face was gone, sheared off. His left eye was open, and looked completely normal, as if nothing had happened. But it would never see again. Crocker was gone. 

     Staff Sergeant Child was moving slightly, but he was obviously hurt pretty bad. Blood was soaking his blouse and trousers, and a pool of blood was forming on the courtyard stones.   “Rodriguez!  Help me here!” Rodriguez started to kneel next to Gunny Mac when LCpl Steptoe pushed him aside. 

     “I’ve got this, Gunny.” He reached down and slung Child over his back, exactly as outlined in the Marine Handbook.  He could have been demonstrating to a class. He stood up and started back down the red carpet to the embassy entrance. 

     Cpl Ashley was lying on her back. She didn’t look obviously hurt.   “Take her back, Rodriguez.” Rodriguez grabbed her by the collar and started dragging her. As he dragged her past him, Gunny Mac could see a broad swath of red form under her, as if someone was using a paintbrush to paint the courtyard. 

     Major Defilice had gone right up to the president. Lying underneath the secret service agent, his left arm was outspread, and there was some blood on it.  Defilice and the Princess rolled the agent off the president, who moaned and tried to sit up. 

     “Take it easy sir. We’ve got you.”  Defilice got his arms under the president’s shoulders while Ramon picked up his legs. Together they carried the president back. 

     Gunny looked around. The agent who had covered the president was quite obviously dead. Ambassador Tankersly lay in a pool of blood, his right arm blown off and lying a few feet from his body.  The man who he would later learn was the staff secretary lay on his back wheezing, blood pulsing out between his fingers which were pressed up against his neck. As Gunny moved toward him, the wheezing stopped, and his hand fell away. The pulsing blood slowed to a flow.  One hand still clutched the handle of a badly mangled briefcase, broken electronic components falling out of it to lie scattered across the ground. 

     Van Slyke came staggering across the courtyard, Wynn over his shoulders. A shot rang out, and Gunny could see another man pushing himself through the crowd to fire into the embassy grounds. Gunny stepped behind the president’s Suburban, then cranked off a few rounds at the man. He didn’t know if he hit him or not, or if he hit someone else in the crowd for that matter,  but the firing stopped long enough for Van Slyke to make it to the red carpet. Gunny’s natural instinct was to help him with Wynn, but he stayed at the Suburban and scanned the crowd outside the gate for another shooter.  

     Looking back at the embassy, he could see Saad step up to help Van Slyke into the building. Feeling quite vulnerable out there alone, he decided it was time to get back himself. He turned to run and almost fell over the US flag, lying in the blood on the courtyard ground.  Looking at Crocker’s body, he mouthed a small apology for abandoning his body, picked up the flag, then sprinted for the entrance.  Little Mac waited until he got through before hitting the release to lower the emergency door. 



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