He didn’t need to see what it was that made the sound of steel against concrete. He recognized it immediately and shouted, “Grenade!”
He dove behind a demolished taxi just before the explosion. Fragments of metal and bullets flew around him from all sides of the burned-out vehicle that provided shielding. Upon realizing none of it hit him, he took a quick sigh of relief. Then he heard it.
The curtain of enemy fire continued. When he turned to his right, he could see him dragging himself backward behind a grey sedan that rested on its side. Between that car and his own was an open space of ten yards. An open space through which bullets endlessly streamed.
Still behind the taxi, he rose to his feet and crouched in a sprinter’s stance. He gripped his rifle in his left hand, not its natural side, and after another deep breath, pushed off of the concrete and ran across the exposed area. He squeezed the trigger, blindly firing in the enemy’s direction and was mildly aware of the fact that he was shouting as he did so.
He heard the whiz of bullets past his head. He heard pebbles of concrete splash against his fatigues as rifle rounds sprayed into the street around him. As he reached the other car he did not slow down but dropped to his hip and slid into the underside, letting his impact with it stop him.
“I’m here, buddy,” he said. “You’re gonna be alright.”
He worked automatically to stop the bleeding, not knowing exactly what he was doing and bullets continued to ping into the car in front of them. Soon, they were both up to their knees and ready to push forward.
“There’s still a lot of them.”
“I know, bud,” he assured. “Just stay behind cover and take the left. I’ll take the right.” He inched himself to the car’s bumper and fired a three round burst, striking an enemy soldier in the neck and dropping him instantly.
“I got another one,” came the voice form behind after a few shots.
“Good job,” he said. “We should be thinning them out. I’m going to look for a chance to move up to that green hatchback. I should be able to get a better angle on the rest from there.”
“Wait! What should I do, dad?”
He paused, turned to his son and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. “Don’t be nervous. I’m not going too far forward without you, I promise. I’ll come back for you. And if you need help, you just yell and I’ll come running.”
The boy nodded and let out a deep, nervous sigh before saying, “Okay.” His father patted him on the head, smiled and turned his attention back to the battle.
As he peeked around the car’s bumper again, his son began spraying cover fire down the length of the bridge. He took his sprinter’s stance again and made a break for the hatchback. This time, fewer bullets seemed to fly past as his son held the assailants at bay with his own barrage.
Once behind the safety of his new cover, he glance back at his boy, crouched behind the sedan, firing at their enemies and pride swelled within him. Then, he recovered a sniper rifle from the body nearby, dropped his assault rifle to the ground and aimed down the bridge.
The scope made it so much easier to see where the bastards were hiding. With their attention on the majority of the fire coming from his son, he saw head after head pop up from behind wrecked vehicles and took them out one at a time. First he plugged an enemy firing through the rear window of a police car. Next came the man advancing on his boy, apparently unaware of his position by how upright he stood in such an open area. Then it was the one behind the white pickup who kept lofting grenades at them. He took a special pleasure in this kill, reasoning it had been this same soldier’s grenade that had nearly killed his son moments earlier.
The enemy fire was becoming noticeably lighter as he and his boy stayed calm and continued to fire. The tide was beginning to turn and their checkpoint lie just on the other side of this last wave.
As he looked down his scope to try and took aim at another shooter’s helmet, he heard it again, the sickening clink of the grenade landing beside him. He pushed off to his right and unexpectedly wedge into the corner where the car’s fender met the wall of the bridge. Knowing he did not have enough time to leap over the hood, he dropped to his stomach and hoped for the best.
The blast was deafening then became a ringing. His vision went red. He was disoriented. He knew he had taken shrapnel, but also knew he was still alive. He turned his head to try and get his bearings. He dragged himself to the opposite end of the hatchback in an effort to call out to his son and was startle to see a pair of enemy boots rushing around the corner.
As he attempted to raise his rifle at the threat, he became keenly aware that he would not do so in time. He watched in slow motion as the enemy assault rifle’s barrel raised to point at him. He wondered in that moment if his son would be able to complete the mission without him.
As he attempted to roll to one side and brace for the impact of the bullet, his would be killer’s body fell to the concrete beside him. From behind the body rushed his son.
“I’m here, dad,” he said and worked quickly to stop the bleeding. Instantly, his vision cleared and he braced himself beside the car. “Stay down,” his son added. “There’s only two more. I got ‘em.” He watched as his son fired around the side of the hatchback. After a few burst from his assault rifle, he moved back behind the car and listened.
“Is that it?” he asked.
“Yeah, let’s get to the smoke.”
They advance together, father behind son and stood near the green plume of smoke where they were to meet their ride. Soon, a helicopter swung in low and dropped a ladder. Across the screen came the words, “Mission complete.”
“Awesome,” his son said.
"Nice job, buddy,” he agreed and they high-fived.
“Can we do another one, dad?”
He looked at his watch. “Okay, we got time for one more. But remember, this is only because you’re home sick. Don’t tell your mom I let you play Call of Duty.”