An excerpt from the new novel Simple Machines, written by 1st Ranger Battalion veteran, Manuel Carreon. -Jack

The target building is 100 meters to my front. The distance can be covered in about fifteen seconds by my men, but under this gunfire those short seconds would be suicide. Instead, I instruct them to focus on the rooftops and the RPK automatic weapons that have spun into the fight. My boys are in pairs, most of them kneel down behind cover with their backs against each other; one faces the target building, while the other scans the rooftops looking for opportunities to present themselves. They look focused and are settling into their environment. I’ll give them a few more minutes before the call for assault.

The gunfire from the rooftops suddenly stops. I look to Q and the confusion on his face confirms the silence. Marti seems lost as he scans the ledges in every direction. A sharp sting of terror suddenly fills my mind. Something is coming. Soldiers are all the same, whether they are from America or Afghanistan. We share the same DNA no matter on what side we fight, and just as my men would slow to catch a peek at a car wreck, our enemy on this day does the same.

The battle pauses, muscles tighten in preparation for the inevitable impact and my fear swells. “Lock it up men, fresh magazines,” I sternly call over the radio. The action takes half a second and for these soldiers requires no more thought than swatting a fly and allows their eyes to continue scouring the surroundings. The massive iron-gate standing guard over the target building creaks in movement and the air fills with the sound of locking weapons as my men turn ready.

The gothic ornamentation begins to fall under shadow as the gate swings inward. The screech of metal on metal ends and the gate fully open reveals a dark world within. Squinting, I try to see, but my eyes fail me. I hear movement coming from the shadows behind the Great Wall that surrounds the objective, but without visuals, I am guessing. The noise builds and a car motor roars to life, followed by the battle cries of countless men from the darkness.

“203, now and keep it coming!” I yell to my grenadiers. Almost immediately my need is answered by the metallic thump of grenade launchers. Into the emptiness behind the gate they land and light the cavern with flashbulb intensity. The battle cries die and are replaced by panicked shrieks of pain. “Hit them again,” I respond without emotion. More comforting thumps follow, but this time there are no screams of panic, just the growing thunderous call for battle from within their keep. I fight the fear in my voice and launch a warning, “Get ready boys, here they come.”

Eye deep in my scope, finger sliding into my trigger, one last breath, maybe one of my last, and it begins. Into the sun a truck bolts out of the darkness heading right at us. Two men stand in the bed of the truck. The rocket propelled grenades they hold fire simultaneously. One screams over my head while the other finds its way to a car and explodes. Two of my men hiding behind the vehicle fall away onto their backs trying to escape the inferno. Nova moves just in time, but Olson is engulfed in flames, his hands clawing at burning eyes. He rolls and flails wildly as Nova dives onto his friend trying to smother the blaze. The last thing I see before turning back to the battle is Nova fighting to remove Olson’s helmet. I attempt to block out the man’s screams, but his pain cuts through the gunfire to the deepest part of me.

The truck that initiated their charge rams clumsily into a parked car and the force throws the men out of the bed, skipping them off the asphalt. One slams his head into the curb, dead on impact, while the other tries to get back into the target building. He runs for his life limping as fast as he can. His head jerks forward from the force of one of our shots and his body slams onto the street. Following the truck are forty men running and screaming to Allah. Each one of them is opening up their AK-47s on full auto. Bullets skip and snap in every direction. Their eyes are filled with fire and hate and they are bearing down on me and mine.