Continued from Twenty One: Fruits of the Mind Field
Twenty Two: Warm Welcome
The van moved through side streets and alleys, avoiding main thoroughfares. Gurung knew the city. He knew how to get to the safe house and do it discreetly. Alexander Scott sat in the passenger seat, his Kevlar vest with plates feeling heavy, but his MP7 feeling oh so light. The two other occupants of the van sat in back.
The dark of the earliest morning had given way to touches of twilight. The sky heralded the arrival of the sun, but its face hadn’t yet made an appearance. It was a bad time of the day—everyone was drooping, everyone was wilting.
Alex didn’t feel it. Granted, he had been moving, had been awake and active for almost 24 hours, but there had been progress. He had seen results. Best of all, Dyck, who had been seriously wounded, was on his way to receive proper care. The crew had just transferred him to a helicopter and seen him off.
On the floor, against the wall, Sergeant Everson sipped at the coffee Rudi had procured him. “So we know those guys weren’t rogue, right?”
Gurung didn’t take his eyes off the road. “They were not CIA.”
Everson swayed his coffee with the van, trying not to spill it. It didn’t have a lid. “That’s all very secret squirrel, but were they the D, the Teams, the Regiment?”
Rudi sat with legs outstretched opposite Everson. “Dyck has plenty of friends and people who owe him favours.”
Rudi. Alex chuckled in the passenger seat. He certainly had not expected to see Rudi in Kathmandu after the Russian had connected him to Gurung and fed him what information he had—which honestly hadn’t been much. It seemed, though, that Rudi had been dragged in more or less against his will. Still, he seemed commited. He was on board. Like a good soldier, once on mission, that was the priority.
“The helicopter was Drift,” Gurung said. “The medical team was the Activity.”
Everson raised an eyebrow. He did that a lot. “Drift, eh? That’s your crew, isn’t it Scott?”
“Was.” Alex looked back at the road. “I know all those guys on the aircraft, and we’re good. Let’s focus on the task ahead.”
“Task ahead?” Everson cleared his throat. “Yeah, the task ahead. While we were doing a delivery, the rest are kicking in doors and doing the job. I don’t hold it against Dyck, he was a good one, but I wish someone else could have babysat him on the drive. Fuck, I’m not even a medic.”
Alex turned to face the two in the back. “You were trusted. Appreciate that.”
“Doesn’t seem to bother you that we’re out of the action,” Everson said.
Alex tried hard to keep any hint of amusement from his face, noting that Rudi watched him. “I wouldn’t exactly consider us out of the action. The rest of the team is going after a lead, not the big bad.”
“There will be plenty of doors to kick, do not worry.” Rudi spoke with laconic assurance.
“And what’s your story?” Everson asked. “You’re the only person here I’m drawing a blank on.”
“You don’t know Rudi the Russian?” This time, Alex let the smile come, and backed it up with a snicker. “Yeah, you need to get out more. That, or you’ve just been travelling in the wrong circles. Rudi’s been around since the Soviets were in Afghanistan. These days, he’s more about self-improvement than the worker’s paradise.”
“I thought Rudi knew everyone, everywhere,” Gurung said. “I guess not much contact with the ANZAC, eh?”
Rudi just offered a slow, quiet laugh. He said nothing.
“Good enough then.” Everson gingerly sipped at his coffee, the van rocking along the rutted pavement even at Gurung’s careful speed. “So, what’s the plan, then? I’ve been incommunicado, it seems.”
“We’ve got a lead,” Alex said. “It’s all we’ve got.”
“And two opposing forces.” Everson shook his head. “Beautiful.”
“Yes, we have two opposing forces.” Rudi had already finished his coffee, and he held the styrofoam cup loosely by the rim, dangling it. “With one being a very deep, black rogue operation within the CIA. Definitely a point of concern.”
“Yes, Sinclair called it pants-shittingly scarey.” Gurung did a passingly good imitation of Madison.
“To be exact, he said he was pants-shittingly scared,” Rudi said. “And I, for one, agree with the sentiment.”
“Well, you can snuggle up nice and warm with some hot cocoa by the glow of a warm computer.” Gurung winked at Alex. “We’re almost there. It’s a nice place, Digs. You’ll like it. Perfect first home for a young couple who—”
An explosion on a roof in front and to the right of the van cut Gurung short, and made him brake hard. A second explosion followed, and it clearly outlined armed figures on the roof, one of whom flew through the air to land with a wet impact on the road.
“Willow booby-trapped the monitors.” Rudi had his suppressed MP5 submachine gun in hand, and opened the rear doors. “Someone has come calling.”
Alex surged out of the vehicle. The door might protect him from 9mm, but if the opposition had anything bigger he’d just be a nice target. He moved to the wall. In the dim illumination of the lightening sky, he saw a figure on the roof above him. Did he see a suppressed M4 carbine? An M4 or something similar.
Who were these guys? Could they be local authorities? Locals or maybe the federal Armed Police Force. But those guys usually had FNs. Usually.
Gurung had cut the engine and lights, then bailed. No one remained in the van. The figure and the silenced barrel disappeared. Vehicle lights further down the alley switched on, intensely bright in the pale early morning. Alex heard something hit the ground, bounce, and then roll.
“Grenade!” He shouted the warning then dove to the ground, covering his head.
The air filled with the roar of the explosion and blinding illumination. A flash-bang. A stun grenade.
Alex’s ears rang, but he had avoided the full impact of the grenade. He got to one knee. The vehicle lights had disappeared, but he could see its shadowed bulk moving away, further down the alley. Figures were leaving the safehouse, figures in black bodysuits with body armour, tactical harnesses, and silenced M4s.
Slightly disoriented, unsure of his aim, unsure even of the intent of the opposition, Alex froze. He shouldn’t have. He had the training and he had the experience. He had been in worse. He had survived worse. It was only a couple of heartbeats, but he froze.
From behind him, Rudi did not. The suppressor on the MP5 didn’t make it silent. Alex could hear the weapon’s action, a quiet staccato, as Rudi fired off a couple of three-round bursts. One figure went down, screeching.
The decision had been made. As the opposition exiting the safehouse began to turn, Alex had the MP7 up, stock extended and braced. He put two careful rounds, centre mass, of the first target. The figure dropped with a shout. Wounded. Two more rounds in the next target. A wet collapse. Dead.
The team on the rooftop hadn’t withdrawn. Automatic fire, poorly aimed but in impressive quantity, rained down on the alley. The van took most of it, becoming an unusable wreck in a matter of seconds. Gurung dragged a cut-down FN FAL from the van, then returned fire. The FAL fired a much heavier round then the opposition’s M4s. Gurung fired three times and two bodies fell from above.
The van blocked Alex’s view of Everson, but he heard the AKM Everson had borrowed from Gurung earlier that evening.
All this ticked off in Alex’s head as he searched for more targets. Gunsmoke drifted through the alley like a mist. None of the opposition that had exited the safehouse still stood. Five bodies lay near the door, at least three of them still moving. What about inside? What about Cascade and the prisoners? She hadn’t joined the assault team—not her forte.
Fire continued from the rooftops, but its quantity lessened. Alex glanced back. Rudi had edged out into the alley, giving him a better sightline to the roof. He fired a couple more bursts, then scuttled back in toward the wall to reload.
Alex gestured toward the still open door. “I’m going for the house.”
Rudi nodded, his eyes cold, his face impassive. Is that how I look? His combat brain had taken over. He had controlled his fear long ago, just as he controlled his excitement and his revulsion. Everything got locked down when the combat brain took over.
Later, it might show up, when Alex didn’t expect it, but not in combat.
New magazine in and round chambered, Rudi moved up behind Alex. “I’m going with you.”
Everson’s AKM hadn’t fired in the last few seconds. Alex just noticed it. Gurung continued to fire, two or three shots in quick succession, a pause between, then another grouping—careful, concentrated, and calculated.
Alex bolted for the door. He glanced at the roof. No opposition peeked out, no weapons got aimed.
“Man down.” The words came with professional crispness, but Alex could hear Gurung’s shock.
Alex halted just beside the door. Gurung stood over Everson’s body, checking it carefully. Rudi stood to Alex’s right.
“Later,” Rudi said.
As cold as that came, Alex agreed. They had to clear the house. They had to get to Cascade, to the prisoners—their only intelligence assets.
If only he could toss in a flash-bang, go in first man on a stick, but Alex didn’t have those luxuries. Two men, lots of bullets, and determination.
Alex launched himself through the open door.
Continued in Twenty-three: Me and Yu