Continued from Thirty-two: En Route
Mads holstered his SIG. He couldn’t believe the action had ended. Everything had passed in a blur, like fast-forwarding through a DVD. Heather leaned against the SUV blocker she had driven, breathing hard, C8 carbine held loose. Mads slid over the hood of the wrecked sedan, mimicking Boyle’s slick move a moment earlier.
Then the Bedouin’s voice came over the comm. “Incoming trouble. Contact imminent.”
“Bundle up the package.” Boyle handed Mads a pair of flex-cuffs. “It seems this is all far from over.”
Doing as he was told, Mads watched Scott reload the RPG-7. That would be one of two shots left. Mads’ heart started to race. Heather reloaded her C8, and Rudi did the same with his Vintorez silenced sniper rifle—the VSS, the ‘Thread-cutter.’ Foxtrot—the guy the Bedouin had called Bracebridge—secured, Mads had his SIG out. They all stood in comparative safety behind a wall of three, wrecked vehicles.
The three SUVs came screaming up the road, lights off. It didn’t matter. The streetlights provided illumination. Scott took quick aim with the RPG. He launched, and that was enough to make two of the drivers panic. The third went for the nice controlled stop. He had training. The two panicky SUVs started to skid, one rotating, the other careening off the road.
The RPG round slammed into the rotating vehicle just above the rear wheel housing, halting the rotation, blowing open the rear door and shattering the rear windows.
The vehicles didn’t have armour. Good to know.
A fourth, then a fifth vehicle appeared. Scott launched his last RPG. It impacted on one of the recent arrivals, blowing out the windscreen, sending it swerving off the road and into a building.
Mads scooped an AKM up off the ground. He went through the dead minder’s body—ignoring the blood, ignoring the gore—grabbing magazines. The bullets started flying, and in extensive quantity. He heard them striking all around him—against the ruined van, against the wall, against the street.
“Somebody’s emptied the Treasury to totally fuck us up.” He punctuated this by putting rounds relatively close to a gunman who foolishly exited the smashed up SUV on the wrong side.
Mads had minimal training with an AKM, so he wasn’t terribly effective. Scott took care of the target for him with two tightly spaced rounds from his G36C carbine.
“This is a fucking mess.” Scott pivoted his aim and put down a second gunman who had braced his weapon on the SUV front hood.
“We’ve got, what, fifteen badguys?” Heather watched the approach from the rear, ready to tag off when Scott needed to reload. “We stay here, we are getting chewed up.”
“We need to secure the package.” Cody—Mads had a trick for telling the two of them apart—delivered a stream of suppressive fire and Kane—the one without sideburns!—slammed home a fresh magazine.
“No shit.” Scott actually laughed as he spoke, seeking a new target. “But we’re pretty much cut off from the only serviceable vehicle, and your boss doesn’t want to withdraw.”
The Bedouin proved much more effective with a recovered AKM than Mads. “I am telling you, they are preparing to burn the op. Everything is getting torched, including Blackout.”
“Even with this man, Blackout, dead, there will be records.” Rudi lay flat, firing under the van, careful not to present an outline.
“Loading.” Scott fell back as Heather moved to replace him. The empty mag dropped from his weapon and he slid in a new one. “We are not going to get to their location and we are not going to survive here much longer.”
“Their manpower is limited.” Cascade stood over Bracebridge, her Beretta in hand. “Listen, I caught the thought, saw it pretty plain. If we don’t get in there now, there’ll be nothing to get.”
Boyle moved to replace Heather as she reloaded. “And all this will be for nothing.”
“Newsflash, we don’t have the ammunition for an assault.” Heather had slid home a mag, and only had three more on her vest.
Cascade tapped the last of the recovered AKMs with her foot. “We find more.”
“We’re on the clock, people,” Scott said. “Police should be here shortly, and after that, we’ll have the security forces on our ass.”
“Then we must move quickly.” Rudi got to one knee, sighting through the ruined sedan. “I volunteer for the assault. Boyle, you and your people will go, yes? Then we leave Foxtrot with the Canadians and we make the assault.”
“Fuck that, Rudi.” Scott put his hand on Rudi’s shoulder. “You looking to get killed?”
“Unless you believe that Cascade is lying, there is ample justification for attempting an assault.” Rudi patted Scott’s hand. “Don’t worry, I fully believe in my own immortality.”
Mads kind of assumed that no matter how stupid it might sound, they were storming the main base. “If we’re all in, what about Foxtrot?”
Boyle lifted the bound prisoner to his feet, using the flex-cuffs. The body hung limp. “He’s out for a good hour. We finish this, we come back for him later. We don’t? Well, he dodges that bullet.”
“So we’re doing this?” Heather’s question might have been rhetorical. It might have been something she asked herself.
Scott, though, answered it. “Looks like it.”
“Do we have a plan, at least?” Mads asked.
“Move fast, shoot straight, pray to God, and cover me.” Boyle got up and charged forward.
Everyone with a weapon put down fire, suppressing the opposition. Reaching the next point of minimal cover—a building doorway—Boyle ducked in, then laid down some fire of his own. Scott went next, actually leap-frogging past Boyle to the alley mouth that had sheltered alpha team during the snatch and grab.
Mads looked over at Heather, beside him, proving much more effective with her weapon. “What am I doing here?”
She smiled back. “I don’t know, taking fire? Offering a tempting target?”
“Tempting target? Screw that. I’m gone.” And Mads started his run.
He heard the bullets. He felt the chips of cement, the chunks of brick, torn loose by impacts. It was like running through a rainstorm of shattered glass. He could feel it cutting, cutting his face, his arms, dust streaking his face.
Crashing into the wall of the doorway blew the air out of Mads’ lungs. Without comment, without even a glance, Boyle took off. Mads got to one knee, braced the AKM at his shoulder, and fired on any target he saw. He didn’t go cyclical, because he couldn’t control the weapon on automatic. Instead, he squeezed off round after round, his magazine dry by the time Heather reached him.
She tried to provide some support for Boyle and Scott as Mads slapped in a new magazine. They had almost reached the line of vehicles the badguys used for cover. Cody and Kane passed the doorway, weapons at their shoulders as they ran, putting down rounds wherever needed.
“Those two are machines.” Mads had reloaded.
“Like a pair of pink rabbits.” With a wink, Heather followed the machines.
The Bedouin arrived at the doorway, but before exchanging pleasantries, Mads ran. Heather had bypassed the safety of the alley mouth—maybe because the machines had claimed the space, and had almost reached Scott and Boyle.
She took a hit that threw her off balance. She careened into the wall. She dropped. Mads shouted. Bullets started hitting close to her. She tried to rise. Scott almost reached her at the same time as Kane. Cody shielded her with his crouched body. He emptied his M4 carbine. It dropped on its harness and his Glock pistol seemed to magically appear in his hand, steadily firing. Mads slid to a stop, got under the arm that Kane presented, and started hauling toward Boyle, standing inside an alley.
He heard her breathing, heard her gasps and groans.
“Son of a bitch, you scared the shit out of me.” Mads almost laughed.
If Heather tried to answer, Mads didn’t hear it. He got her to Boyle. He couldn’t really stop, inertia carrying him. They collapsed into the alley, Mads turning to let Heather land on him. Scott, Kane and Cody all piled in, everyone reaching for fresh magazines.
“Last one.” Scott said.
Cody turned to detach Heather’s C8 from its harness. He took that and her remaining magazine, and put them beside Scott’s knee. He got back to shooting.
“How’s Heather?” The Bedouin asked over the comm.
Kane finished a preliminary examination. “Kevlar stopped it. Must have been a ricochet.”
“Felt fuckin’ full-on.” Heather gasped the words out between tortured breaths. “Think I busted a rib or two.”
Mads began to rise. Kane grabbed his arm and impelled him down. “Stay with her.”
“Nobody’s stayin’” Heather dragged herself up, using the wall. She struggled with the words, but seemed to be getting her breath back. “We don’t have the people.”
“We can hear the police on their way.” That was Willow on the comm. “But the opposition’s getting light. Zulu advancing.”
“Give them cover,” the Bedouin said in Mads’ earpiece. “We need to break this and move on the station.”
Cody and Kane went prone, putting plenty of rounds into the SUV and anyone stupid enough to try to take a shot at them.
“We’re strung out like Christmas lights,” Scott said. “This is brutal.”
Boyle gestured further down the street with his HK53 short assault rifle. “We only have two more blocks to the target.”
“Only?” Scott knelt by Kane and delivreed three controlled shots.
“They’ve got a—” Willow’s comment cut out.
“Willow’s down.” That was Rudi. “It’s in the neck. Bleeding bad.”
“I’m on the way.” Kane got up and started back up the street.
“Ah shit.” Boyle dropped to the place Kane had vacated.
“We’ve got the police to the rear.” Kane’s words came though hard breathing over the comm. “I can see the lights. A few uniforms. They’re staying back. I’m at Willow.”
The Bedouin and Cascade reached the alley. The Bedouin reached under his jacket and produced two fragmentation grenades. “Who’s got a good arm?”
Cody grabbed one and Scott grabbed the other.
“Over under,” said Cody.
“Rudi, Kane, stand by to support a rush,” the Bedouin said.
Cody threw his grenade overhand, tossing it high. Scott threw his underhand, like bowling, the grenade banging and rolling under the vehicle cover. The grenades detonated all but simultaneously. Cody, Boyle, and Scott rushed the vehicles.
The Bedouin tapped Mads’ shoulder. “We’re the second wave.”
Mads opened his mouth to speak, but saw Scott’s head snap back, saw the blood, watched the body crumple to the ground. Cody and Boyle didn’t slow. Mads froze. This wasn’t Heather, down but trying to get back up. This wasn’t Willow, shot in the neck but alive. Mads saw the wound, saw a good quarter of Scott’s head removed, saw the blood and brains on the street.
The Bedouin charged toward the vehicles, weapon raised. Mads didn’t. He couldn’t. He stared at Scott, at the corpse that had been Scott, laying there in a dirty street in Kathmandu.
The fighting apparently over, Boyle, Cody and the Bedouin returned to Scott’s body. They had some discussion. It only lasted a few heartbeats, then Cody and Boyle were moving, the Bedouin returning to the alley.
Rudi and Kane arrived, supporting Willow. She had a large bandage on her neck, but she looked dazed. She had her weapon hanging from her shoulder. She detached herself from her bearers, standing straight.
The Bedouin examined Willow’s bandage, and then looked her in the eye. “Sort this out. We’ve got work.”
She nodded. Rudi, Kane and the Bedouin left, running toward the target location. Mads watched them. Then his eyes returned to Scott. Cascade put her hand on his upper arm. “Help Heather and Willow.”
Mads turned to her. “And you?”
With a sad little smile, she nodded down the street, toward the base. “Off to the station.”
With a glance to Heather, who had started to walk out to Scott’s body with Willow, Mads sighed. He had to do this. “I’m with you.”
He and Cascade set off at a jog. The Bedouin and company had a block on them. It looked like Boyle and Cody had reached the target. A truck parked out front took some fire, then the two ducked into the building. Another block and the Bedouin’s team followed them in.
The streets were empty. The buildings around them showed no lights. It was like Kathmandu closed its eyes to keep out the visions of the little war within it.
Three bodies lay just outside the open garage door, illuminated by the light streaming out of it. The truck’s windscreen had shattered, the driver—an Uzi sub-machine gun still held in his hand—slumped over the wheel.
Cascade turned to Mads, face pale, eyes wide. “Oh no.”
And she froze.
Mads felt it, felt the pushing on the air around him, the world compressing around him, tightening against his skin.
He went to the open garage door. Rudi, Cody, Boyle and Kane all stood slightly crouched, weapons aimed at the man standing before them. The man wore a hospital gown, a sheet wrapped around his waist, and IV tubes hanging from his arms. As he looked at Mads, he raised an eyebrow.
The Bedouin turned and met Mads’ eyes. “We have a problem, Mr. Sinclair.”
Continued in Thirty-four: the Testimony of Madison Sinclair