"The Battle Grounds Of War Falter Compared To The Battles Fought Within The Valleys Of The Shadows."
Prologue: “The Manufactured Errand.”
"Rarely Are The Motives Of The Commander Questioned By The Common Soldier.
For It Is The Job Of The Common Soldier To Serve Un-Questionably."
Barry Scott felt unusually cold staring up at the star filled sky.
Fifteen of his fellow airmen mulled around a natural clearing north of the Vietnamese Border in the south China jungle.
Some of the men rummaged through already double checked packs, others sat in silent contemplation pondering upon their up-coming assignment.
The Captain of this sixteen man squadron; a ‘Captain Eric Connor’. Stood with his back to the men while he scryed the distant mountains on the eastern horizon.
Their tips just starting to glow in the early morning gloom.
Barry's first encounter with the captain originated in his training as a raw recruit two years to the prior. Over time he came to think of the likable Captain as a man of actions dependent upon his teams course of need.
In their training session's Eric would push his men to their limits, laughing and joking where possible, offering a little comfort to tired muscles.
In combat he would bark commands and expect both instant obedience and perfection in response.
The Captain's Sergeant constituted of the opposite, a squat man where the captain stood tall, ugly in comparison to Eric's noble features.
Where Eric remained cautious, the sergeant would blow caution to the wind, regardless of scenario he could be found with a smile upon his flat nosed face.
Sergeant Gavin held his Cheshire cat grin in every light, the caliber of shell falling around his feet would invite no additional caution. No matter how tight a position the men found themselves in, their 'Serge' would stand tall in the face of adversity.
Even through his recklessness Gavin remained well respected. The men over looking his tendencies of boisterous bravado, knowing him for that which he truly constituted, a caring Sergeant to all.
Barry failed to come to terms with how men who followed the militaries rules as if cast in stone would be killed outright, while men like the sergeant would survive every encounter.
‘Perhaps’ the young airman mused. It could be something to do with random movement, an inability to predict a targets path.
Barry’s mind jerked back to the present, sixteen identical watch alarms activating in unison, silencing the shuffling and fidgeting of the men.
No one airmen moved, simply turning their attention's to Captain Connor's back to await his 'go'. Hesitating Captain Connor took one last look at the behemoth hills in the distance then turned to face his men. “Mount Up.”
The command pre-ceded a flurry of motion, fifteen fully trained, fully equipped soldiers carrying their field kits, boarded three awaiting personnel transporting ‘Viper’ helicopters.
Twin engines gunned to life on each vessel, making ready to lift off as the Captain and his Sergeant bordered the last of the three transporters.
As the cabin lamps blinked into their night vision ‘black lamps’ (even though light now seeped over the eastern horizon) they closed the side hatches and the RAF helicopters surged in to the sky.
The pilots after gaining safe altitudes, tilted the noses of the choppers south-east and the mission began in earnest.
Each of the helicopters carried a unique reference with a Rota to 'whom' and 'what' each Viper would carry. The orders deriving from the highest rungs in the chain of command.
In the first of the Viper helicopters the corporal of the platoon, Corporal Bane, sat with four other regimental soldiers. Not including their pilot and co-pilot.
The second Viper held Barry Scott and a further three gunners, plus one box of their precious, to be guarded at all costs cargo.
Finally in the third sat Captain Connor, Sergeant Gavin, four of the regiment and the last box of their paramount objective. Its identity undisclosed.
Barry stared down upon the canopy below through the slit in the side hatch, his mind reeling back over his earlier meeting with Corporal Bane, a chance encounter in the designated latrines that morning.
Barry couldn’t fathom whether he felt relieved by the slightly older Corporals concerns involving their present task, or perhaps even more shaken. It made for a close call.
When the Captain assembled his troop six hours prior for their pre-mission briefing, his guarded manner and unusually sparse information offered little in the way of comfort.
“We'll be flying to a secure base in northern Vietnam.” Opened Eric with his attention demanding voice. “We're flying over friendly air-space, the chances of encountering enemy forces are slim, the pilots are the best, there's no room for error gentlemen.
Each man will carry a full kit and one week’s rations in case we do have to travel in the field.” A fitting contrary statement Barry mused
“Our mission is to accompany two classified reinforced steel cases until we reach our final destination. We are to Ensure! they are not compromised nor captured.”
Captain Connor finished with the flight list Rota; which men would be in which Viper's, which Vipers would hold the 'packages'. No room for last minute changes.
The plan lay bare.
The need for secrecy for their secured cargo Barry could appreciate, but the need for full packs and ‘small arms’ (Low caliber weapons: A rifle or a pistol for example) plus full body armor, eluded him.
Corporal Bane confessed the same that very morning. The older man of several years unable to hide his nervousness from a slightly pallid face. Barry Scott in that moment wondered whether the newly appointed corporal would live up to the responsibility his newly acquired rank demanded.
Barry shared his views with the man as they stood over the hole which classified as the urinal while out in the field.
“There are only two foreseeable reasons I can think of for the preparations Corporal. Either someone in high command is being overly cautious or something even more sinister is occurring.”
'What?' Barry could not have guessed at, he answered the same when Bane tried to question him further.
Now actually flying the mission he felt less assured.
Without looking at his rifle, he pulled the side bar back to load a cartridge in to the empty breech of the chamber. He followed the action with a quick feel to make sure the safety bar remained clicked in place.
The action proved clearly un-lost on his fellow airman, the sound of three S.A.80 Mk2 rifles coked one after another, their sounds managing to pierce the din of the Rota’s over head.
Turning his gaze from the canopy below to his fellow air men, a curt nod from all confirmed what he already suspected. They all felt as he, unsafe in the knowledge that they should be safe.
Fifty minutes in to the flight the black lamps blinked from existence, as co-pilots turned off all lighting to the cabins.
The sun having now arisen after starting its morning climb in to the clear sky, shone down with its full force, sending beams of particles through the slats in the side hatches of the three grey helicopters.
Corporal Bane in Viper one, sitting in silence tried in vain to mentally block the noise from the twin engines over head. His head resting in his hands, his elbows perching on his knees.
The sound of machinery forced anyone who wanted to converse into shouting, twenty minutes back the men fell in to relative silence.
Bane let his mind wonder as he stared at the steel plating under foot. His conversation with Barry Scott after midnight did little to nothing to calm his ever growing nerves.
When Barry started to walk away he whispered over his shoulder. “Orders are orders corporal, keep sharp, be ready to move, think fast and move with purpose, try not to get killed.” It nearly unmanned him.
He often wondered why Captain Connor made him the rank of corporal. Indeed he held more years than the other men in the platoon, but men like Barry Scott seemed born for such responsibility.
After all Barry certainly possessed the ability to place things in to perspective. ‘Try not to get killed.’ Bane couldn’t help but nervously chuckle.
Cracking his knuckles and starting to rap his face with his fingers, he allowed his mind to wonder, comforting himself with the thoughts of warm beaches and even warmer women.
Captain Connor glanced at his watch.
Exactly eighty two minutes in to the flight, if he needed to make an educated guess he would say his command now flew over the P.S.R. (The Point of safe return.)
If an emergence now occurred they would be forced to endure the rest of the journey on foot, retreat would no longer offer solace.
Having been thinking of when he first received the information for this mission from his commanding officer, Flight Lieutenant Samuel Richards, he couldn't help but shake disaster from his mind.
The flight lieutenant focused on the specifics; how the men should be split between the awaiting personnel helicopters, the necessary supplies, their estimated time of arrival.
Only to remain completely elusive as to 'what' they would be carrying and 'which' enemy they might expect to encounter in the area.
It seemed to the captain that Flight Lieutenant Richard's did not withhold the information, but remained as much in the dark about the operation to come as he.
Now as he sat opposite the ever grinning Sergeant Gavin he noted the nervous disposition of his men huddled around.
The reinforced metal box between their feet remained a constant reminder of the severity of the mission, even though his sergeant seemed unfazed as usual, he knew better than to presume.
Still, the facade managed to offer a little of its intended mimicked sense of security.
The captain reframed from musing over the contents of the case. Its size and weight would offer no inclination as to its true nature. The military often bulked out light items with weights, extending dimensions of 'packages' to mislead onlookers.
For all Eric knew it could well hold a compact Disc or a rolled up set of designs and blueprints.
Making to open conversation with his sergeant a sound like a fire cracker exploded from behind the rear of the cabin.
Before he could investigate or voice concern smoke filled the chamber, with no visibility he shouted in the direction of the pilots. The query failed to penetrate the chaos.
The altimeter sounded, increasing in pitch. A sure sign their altitude decreased in equal rising measure to the men's alarm. As the roar mingled with the smoke, a slight parting showed an almost serene Sergeant Gavin.
Barry rapped his fingers on his knee following the sound of the twin engines sitting aloft. For thirty minutes and seventeen seconds he continued his count
The technique offering the best way Barry could think of to calm his ever growing nerves, while at the same time keeping his brain active in case anything unexpected arose.
One side of his mind envied the American soldiers who in their undisciplined ranks allowed their soldiers to smoke while flying off to their various battles, the other half maintained count. Thirty four minutes and nine seconds.
Then it happened!
What occurred exactly he couldn't determine right away. First the sound of metal on metal, then a hole appeared next to the box that lay to the left of his foot.
The steel around the hole mushroomed outwards peeling back in strained strands of steel.
The split metal offered a sure sign as to the caliber shell that penetrated the reinforced plate, it could well bring down a chopper.
In a split second Barry's world became chaos.
The sound of the altimeter activated warning the crew of a sudden and rapid decent. The pilot’s voice shouting commands to his co-pilot sounding incoherent in the cabin.
Unable to do anything but pray, Barry grabbed his riffle with his vice like grip.
Looking over the shoulders of the pilot and his mate, unable to move from the bench he looked on aghast. The horizon bobbed backwards and forwards as a ship trapped in huge swells.
With a sharp 'ping' from behind his head, he suspected that the rear rotor no longer stabilized their flight. Looking forwards once more, the horizon no longer rocked.
Spinning as with a whirlpool, a weightlessness seemed to engulf his mind, coaxing it in to silent and the subsequent peaceful darkness.
Barry awoke, his head throbbing like a savage hangover.
Groaning with aches and pains he managed to open heavy eyelids. Almost immediately he closed them again.
In his brief glimpse of the world and his surroundings, he all too registered the sixty foot drop below his head.
With the light headed feeling one could only feel when suspended by their ankles, it took long moments to muster the courage to open his eyes against his own inherent fear of heights.
His conscious mind finally over powered his primal fears allowing a full scan of a chaotic cabin.
By all appearances the Viper helicopter dangled precariously from the canopy of the jungle, clearly having crash landed after the mystery attack.
Airman Norris, a fellow passenger and member of the unit, lay unmoving on the warped and twisted half opened hatch next to Barry's head.
A drop to the jungle floor offered Barry a similar fate if panic were to engulf him now, a sudden abrupt movement could dislodge the already strenuous perch.
On the shadowy depths of the jungle floor below, he viewed another still figure. From the blond spikes on the back of his head, it looked to be Richard Bowman.
One of the younger airmen to have recently joined the platoon.
Looking around the cabin towards the cockpit, the sight that greeted him sent bile flowing into his upside down throat.
Blood smeared a shattered wind shield; the co-pilot lay upon his superior in a grotesque embrace.
Barry didn’t have to feel for a pulse to know that both men were already dead. Such loss of blood could not leave either man alive.
Between the thick branches poking through the wind screen and the leaves packing the cabin, it would be hard to identify where tree stopped and man began.
Forcing his eyes from the bodies he looked upwards. Resting chin on chest he tried to catch a glimpse as to what held his legs tethered.
In the crash that followed the attack, his legs must have entangled themselves within the strap of his rifle, it now supported a thirteen stone Barry Scott.
Barry stretched upwards trying to grab the bar of the affixed bench. Trying to free himself as to drop down next to Norris’ still body.
His fingers made to within a hairs distance of the bar before he felt the strap give way and gravity take back that which he eluded her.
Landing on Airman Norris’ back his first emotion came of gratitude.
Thanking everything and anything that surrounds the sun for not having to make the face first drop through the open side hatch, he laughed in hysteric fits.
Levering himself from the now almost certainly dead Norris, he managed to dislodge one of the backpacks that lodged between the pilots' seats.
Crashing down upon him it flattened him once more in to the still airman. The ruined helicopter rocked precariously in its perch.
Rolling the fifteen pound pack off his back with some difficulty, a severed hand fell in to his palm. With a shriek he through the severed limb clear.
A haste born of desperation engulfed him, stretching a frantic hand in to the now dormant pack he searched around for a rope before pulling one clear.
Tying the rope to the bottom half of the bench that once before saved his life, he swung out over the drop before slowly descending in to the jungle's bowls.
Relying on the three missing packs that must surly lie close to provide provisions for survival in the jungle, he ignored the spare in the Viper.
Too horrified by the tragedies of war.
As his feet touched the earth he surveyed the local surroundings. As previously thought, Richard Bowman lay prone upon the ground, a few feet away the steel case lay dormant in the ground like an unexploded bomb.
Hopefully the re-enforced steel would have absorbed most of the impact.
Ignoring the box he lent over the still silhouette of Richard, searching for a pulse he didn’t expect to find.
To his surprise he found not only a pulse but a groan as well. Rolling the young man over he looked at his face.
“Urgh what happened.” Richard groaned as if recovering from a wild stag night that somehow left him in the middle of the Chinese jungle.
Barry allowed himself a smile for the first time since they left on their mission that morning.
“Came under fire I reckon.” He supplied for the younger man. “Norris and the pilot and his mate up there are dead.” He pointed to the wreck in the canopy above. “Harris, Bob and Dwaine are all missing.”
Richard pushed himself to his knees then fell over again. “I think I’ve got concussion.”
Barry examined the back of the young mans head. Apart from a few scratches on his face he seemed fine.
“Your one lucky bastard Richard. You’ve survived an attack on a helicopter, an aviation crash and a sixty foot drop from a tree probably on to your head.
At least you landed on your thickest part eh?"
Richard didn't seem amused.
"Stay here a minute, I need to go and see what I can salvage, not to mention to see if I can pull that damned box out of the ground.”
Walking away he turned around. “Now that I think about it, you might want to crawl away a bit. You might not survive if that one falls on you.” He pointed upwards towards the ruined Viper.
Making his way over to the steel box he started tugging from ground level. The suction of the soft earth made the work twice as hard but finally he prized it loose.
Lifting the box to move it to one side he stumbled forward, it weighed as much as a machine gun. Then it struck him.
What happened to the other two Vipers? Would they have come down in a close proximity? perhaps they escaped or at least managed to limp away.
Before pondering upon their location he went off in search of the missing packs. His thirst overwhelmed all his other thoughts and needs.
Chapter One: “The Chess of Generals.”
"Every Soldier Wishes To Ascertain Something. However Altruism for glory and patriotism is not true altruism."
General Arrington stood in the underground lab of what would one day (One day very soon, if Arrington could have his way) be a fabled British base.
His subordinates mulled around, focusing on the various monitors adorning the plain concrete walls.
Behind the small party lay ten beds. Each bed supported one sleeping occupant, blissfully unaware in their comatose induced states. Monitors measured their vital signs, their heart rates bleeping in the back ground in steady rhythms.
The General felt relaxed, even allowing himself a tight smile.
Rigging Captain Connor’s three helicopters with pyrotechnics and sleeping gas came easily to a man with almost unlimited resources.
Blood and guts were plentiful from the current wars taking place in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He sobered. From here on out it would become dangerous. If any of the commanders on the General's committee caught wind of his true intentions, his life would become forfeit.
A life time of achievement washed away in the blink of an eye.
The men in their beds were loyal to the service but instead of waking them he chose to leave them dwell in the unconscious.
Far better for them not to know he used them as pawns until it would be too late. If he briefed them on what occurred, they could well turn on him if his attentions became divert.
The metal hatch leading to the corridor outside clicked open to reveal one of the Generals' council member's. A General Matthew's.
A well respected committee member, head of the Anti-terrorism unit and Internal Affairs for the Royal Air Force, the next in line to take control of the British Secret service's, (As rumor would have known.)
With an exchange of formal salutes, the two generals walked over to a vacant corner of the laboratory to speak freely without being overheard.
“How are we progressing Leonard.” General Matthews opened, addressing Arrington informally.
“All goes to plan. Barry Scott awoke, climbed from the cabin of Viper two. Unscathed he’s met Richard Bowman before departing to the south east as predicted.” General Matthews nodded. “We had a little scare when Scott fell on Airman Norris while untangling himself from his upside down starting position.
I will have to give a second thank you to the boys down in the science labs, the A7125 drug kept Norris subdued with a lowered heart beat, the doctors will bring him in and check for injuries after a sufficient time window.”
General Matthews nodded to confirm such a hiccup would be a minor problem. “Any word from the site of Captain Connor?”
Arrington shook his head. “Not yet General, the drugs should be wearing off any moment now.”
General Matthews placed a hand on Arrington’s shoulder. “Your doing a smashing job Leonard, the committee are grateful. This will take the world by storm once its legitimatized by the politicians.
Please keep us informed.”
General Arrington smiled with honest happiness before the two men walked back to join their entourage’s.
Exiting the room Matthew's went off to report the current progress to the other committee members on the council.
Leonard marched off with his party in tow, leaving the sedated men in the capable hands of the laboratories’ doctors. After checking on the anesthetized men, the time now came to head to the surveillance and tracking room.
From here on out he would monitor and listen to the decisions the men would choose while they followed his story board. I should have been a master puppeteer he chuckled to himself.
Captain Eric Connor awoke to his smiling Sergeant's face, hovering but a foot away from his own.
“Were still alive.” The sergeant confirmed.
“Water.” Connor squeezed through parched lips. Sergeant Gavin returned with a full canteen, the captain drank with relish. After emptying half the canister he felt among the living once more.
“Status?” The captain ordered.
“Marshal Jones is burying two men. The bodies were pretty badly disfigured though. Possibly David Bones and Steven Gilmore.
Terry Jewels is scavenging for supplies and scouting as he goes. Three others are missing and can only be presumed killed in the attack. The chances of anyone surviving the crash that weren't in the copter when it came to rest in the canopy are slim indeed.”
Captain Connor nodded before standing. Their cargo case, the only relief he would receive all day, lay on an overturned log ten feet away.
Marshal Jones, having already dug one hole before laying out one of the dead airmen, now started filling it in before starting the second shallow grave.
Terry Jewels showed no where to be seen. With his senior woodsman skills it came as no surprise.
“The Pilots?” Voiced Eric already aware of the probable answer. His sergeant pointed to the canopy above the forestry floor where R.A.F. Viper Three now rested.
Shaking his head as if unwilling to speak allowed, he lowered his eyes.
The Captain could only nod.
A few moments later Terry Jewels reappeared from the dense foliage to the north.
“Report.” Commanded Sergeant Gavin.
“It’s strange sir. There’s no sign of the enemy and there’s no tracks leading towards the crash site, but...” Jewels hesitated. A prompt from the Sergeant and he finished the sentence he left hanging.
“Its just that about half a mile north sir I found a set of imprints. A set of solitary prints as if someone flew in, landed, then flew out once more. I’ve never seen the like.”
The captain turned to his Sergeant then back to Jewels. “Are you well?”
“I think so sir. I’ve got somewhat of a headache but apart from that I feel fine.”
Eric sent his Sergeant off with Jewels to confirm the foot prints. Sitting down once more he pondered their next move. He needed to clear his head, soon he would have to call tough decisions.
Meanwhile in the back ground, Marshal Jones finished digging the second grave before lifting the second body in to the hole.
At what point this mission strayed from the road of simplicity Eric couldn’t ascertain. Probably the moment he received his brief from his commanding officer.
‘Still’ he mused as his sergeant and Jewels returned to the crash site. ‘Orders are orders.”
From here on out he could only try to protect their sacred cargo and bring as many of his men home as possible.
“He must have been addled sir.” Offered the heavily breathing Sergeant. “There’re no tracks there.”
Marshal Jones packed down the grave before walking over to join the party. Not a prayer or word of farewell said, just military indifference.
“Get him now!” The fuming General Arrington bellowed to his closest aid Michael Wong.
As Michael ran from the surveillance room he nearly ploughed in to the tall slim figure of General Matthews entering from the corridor beyond.
With a salute and what must have been the briefest apology to any general in the history of the military, Michael Wong ran off through the underground labyrinth known as 'Adversity'.
“What was that about?” Asked General Matthews of the red faced Arrington. Seemingly unfazed by the near collision
“One of those damned rangers I sent out to clear all tracks from the surrounding jungle missed a set of foot prints right next to hatch sixteen.”
Hatch sixteen lay to the north, one of the many access points in to the underground command centre.
“Terry Jewels’ eagle eyes found them after Sergeant Gavin sent him off to scout. The only reason Captain Connor dismissed Jewels was because the A7125 drug left his head muddled.
I sent one of my captains, Captain Stanach to clear the prints with only moments to spare. It was a damn close call.”
“A narrow escape.” General Matthews conceded, showing no sign of the smile hiding behind his unchanging visage.
Michael Wong returning in tow with the ranger in question, entered the portal of the surveillance room.
"You blithering idiot!" Arrington shouted directly in to the tall rangers face. "Are you so incompetent that you can't even manage your own tracks!"
Without flinching Ranger Eugene Marc's, shook his head. "Sorry sir, I was sure I cleared them before entering the hatch. It was an honest mistake sir."
Arrington looked towards Matthews who held his features completely devoid of emotion.
"If you were not one of General Matthew's men I would have you flogged!"
Matthew's cleared his throat. "I will ensure that this man is disciplined General. He will not be making such a mistake lightly again."
Unable to do anymore Arrington simply nodded. For the present he would remain hospitable to the canny secret service protégé. But his time would come.
Barry along with Richard trekked to the south-east.
After scavenging the crash site for supplies Barry took the mantle of decision maker, deciding to make a move in caution against enemy forces that may be honing in on their position.
Who the enemy were? he didn't know, neither did he care. It would make little difference whatever faction they belonged to.
With a heavy fifteen pound pack on each of their backs, combined with the weight of the classified box being shared between stretched arms, they tired rapidly.
The terrain of entangling vines and well rooted bushes only added to the fatigue.
Still both men remained adamant. Unwilling to risk capture and compromise of their captain's charge.
"This damned steel trunk" Barry grumbled to himself.
Where the rest of their comrades landed the two men couldn’t guess. Theoretically it should have been close to their own crash site, but the jungle remained a great expanse.
Barry’s attempt at scouting counted for little. Moving around in heavy footed boots tended to offer native trackers a map to their bounty.
An hour's slow goings forced Richard to call for a rest. Both men’s breathing sounded labored, the canteens that started full to the brim but a few hours ago now half drained.
“What do you think this thing could be?” Richard asked between deep gulps of air.
“Probably an M60.” Barry replied in jest.
“Why would we be escorting an M60 long range machine gun?” Richard replied confusion clearly visible on his features.
Barry could only sigh. “I'm joking Richard. I have no idea what’s in this damned case. All that I know is it’s heavy as hell, I don’t think even the captains knows.”
At the mention of Captain Connor, Richard looked towards the sky barely visible through the canopy, clearly hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the missing helicopters.
“I wonder if any of them made it.” He mused allowed.
“Can’t tell. No chance of seeing smoke through this foliage. Perhaps if the wind changes we might get lucky and smell it.”
The two young men fell silent. Not from the threat of their voices giving away their position, simply because they were mentally and physically drained.
On through the day they repeated a similar pattern. Walk for an hour, rest for ten minutes, walk for another hour and rest for five.
Along day of tired bush bashing and endless twisted ankles forced the call to make camp. Fatigue and failing light would only promise further injury to already tired and battered muscles.
Barry looked around the local area while Richard stood on guard securing their cargo. A half mile further to the east Barry found what seemed to be the lip of a vertical slope.
Returning to Richard and their awaiting box he offered. “There’s a cliff a half mile east of here. It'll supply us some safety for the night. If anyone's to attack then it would be from the direction we've just come.”
Richard agreed, to tired and hungry to go in to the matter further.
Finally reaching the ridge the duo found a fallen tree mottled with growth. As one they placed the enigma box upon its bark. Richard started gathering kindling to start a small fire next to the base of a wide tree.
Barry set to looking around the small natural wind block in search of dry tinder to provide smokeless fire for the night.
Returning after half an hour with arms full of dead wood he dropped the fuel by the kneeling Richard Bowman. Sitting down with his back to the fallen log that held the steel box, he basked in the warmth of the reflected heat.
Richard having found a naturally shaped inverted 'Y' stick, wedged it in to the soft earth to hold a small pan over the flames, adding two dry sachets of soup and some water from his canteen.
With a quick stir he moved over to Barry before sitting down with a tired ‘oomph.’
What followed left the two men baffled.
Richard Bowman having lent his weight against the log Barry currently used as a back rest dislodged it from its half rooted position. Their combined weight rocked the log backwards before sending the steel case tumbling down the slope with log in tow.
One moment Barry enjoyed the fire, the next he and Richard lay on their backs staring up at the star dotted sky. The sound of the steel case reverberated down the canyon as it bounced over brush and tree stumps.
After what sounded like an eternity of elephants stampeding down what must have been a deep gorge, silence finally reigned.
Richard Bowman’s comment did little to ease Barry's nerves. "At least it didn't explode!"
“At least we’ve got our soup.’ Barry retorted a few shocked minutes later.
Captain Connor laughed quietly to himself from a crude joke Sergeant Gavin shared before Terry Jewels returned to their temporary camp.
Eric sombered instantly, even Sergeant Gavin’s smile faded some what. It showed clear by the scouts face that the news would not be good.
“Report.” Sergeant Gavin ordered quietly.
Terry rubbed his chin where his now lengthening stubble dwelled. He choose his words with care. “No enemy tracks sighted yet sir. Their either master woodsmen or they've taken a different direction.”
Terry pointed towards the east.
“About a mile, maybe a mile and a half east of here I smelled smoke and oil on the wind. When I investigated I found Viper Two sir.
The cargo is missing, though I couldn’t get to the cockpit as its stuck in the canopy side on, sixty feet from the ground.” Terry pointed to the canopy over head as to emphasize the sheer size of the huge trees.
“Also sir I found two sets of tracks heading towards the south-east, the imprints are deep, their soles RAF issue.”
“Two of ours.” Connor mused more to himself than the other two men.
“Are we to set a course to intercept sir?” Sergeant Gavin asked hopefully.
It showed clear to the two men that the captain remained locked in a dilemma, whether to prioritize his cargo or to aid his men.
After a drawn out silence he made his decision.
“At first light I want Terry out scouting for their trail. You and I Sergeant will follow with the metal case thirty minutes later.
Thirty minutes after that I want Marshal holding a rear guard action.
Terry make sure you mark the trees so we can follow as quickly as possible. We don’t want to be having to search the trunks and waste time.
If you do catch up to our men tell them to wait for us and stay put.”
The sergeant turned to his captain as if to prompt the obvious. “If they’re not ours, retrieve the case and await us.”
With a salute Terry Jewels walked over to the already sleeping Marshal Jones before unrolling his sleeping bivy.
The last he heard as his eyes closed came from the Captain stifling a laugh from a jest the always mirthful Sergeant Gavin happily supplied.
‘Honestly.’ He chuckled.
Chapter Two: “Realism of Severity.”
"Throughout The Ages People Have Woven Strands In To The Plans Of Others. For When Foul Deeds Are Afoot, Men Take Note."
General Arrington made his way from the surveillance room. Now that darkness engulfed the land he could continue with other tasks.
The two parties now settled for the night would unlikely continue their journeys. Well trained they knew that travel in the dark would seriously increase the risk of a broken ankle, something neither groups would chance lightly.
Making his way towards the northern quarter of the underground complex, he pondered on the severity of his undertaking.
So far the General’s Committee were appeased. Though they could never embrace his patriotic motives as to what lay ahead, they also wished for a safe Britain in the coming future. Arrington simply fancied a different method.
His apartment awaited around the next bend in the tunnel, the neon lights over head casting his bulky shadow upon the gray concrete walls. In his chamber he could finally have complete privacy to make his most important phone call.
Reaching his lavish dwelling, lavish in its sense that it encapsulated a clothing stand and a wash basin, a luxury the other staff were not permitted. He turned the lights low to mimic the outside night. A welcomed contrast after hours spent in a brightly lit surveillance room.
Flicking open his mobile phone he pressed a single button to activate the speed dial feature. A few moments later a Chinese woman’s voice answered.
“Wong Xiang restaurant how may I be of service?” The woman spoke in English but held a thick Chinese accent..
“I would like to confirm an order I have placed for tomorrow night if I may?”
“Of course sir, may I take your name?”
The General supplied her with his code name.
“Ah yes sir, I have your order reserved here; twenty five spring rolls, three portions of sweet and sour, and a courtesy call booked for 5pm. Your delivery is due for 6.45 P.M. tomorrow evening sir.”
“That will be fine.” The General agreed. “Unfortunately I’m having problems using my debit card. Would cash on delivery suffice?"
“One moment sir.” The Chinese woman fell silent for a moment. “I have spoken with the manager. He says that will be fine.”
“Then thank you very much for a fine service.” Concluded Leonard with a grin.
“Thank you for your custom, have a pleasant evening.”
Hanging up the line he closed his phone before stretching out upon the bed. Setting his alarm for day break he pondered on the morning to come.
By the early morning Captain Connor would be sending Terry Jewels ahead to rendezvous with Barry Scott and Richard Bowman.
At that moment Leonard would dispatch his own men to waylay the lone Marshal Jones, covering the incident as an accidental collision due to a GPS failure.
Now would be the time to add some confusion, a big enough fuss to keep the committee busy and divert their attentions from casting to close an eye upon his own movements.
Marshal Jones' death should keep them locked in debate all day, he thought chuckling.
Michael Wong worked for General Arrington as cleric to all paper work that came with the status of a heightened rank. For two and a half years Michael took care of all aspects of the Generals' chores.
Most of his days being spent setting up appointments or taking care of his day to day expenses, even so far as to paying his families’ utility bills back in England.
For the time they shared in the days, they rarely spoke regarding the construction and maintenance of the complex.
The four hours a day spent with the man usually seeing him taking notes or typing already dictated letters.
It did feel peculiar in regards to how different men of power operated. His previous charge, flight lieutenant Baker, rarely spoke of his private life. Concentrating on the subject of business even while they were alone, never once introducing conversation of family or friends.
Arrington did exactly the opposite. At every opportunity he would talk of his wife and children. Rarely speaking about matters of true import.
That he held few friends did little in the way of surprising the cleric, what the general actually did with the majority of his time remained an enigma though.
The only times he discussed operations with the little Chinese man came when he sent him to speak to the committee in his stead, using his absence to limit the questions the other Generals could venture.
Over the last two years a perceivable change emitted from Arrington. He worked with his assistants less. Leaving them jobs to do in his long absences.
Any questions regarding his intended destination would be answered with vague casual comments.
Once the General even blatantly lied to him.
After disappearing for a week he returned telling all that he visited with his wife and children at their country house in north Cumbria.
Yet three days before his return his wife called his office in London, requesting to know when her husband would be expected home to play with his children.
Dismissing the strange actions of the highly decorated General, Michael prepared his morning run of errands.
At 5:15 am he would rise and start his day. His first task to attend the coffee machine in the cafeteria, fetching his General his morning dose of caffeine.
The task though trivial failed to upset the little man. If the military wanted to pay him for fetching coffee and sandwiches he wouldn’t be the one to complain.
Reaching the vending machine he became side tracked from his musings by the ranger he went to fetch the day before, after being dispatched by the infuriated Arrington.
Ranger Marcs, he remembered as the mans name.
According to General Matthews the man's pay for the week became forfeit and a blemish on his military record would not go un-noticed in the future.
How like a general to cover both sides of life. Both the financial and the professional.
“Don’t worry Michael, I'll not shoot the messenger.” The wolf lean scout announced in reference to Michaels summons the day before.
“Thank you. As you say I was just following orders. Still I appreciate mistakes are made, I thought it a little cruel the general docked your pay.”
The ranger shrugged it off.
“As you say mistakes can occur.” Offered the ranger.
Michaels face portrayed his puzzlement at the cryptic remark, but the ranger spoke before he could voice a question.
“Perhaps we could get together for a beer this evening. No hard feelings and all that.” He squeezed Michaels shoulder slightly in a show of good faith.
Michael Wong, not a man to make enemies easily, especially those as tall and dangerous as Ranger Marcs, agreed unconditionally.
A smile crested the rangers face. “Excellent. Call on me this evening after your shift ends.” With that the lean ranger walked away.
Slightly puzzled at the rangers cryptic remark Michael walked off to attend his general. A cooling coffee in one hand and a tuna sandwich in the other.
Richard awoke Barry as the sun crest the eastern sky. From the precipice in front of the two men they watched the rays of light move towards them over the unending canopy below.
Both men took turns keeping watch throughout the night, the four hour sleep patterns offering little deep sleep.
Though bleary eyed Richard clearly showed his eagerness to be under way. Ready to search for their temporarily misplaced charge.
After several minutes of packing their bed rolls and camping equipment, the two men moved off down the perilous slope.
Within the first few feet it became apparent that an attempt at night of recovery would have led to a fatal end.
Deep gorges in the rock strewn slope indicated where the reinforced edges struck dirt and rock alike, a giant industrial slinky.
Careful to place their feet on firm ground they managed to descend another fifteen paces before they met a sheer drop.
A lone tree offered a site to tie a rope, several tugs showed the knot to be secure before Barry cast it over the edge, spiraling down through the canopy below.
Unhooking his pack from his shoulders, he passed it to Richard to hold.
Instructing the younger man to pull the rope back up after he descended, then to lower both packs to the ground before eventually following.
Without further a due, Barry grabbed the cord and swung out over the precipice ready for his decent.
Using his feet to slow his progress he descended through the uppermost branches of the tall forest giants below. Stopping so he could survey the ground below from a heightened position, he scoped around trying to see a sign of their fallen container.
At first he could see only brush and foliage, finally looking directly below he caught a glimpse of the steel box.
As if fate re-enacted earlier events at the crash site, the oblong shape stuck in the earth length ways like an unexploded missile.
Lowering himself to the ground he stood ten feet from the half sunken case, before freezing.
The side of the case showed ajar where the metal hinges clearly gave way on impact. Gone were its uniform sides, now it resembled the shape of a half opened coffin.
His immediate concerns ranged from a bomb, all the way to a biological weapon, he dismissed the thoughts with difficulty.
If indeed it held biological agents and the seals gave way he would likely already be dead or dying.
Surely if a bomb, it would have exploded already. Probably on the moment of impact.
Descending to the soft earth he made no sign of moving towards the now half opened case, he tugged on the rope twice, then a pause, then twice more.
A signal for Richard to start lowering the packs from above.
Awaiting his companion, unwilling to investigate any further in case he made a false move and blew himself up, Barry surveyed the surrounding jungle.
When the packs finally reached the ground with Richard joining him, he motioned to the steel case.
“Richard I don’t want to alarm you, but I think the impact has snapped the hinges on our box.”
Richard followed his pointed finger to where the box lay half submerged. Following Barry’s original reaction he froze.
“I feel alarmed.” The pale faced youngster squeaked.
Barry’s unease doubled at the young mans reaction. After a few long moments some of his composure returned.
“Stay here I’ll take a look.”
Approaching the side of the case that gave way he tried to peer inside.
What little light penetrated the tree tops offered little in illumination, but what he saw in the swaying twilight left his eyes wide and his jaw slack.
Captain Connor knelt over a circle of burnt charcoal, the ashes still warm to the touch. Using his years of experience as a guide he judged the fire doused an hour earlier that morning.
Earlier that morn come dawn (About 5:45.am.) he sent Terry Jewels off tracking the two sets of prints he presumed to be his two lost airmen.
Thirty minutes later, he and his sergeant followed with their classified cargo distributed between them.
After just over three hours of following marks on trees that Terry discretely left them, they met up with him at an abandoned camp site.
On first contact they found Terry examining the butt of a cigarette. Its filter showing signs of fire damage where it landed on a piece of smoldering charcoal, its brand name showed just about legible.
The letters ‘son’ and ‘ges’ above and below each other showing it to be an English make.
Unless someone killed his men and looted their bodies, the small party were indeed on the trail of royal airman.
As Terry moved off to further investigate the local area the captain and the sergeant lowered their packs to the ground. Both men taking their rest on the reinforced oblong steel container.
As they both caught their breaths, gun shots sounded along their back trail.
The two men stood as one. Terry stopped mid stride and turned to face the sounds. Trying to judge their distance.
Eric thought furiously as the shots continued.
Unwilling to return to help Marshal as he would be forced to abandon the package, his commanding officers voice replayed in his mind, stressing the point of its paramount importance.
Balanced against the alternative of condemning Marshal Jones to a lonely un-marked grave the complex left him momentarily baffled.
Trying to find a medium, albeit an unhappy one at that, he made his choice.
“Orders” He commanded to Terry, prompting him to attention. “Jewels you are to return to aid Marshal. Assist if possible and return if not.”
Terry saluted. “Yes sir, thank you sir.”
Before he could run off Eric added. “We’re moving on ahead, follow when you return.”
A final salute and Terry disappeared from site in to the under growth. His keen woodsmen skills leaving him all but invisible.
Chapter Three: “Marshal's Combat.”
"A Single Thought Can Stop A Landslide, It Is The Implementation Of The Thought That Provides The Results."
Marshal set out to follow Captain Connor and the Sergeant after awaiting the appointed delay of thirty minutes.
Working feverishly to cover their back trails, with leaves and brush. He remained vigilant looking for any signs that would indicate any enemy pursuit.
Ten minutes in to his work he found himself entangled in a particularly nasty bush.
While untangling himself from the thorny embrace he noticed a flock of exotic birds ascend in to the sky further back along his trail.
The possibility of a large mammal startling the creatures could not be ruled out, but to ignore such a warning would be folly indeed.
Hoping his earlier efforts would mislead any possible pursuit, or at the least slow them down, he increased the pace.
After a further five minutes he became convinced of pursuers.
Knowing his imagination could mislead him, he couldn’t fail to notice the silence that seemed to shroud his back trail.
Twice he tried to shake whoever followed. The first time spotting a fallen tree trunk. Running along it, then jumping off thirty feet away.
A bid to make appear as if his foot prints simply vanished. It availed him little.
Minutes later the alarmed cries of a group of monkeys alerted each other with high pitched screeches, another sign that his pursuers closed the gap.
His second attempt remained as futile. Tiptoeing from the Captain’s and Sergeant’s trail he walked fifty paces to the north.
Whoever pursued him changed course without a seconds hesitation, a brief glimpse of two camouflaged shapes moving towards him confirming his lack of success.
Flickering in and out of view between the wide bases of the trunks, his plight became more desperate.
He knew how skilled the natives could be. The stories the veteran’s from panama discussed in the mess halls were not to be underestimated.
Yet the way these men followed him, bordered upon the supernatural.
Marshal stopped astride. Not only did he so far fail to delay these men, but at present he lead them towards his comrades to boot.
With no alternative left in mind he looked for the closest cover.
A fallen log half a meter in diameter lay length ways surrounded by tall dense brush, a ray of light from a parting in the canopy above filtering down to illuminate its small area.
As if the beam of light came as a sign from god herself, he un-slung his rifle then vaulted the fallen trunk. Kneeling down he rested the barrel of the S.A.80 upon the dead wood facing his trail.
Minute after slow minute passed. The only sounds in his ears the erratic heart beat and the chirping of the little insect creatures near by.
He made to move after what could be no more than five minutes, his stressed position altering his perception as to make the time seem like a small eternity.
Then his subconscious alerted him to the prime rule of hunting. Patience.
It remained immaterial that in this circumstance he became the prey. The same rules applied.
Then it dawned on him, the hunters were waiting for him to do just that, make a move and offer a target. As soon as he left his cover a hail of bullets would take him in the back.
Scanning the trees ahead, he allowed his vision to roam.
Movement ahead to the right caught his eye. A slight blur from a camouflaged figure no further than ten meters away offering him a target.
Marshal fired without hesitation; three shots. The sound of a body hitting the soft earth reward enough for his ears.
Two men to his left retuned fire. The sound deafening. These were not controlled bursts of fire but entire magazines.
Splinters fell like rain where the bullets ripped in to the horizontal log. Small barbs ripped in to his hands and face. He didn’t feel them, couldn't feel them.
Unable to raise his head to take aim for having it blown off. He held his rifle overhead and started blind firing in a wide arc in the two men’s general directions.
The semi automatic fast exhausted.
Predicting the men would choose this moment to advance, he discarded the rifle before drawing his side arm in quick succession.
Dropping sideways to lie flat upon the ground, his bloody cheek touching a combination of soil and leaves, he looked under the log.
A gap of four inches separated the left side of the splintered tree from the ground.
Wedged upon a fallen branch it gave him just enough room to take aim on one of the advancing men's shins before opening fire. The man dropped instantly with a grunt before falling silent.
As the last of the attackers came into view, towering over Marshal’s cover in a clear outline, Marshal aimed the pistol then pulled the trigger.
In a simultaneous moment the man recovered from Marshals sudden change of position and took his own shot.
The rifle round tore in to Marshal’s shoulder while his own pistol shot took the other man through the eye.
Crying out from shock and pain, his pistol falling from now limp fingers he forced back the darkness threatening to encompass his vision.
Sheer desperation drew him to his knees, blood pouring down his now useless arm.
Scooping up the pistol with his left hand, he sat with unbidden tears in his eyes from the pain. Blood from the splinters in his face dripped steadily into his left eye.
He remained conscious for less that a minute before he fell to the soft earth and into the apathetic darkness.
Fifteen minutes later Terry Jewels stumbled across the now silent battleground.
The cordite upon the breeze drifting down wind to the East leading him the rest of the way to where he now stood.
Seeing Marshal lying unmoving upon a bed of leaves he blew caution to the wind and moved over to the still figure.
Marshals face covered in crimson with a puncture wound in his right shoulder oozed blood in a steady trickle .
Checking for a pulse Terry discovered the man to still be alive. Though sporadic and weak to the touch, he silently gave thanks.
Lifting the unconscious man slightly, he caught sight of the entry wound. Leaves covering the hole, sticking to it with the mans life blood, supplied the reason for Marshals continuing survival.
If Terry found him in the soil or on any other surface he would certainly be collecting one of the younger man's dog tags from around his neck.
Reaching in to a compartment at his belt, he produced two pads of cotton wool and a bandage.
Cleaning the leaves off Marshal's shoulder he pushed the cotton packing in to the entry and exit wound, before finishing by bandaging the two pads in place.
Leaving Marshal where he lay Terry moved over to inspect the ripped and shredded log.
On the other side of what clearly passed as Terry Jewel’s bullet ridden cover, he found the first of the bodies.
Very dead with a hole in the eye, the body lay in a half fetal position. An S.A.80 rifle lay next to him, embedded in the mud like an impaled sword. Its standard British issue offered its own concerns.
Vaulting the half ruined log he came across the second body. The man lay in a pool of his own blood, the bottom half of his right leg sheared away.
The man’s head showed blood from where he landed on a particularly nasty jagged root. In the dead mans grasp lay a jungle carbine, a mini rifle designed for warfare in its named habitat.
Perfect for firing from trees due to its compact design and shape, it shot the large .308 shells usually reserved for long rang field rifles.
A devastating caliber to anything it hit.
Ready to turn around and return to Marshal he caught a glimpse of a foot protruding to his right.
On close inspection it remained attached to a body. A man showing three holes in his chest in the shape of an inverted triangle poked through a thick bush.
Another Jungle carbine poked out from under the mans back, though what he held in his hand would turn out to be a far deadlier weapon.
A small monitor mounted on a short handle, its screen displaying two flashing red dots, under the dots a green and brown background offered information on the surrounding terrain.
Picking the device up to inspect it further, he headed back over the log to check on Marshal.
The most worrying thing so far struck him like a physical blow. As he moved, so did one of the dots.
Barry and Richard sat on the cool ground of the forestry floor.
Two hours passed since the two men descended through the canopy to the revelation once classified as a top secret carry case.
After Barry looked in to the warped oblong case his dumb-foundment preceded a long silent pause.
Several shaky prompts each more urgent than the last from Richard finally rallied the confused Barry.
The only thing he could do came as a finger pointing to its insides, Richard gingerly walked over.
Both stared in amazement at the belt fed M60 7.62mm long range machine gun, accompanying a box of its caliber’d ammunition.
Barry who always found life’s ironies amusing no matter how twisted they might turn out to be couldn’t bring himself to laugh for a change.
Cursing over and over, each curse fowler than the last, he took long minutes to get the frustrations out of his system.
Richard on the other hand simply stood pointing open mouthed.
Stuttering. “How did…”, “Why is it…”, “Who would…”, with no answers forthcoming he trailed in to silence.
By this point Barry reached a crescendo shouting. “Sons of bitches.” Repeating it into the air like a religious mantra.
It took over five minutes before the duo ventured in to conversation.
Coming to the same conclusion every time, that both could find no answer or reasoning to why this would be.
As Richard stood, ready to move to the side to relieve himself, a rustling sound drifted down from overhead.
Sergeant Gavin came in to view, using their rope that they left tied to the tree above. His voice boomed out.
“Don’t shoot me by accident you two morons.”
He landed with a thump, moments later tugging on the rope to signal the all clear to Captain Connor above.
Richard looked towards Barry in confusion.
“Don’t just stand their, the captain's lowering the case, come over here and lend a hand.”
With more than a few questions on their lips. The airmen complied.
A second rope lowered from above, suspending the heavy steel compartment.
After touching it to the earth, the captain above retracted the line before repeating the action with three more back packs.
With all their gear accounted for, the Captain came in to view shimmying down the line. His face covered in perspiration.
Touching down he turned to the two dirt encrusted airmen before commanding. “Report.”
Michael Wong approached the door to the surveillance room. In one hand he held the generals cup of cooling coffee, while under his wing the tuna sandwich remained rapped in its cellophane wrapper.
Opening the door with his free hand a din struck him from within.
The sound of operators shouting information to each other complimented the multitude of running boots of dozens of staff members from one side of the ‘com’s’ room to the other.
General Arrington stood alone in the centre of the room shouting commands to the men and women, trying to regain some sort of order to the chaos.
To Michaels trained eye he found the General falling short.
Dodging in through the doorway as one man ran through the portal, a splash of coffee sprayed across his face.
Making a brief prayer giving thanks that the black liquid didn’t scald his features, he silently thanked the Ranger for his delay at the cafeteria.
Pushing his way through the hubbub he approached the general. His arms extended as if offering the roman god of war a sacrifice.
What happened next shocked the young man, in more ways than one.
One moment he stood next to the shouting general and the next he lay on his back staring up at the grey colored ceiling.
Time passed in his dazed state, to his surprise nobody stopped to offer help.
Finally realizing he would be on his own, he rose on wobbly knees.
Feeling his way to the rear wall, the furthest point from the commotion that engulfed the room, he stopped.
Still shocked from the generals dismissive but strong push he stood listening to the activity around him. With eyes cast downwards to stay his rising nausea, he caught snippets of conversation.
Someone to his front left shouted. “Last known co-ordinates?” A brief pause and a muffled response of several longitudes and latitudes were returned.
An airwoman’s voice shouted. “Audio is still transmitting general. Theirs interference from some where but its still on air.”
“Listen for any reference or indication as to what’s happening out there.” The generals voice boomed.
Michael felt sick, his vision blurred before refocusing, the sensation constantly accompanied by an acute feeling of claustrophobia.
From fear of falling over once more, then being trampled by an unthinking boot he started tracing his right hand along the wall, heading towards the exit.
Finally touching the glass of the port hole in the door, he felt for the handle more than looked for it.
Staggering out in to the quieter hallway he loosened the tie around his neck.
The urge to lie down became almost overwhelming but he felt determined to reach his room before doing so.
Rushed footfalls passed him from both ways but he didn’t look to see who they belonged to. His need to keep balance forbade it.
Reaching an intersection he took the right path through the under ground tunnels. Heading towards his assigned room in the billeted area to the east.
Approaching his sparsely kitted out dormitory he glanced upwards. A familiar face adorned a tall body.
The smell of cigarette smoke wafted towards him as strong hands gripped his shoulders, unable to maintain focus any longer he fell into unconsciousness.
Chapter Four: “The Pawns Rebel.”
"Disorientation belongs to three groups. The conman, mother nature, and the Devil."
Corporal Bane awoke in a cramped cell.
The walls, ceiling and ground all of matching concrete, their texture smooth and unblemished.
His clothes already having been removed while he lay unconscious, left him naked except for his boxer shorts.
Without a window in the room he remained ignorant of the hour, the location, and to whom made him their capture.
With a pounding head and a rumbling stomach he reached up to his chin, trying to measure the length of growth of his stubble.
The room lay as bare as he, only a metal bucket in the rear left hand corner and a matching metal cup in front of a blank solid steel door kept him company.
Two sweet mouthfuls of metallic water did little to quench his thirst, only highlighting his hunger.
The light source from overhead came from a single bulb and even that remained behind a wire mesh.
The corporal thought back over to his final moment aboard the Viper helicopter.
Just under an hour and a half in to their flight, smoke filled the cabin and the altimeter alarm sounded. The chaos in the cabin from the men’s shouts combined with the smoke from the ruined engines screened the outside world.
Surviving an attack on ‘Viper One’ he must have crash landed, striped of his gear before being tossed in to this cell.
The next step would likely be interrogation, followed by his ransom or more likely his execution.
At first his mind ran wild with thoughts of possible torture his capturer’s might induce, giving up unable to deduce anything he tried to block the events to follow from his mind.
Without being able to judge who ‘they’ were, made it all but impossible to guess at 'what' they would do or want.
The Captains brief, informed that they would be flying over friendly terrain. “Doesn’t feel very friendly Eric.” He mocked using the captains first name.
Regretting the words as soon as he spoke them. For all he knew Captain Connor now lay dead or in the same position as he.
“Still.” Bane mused. “At least I can’t tell them anything.” After all, his lack of information left him completely in the dark regarding everything the mission entailed.
He sobered at the thought, perhaps they would torture him all the harder thinking him resolute.
“Dear God.” He said aloud nearly weeping.
Terry Jewels struggled onwards, sweating wildly from the load he forced himself to carry.
Marshal Jones lay horizontally over his shoulders while two rifles dangled towards his feet below, one slung over each shoulder by their straps.
Praying the Captain and Sergeant would not have gone to far ahead from where he left them that morning, he pushed himself to his limits.
Without the strength to carry Marshal directly South East, circumventing the steep slope he spotted while surveying the abandoned campsite earlier that day, he would be forced to travel miles off course to the south.
Finally reaching the area of the site he gave an inward sigh of relief. No matter the circumstances at least he would have time for a brief respite.
That would be the case if the droplets of blood from Marshal's torn face didn’t lead the enemy straight towards them.
Marshal Jones left a trail a blind vampire could follow.
Laying Marshal down carefully on a bed of leaves from the previous fall, he headed down the slope to find a rope attached to a lone tree.
Even Sergeant Gavin lost his trademark smile as Barry Scott concluded his report with “…contains an M60.”
Naturally the Captain and Sergeant verified this turn of events with their own eyes before they could truly believe.
After a few minutes necessary to compose themselves from outbursts of crude expletives, the captain set to forming their next course of action.
The party would await Terry Jewels and hopefully Marshal Jones for another hour before continuing South East to seek a river.
China's lands were riddled with such veins of fresh water, all would lead back to the sea.
Using the free time as best they could, they set to with bayonets in hand, prizing at the hinges of the second re-enforced steel case.
Breaking two blades, they finally managed to spring the hinges. Revealing an identical M60 and a single box of ribboned cartridges.
Sergeant Gavin broke out the trail rations as the end of the hour approached, before ordering the stowing of their packs and commanding them to make ready.
Getting ready to move out after collecting the two long range machine guns, Terry Jewels appeared through the branches overhead.
Touching the ground in front of Captain Connor, Eric supplied ‘Report’. Terry narrated his version of the events that occurred, finishing with passing the captain the portable G.P.S. tracker.
Sending Sergeant Gavin and Barry Scott to retrieve the injured Marshal Jones, Eric set to examining the screen with its six blinking dots.
Satisfied with his results, he drew Richard Bowman to one side by his elbow. “Strip and throw” He whispered in the young mans ear.
With a disturbed look on his face Richard started removing his clothing. The Captain held his eyes glued to the screen as Richard started throwing his clothes a few meters in front.
Left with only his underwear and his watch Captain Connor made a gesture with his hand, indicating Richard to un-strap the watch and throw.
A dot on the screen suddenly moved.
Quietly informing Bowman to collect his clothes and re-dress through hand gestures, Eric walked over to the watch and scooped it up.
While his men went about their designated tasks he drew a pad and pencil from his pocket then started writing.
By the time he finished penning his note Marshal Jones touched down ten feet away, a rope wrapped around his waist the only way of lowering him from above. Meanwhile Richard Bowman continued to don his body armor.
Gathering his team together Eric placed a finger to his lips and passed the piece of paper around.
‘We are being tracked by G.P.S. and are probably being listened in on as well.
The trackers are in our watches, when this note has circulated, take off the straps and hold them in your hands.
I will then announce that we are to make early camp to allow Marshal rest until morning.
Each of you need to walk away and place your watches on the ground.
Sergeant Gavin will then announce a false Rota for this evenings watch.
Barry and Richard are to carry the M60’s, while the Sergeant will help Terry carry Marshal to the East.
Maintain absolute silence until we are away in to the trees. There we will discuss our position further.’
After the last man read the note they went about their nominated tasks as silently as possible.
Captain Connor walked over to the unconscious Marshal, removing his watch then placing it upon the ground directly below.
Sergeant Gavin shouted his false orders to those that would take the watch and when.
His voice helped to cover the movement of Barry Scott scooping up the first of the M60’s.
Five minutes down a freshly cut trail to the south east and the captain called a halt. Satisfied the dots on the G.P.S. screen were moving away from them, he through the monitor in to some thick bush.
Ordering his Sergeant to change Marshals packing in his injured shoulder, the party adjusted the straps of their back packs for the long march ahead.
Michael Wong came too with a start.
The ranger Marc’s lingered above his face while his hand withdrew a phial that contained a foul smelling liquid.
Michael’s head still hurt, but in no way to the extent previously experienced.
Looking around he found himself back in the relative safety of his small dormitory, the light overhead already having been dimmed. Which Michael would be eternally grateful for.
Opposite where he lay in his bed, he saw the electronic lock for his door showing a glowing red L.E.D. Indicating its status as locked from the inside.
“I would have let you sleep longer but I fear that time is against us.” Marc’s stated breaking the silence.
“Us?” Michael repeated groggily focusing on the blurry scout .
“I’m afraid so.” The ranger admitted with a light shrug. “Can you walk?”
“I think so, help me up.”
As he offered his hand he found himself shot to his feet by the taller and far more well muscled ranger.
“Here’s what ‘were’ going to do.” Stated Marc’s. “First ‘were’ going to go to Corporal Bane's holding cell. Once there, your going to tell the guards you've been sent by General Arrington to fetch him.”
Michael Wong stared open mouthed as he digested the information.
“’Were’ then going to take him to the western helipad where I’m going to commandeer an R.A.F. Viper.”
Starting to protest Marc’s cut him short. “I appreciate this seems some what confusing for you, but please try to understand it is not only necessary but of the utmost importance.
The ranger paused for a second before continuing. “Unfortunately if you disagree or hinder me in anyway, I have been instructed to dispatch you of immediate effect.”
Once more the ranger offered a light shrug as if to say. “Unlucky Pal.”
Taking it unusually well for a man recovering from concussion, having been threatened with death, and having received no combat training what so ever. He nodded.
The ranger’s smile held a sense of genuine humor. He followed his grin with a nod towards the doorway. As if saying. “No time like now.”
Corporal Bane tensed as the cell door swung open. Since awakening he couldn’t help but pace his claustrophobic confine, now he stopped statue still.
Half expecting a Chinese rebel with an A.K.47 in hand, he felt shocked when confronted by an English ranger wearing RAF colors, with whom seemed to be a cleric by his side.
The clerk with glasses remained vigilant but remained silent, the ranger however stepped forward. “Say nothing and come with us.”
Bane would have protested but he knew it would do little good. The ranger not only six and a half feet tall, showed as well muscled to match.
Walking out in to a concrete corridor he followed behind the Cleric. The ranger bringing up the rear.
Reaching a cross section they encountered two armed guards with sub machine guns. (S.M.G)s. A quick nod from the cleric towards the two men and they permitted the trio access to the western corridor.
When Marc’s felt content the party were out of earshot he turned to the cleric Michael Wong. “You did just fine Michael.”
Turning to cast his glare downwards towards Corporal Bane he smiled. “And as for you Mr. Bane.” The corporal’s head shot up at the use of his name.
“You will be glad to know you are being rescued.”
The ranger held a hand up to stop the tide of questions that would follow.
“However.” He continued. “I don’t, we don’t, have time to go into the matter at the moment. We have a Viper to commandeer.”
General Arrington sat in silent contemplation in the surveillance room. Apart from four male operators and two female operatives sitting listening to the silent camp of Captain Connor's party, the room remained quiet and orderly once more.
It would be unnecessary to have all the controllers here in the evening. The captain having already made camp for the day would unlikely move, and even if he did the general could have his staff here within minutes.
To say he felt besides himself earlier that morning would not have done his situation justice.
Even though he wanted a little Chaos so he could keep the generals committee's attention diverted, he also wanted Captain Connor and his men dead.
No loose ends.
He sent his search and destroy party out comprising of his three most skilled and loyal men hunting Marshal Jones soon after dawn, equipping them with the most sophisticated GPS tracking system on the market.
Yet the madness in the surveillance room delayed his attempts to co-ordinate his other men for several hours.
Not to mention his staff in the control room were receiving geological interference with the tracking systems in the watches of the individuals in Eric’s party.
Baffled by how three specially trained soldiers who specialized in jungle warfare could be killed outright in a bloody battle skirmish with a normal infantry man. He could only wonder and despair.
A summons from the committee that very afternoon only added to the distractions. After having pushed Michael Wong over so unceremoniously earlier that afternoon he offered no where to be found.
Unable to send the little man in his stead, Arrington held no choice but to attend in person and rely on blatant lies and false reassurances and promises.
As he entered the room earlier that afternoon, where the six most powerful generals of Britain awaited, their silence felt palpable to his ears.
Leonard’s foot falls sounded off the mahogany floor as he proceeded to take his seat at the round table. After all, on the committee everyone held entitlement to equality.
A brewing smile left his face as he cast his gaze around at the other generals. From the start this would turn out to be an uphill struggle.
General Matthews who only the previous morning showed support for Leonard opened the discussion.
“I think I speak on behalf of all assembled when I say all is not going as you planned General Arrington.”
General Matthews head of intelligence and the counter terrorism unit left no opening for objection. This stood as a statement and they all knew it.
“When you drew up the proposal for this experiment to test ‘Adversity’s’ functioning prowess, every member here gave their full support and consent.
After all general we have been pondering the creation of an exercise to test the loyalty and skills of our men for several years.”
General Matthew's spoke at an increased pace as he progressed.
“Admittedly we all gave the idea credence for without doubt it is a brilliant plan, giving us great insight on how our men react under stress in the field.”
General Arrington mentally braced himself for the inevitable ‘but’ that would follow.
“What we did not expect however were the three dead RAF personnel that are due to arrive in the mortuary this evening. Would the general care to explain how this eventuality came to pass?”
Arrington sighed for dramatic effect, as if what occurred made for the worst of tragedies. He setoff on his revised version of events.
“As you are all aware gentlemen. When I proposed the script for Captain Connor and his men I was very clear on the point that this would be a risky venture.
The presentation my staff and I submitted showed we have taken every precaution possible to not only monitor and control this experiment, but to also minimize the risk of injury and death as well.
He paused as to lend weight to his point.
“The possibilities of potential accidents from the start were carefully looked in to in high depth. A risk assessment followed every turn.
The simple answer gentlemen, is that we knew the possibilities of casualties from the outset.
Barry Scott could have fallen to his death from his starting position in ‘Viper Two.’
Captain Connor could have taken ill from adverse effects from the ‘A7215’ drug, and may have never awoken.
All manner of disaster could have befell the subjects as they travel through the undergrowth of the jungle.
Poisonous snakes and arachnids, pit falls, even cuts and scrapes can go septic overnight in this part of the world.
Our people have spent literally thousands of man hours minimizing any chance encounters.
The doctors have checked and re-checked all the subjects. Ensuring all appropriate vaccines and jabs have been administered.
Thousands of snakes and poisonous reptiles have been destroyed to reduce the chances of any unfortunate encounters in Adversities surroundings.
Three hundred of our finest agents cover every settlement to thwart intruders or unexpected visitors.”
The General bowed his head slightly. Feigning regret.
“In reference to my men, they received their orders. ‘commence cleanup of crash site two.’
An investigation will have to be launched as to why the three were so far off course. At present we can only surmise a possible GPS failure or operator error”
The General leaned back in his chair awaiting their criticisms
The questions that followed his little speech were easily answered:
“Should we continue?” which Arrington replied. “Of course, we owe it to these men that have died, they may have died by accident but they served their country well.”
“Can we avoid this happening again in future?” another general asked.
“Indeed, our men are checking their co-ordinates every five minutes.”
After reassuring them all, some with half truths and others with blatant lies, he returned to the surveillance room.
In another hour it would be dusk.
Leaving his post for the evening he would head to the western helipad. There he would authorize himself a ‘Viper’ helicopter and take his personal body guard north.
Come morning Captain Connor’s team would be dead and the under ground base he worked so hard to have built would be rubble.
‘After all’ he thought. “I’ve already ordered their last supper.”
Chapter Five: “Adversity’s True Scale.”
“As with Franz Ferdinand’s death that triggered world war II, one day in history, can so cost the lives of millions.”
Corporal Bane once more dressed in a field uniform; courtesy of Ranger Marc’s, sat with head down staring at the steel paneling of the rear cabin of the newly acquired Viper helicopter.
Not relishing the flight so far, his previous experience still to fresh in his mind. The smoke in the cabin, the altimeter alarm. The men shouting around him.
After being freed from his imprisonment, in what at the time seemed to be his final moments, Ranger Marc’s led the trio through a series of well lit cold concrete corridors.
After navigating the honeycomb of tunnels the small party finally reached a well concealed camouflaged helipad.
As if a child dug a huge hole in the forest floor, then continued to bury an oversized gold-fish bowl up to its rim, there at its base sat three R.A.F Vipers, seeming no more than ornaments compared to the scale of the surrounding walls.
One search and rescue ‘Merlin’ sat to the left, while two Viper personnel carriers sat to the right.
The sun sheltered behind the thick entwining branches above. While the trees at the tip of the bole lent precariously over head, seemingly hundreds of feet in height.
Eugene Marc’s showed the two armed sentries on duty at the entrance a signed flight pass. The corporal shook in fear throughout the entire exchange.
When the three men received clearance, unchallenged, the sentry closest to the wall pressed a small red button. The sun’s rays blasted through a thinning canopy overhead.
The trees that obstructed their exit tilted backwards on well greased pulleys, their huge fake branches being winched backwards by silent low geared motors.
Casually thanking the man, ranger Marc’s bordered the cockpit of the closest Viper and gunned the engines.
“Do you know where this is?” Shouted Bane to the cleric that sat opposite. All the while pointing to where the general direction of the underground base must be located.
Michael Wong hesitated as if choosing whether to disclose the information. Finally with a shrug he complied.
“250 miles north-west of the Vietnamese border.
The complex is a series of thick concrete tunnels that stretch for over thirty miles.”
Ranger Marc’s glanced around offering a disapproving look. Michael unfazed continued.
“It houses; one gym, two committee rooms, one helipad, seventy small quarters for officer class and a large barracks designed to hold six hundred Airmen and women.”
Banes face displayed his awe, his brows furrowed, his eyes showing his obvious amazement.
“That’s not including the twenty five access points and three house sized ventilation filters to keep the air breathable.
The total cost is estimated at 5.6 billion sterling. With a total running cost of £6.9 million per month. That includes; men, supplies and training.”
Eugene shouted over his shoulder. “You seem much more co-operative than before Mr Wong.” A half statement, half question.
Michael fidgeted slightly in his seat. The image of General Arrington dismissively pushing him to the surveillance room floor flashing unbidden before his minds eye.
“Was that a flight booking signed by General Matthews you showed to the two sentries?” The sarcasm in Michaels voice held little effect over the twins above.
From the side glance Marc’s seemed to portrait a half grimace.
Corporal Bane shouted. “General Matthews? The name seems familiar but I can’t seem to place it.”
“Head of intelligence and the counter-terrorism unit. Not to mention he has close links with internal affairs.” Supplied Michael. (In for a penny) He thought.
“Enough gentlemen.” Shouted Marc’s. “We’re almost there.”
“Almost where?” Asked Michael, tiring of Marc’s cryptic comments.
“To our rendezvous with Eric Connor.”
Rachael Chan returned the receiver of the telephone back down on the desk.
Turning around in the run down office which she currently used as her temporary base, she pressed stop on the C.D. player.
The ambient sounds of a Chinese restaurant ceased immediately.
Having received the ‘go ahead’ for their evening delivery from Leonard Arrington she felt eager to be underway.
Through the transparent plastic panes at the rear of the boxed office she held a thumb up to her sergeant. Signaling him to proceed.
Watching him as he shouted his commands to her forty strong command she gazed around ensuring the air force uniforms on her westernized men looked natural upon their person’s.
While her troop went about their assigned tasks she left their observance to her sergeant, turning once more towards the handset she started dialing.
After a set of long rings the receiver on the other end answered.
“Good afternoon, South China News Papers. How may I help?” A woman’s voice, the way she spoke gave her the air of a receptionist.
“Good afternoon.” Rachael greeted her casually. “Could you please patch me through to the editors extension?”
“May I ask who’s speaking and the nature of the call please?” Questioned the receptionist politely.
“Of course, my name's Sarah, and I have the scoop of the decade for your paper.” She lied as naturally as she breathed.
This wouldn’t turn out to be the story of the decade, this would prove to be the most significant incident of all time.
When no more information came forth the receptionist took control. “One moment please.” Rachael found herself on hold.
A short wait rewarded her with the man she wanted.
“Good afternoon Sarah. My name is Ricci Tan, I’m the editor here at S.C.N.P. how may I help?”
Rachael broke into her already rehearsed script.
Captain Connor ordered a halt to his now diminished platoon.
Heading east for over six hours, resting only when necessary, they were all weary, their stubble complimenting their sharpening moods.
When Eric set off with his company his dilemma as to whether to take the M60’s or leave them behind came in at a close call. In the end he took the prior.
One never knew who or what they would encounter out here in the coming days. After Marshal’s skirmish the extra fire power could prove vital to all their survivals.
Marshal Jones’s now awake showed the strains of his ordeal, his injuries and his brush with death displayed themselves as grey contrasts on his taught face
Thankfully Marshal opted to walk rather than being carried in a mock stretcher. It would have delayed Eric’s troop dreadfully.
Terry Jewel’s protested at first on the principle that the wounded soldier already having lost a dangerous amount of blood would be seriously put in jeopardy.
Eric stemmed the flow of protest on the grounds that the enemy were close, and a stretcher would be slow going in the dense foliage of the jungle, putting them all in jeopardy.
Sending Terry off ahead to scout a trail, the captain ordered his sergeant to support Marshal as they moved.
Barry Scott and Richard Bowman carried the M60’s, though Barry didn’t seem to enthusiastic about the whole affair.
Over the forced march Eric pondered on the events of earlier that morning.
Even though Terry Jewels already filled him in on what occurred in the clearing, there were still many unanswered questions.
After Marshal supplied the information on the battle itself. Starting with his inability to shake his pursuers; then followed by the ensuing gun fight, the puzzle of the scenario only heightened.
At first the locators in the watches didn’t phase the captain. For all he knew the attackers could have stolen a locator from a fallen Viper.
If his commanding officer planted them on his team in case of such an attack from the ground. His not knowing would simply be sensible to avoid giving the secret away under capture or duress.
The real questions however were why did the three men possess the high tech codes to access the device and why did they not identify themselves as they approached Marshal’s position.
Could the RAF have been infiltrated by saboteurs? It would certainly explain the reason for the precautions of their provisions and the need for complete secrecy.
Terry Jewel’s said he thought he recognized one of the dead men from his training days back in England.
Unable to recall the mans name, yet guaranteeing that unless the man possessed a doppelganger he would unlikely be mistaken.
Eric’s second major concern directed his attention to his specified cargo.
Had someone substituted the two boxes prior to himself and his men boarding the Vipers at their starting point? or perhaps their cargo would indeed be two M60 Machine guns?
On close inspection they seemed regular RAF specifications.
After a few hours of pondering Eric gave up, with the current information he would be left jumping from one conclusion to another.
The light would start to fade soon under the dense canopy.
The decision to call a halt to his depleted troop so they could eat and drink something to bolster their strengths for the following day, clashed with the thought of an enemy closing ground.
As he opened his mouth to give the order, Terry Jewels returned from his trail breaking, at last the captain would receive some good news.
“A river ahead sir. There’s a discreet cover between the tree line and the bank, it would make a good camp site for the night.”
“Let’s press on.” Eric ordered after a quick thought.
Moving along for another half an hour down a mudded trail they finally reached the tree line where a small patch of reed obscured the river beyond.
Eric ordered Barry and his sergeant to down the machine guns and refill their nearly empty canteens. As humid as the jungle is, the need for water remained essential.
Sergeant Gavin commenced changing the now soiled packing’s in Marshals shoulder. Eric sat down on a log watching the experienced Sergeant at work.
Sergeant Gavin’s skills were surprisingly honed.
Terry Jewel's returned and sat down next to his commanding officer. He introduced the idea of the construction of a six man raft.
The two men deliberated with each other, after a brief discussion they walked over to the half asleep Barry Scott and the other men.
Having decided on creating two separate rafts, each supporting three men and their supplies, they would work overnight and setout first thing in the morning.
As the last rays of light left the sky the sound of a whirring came from over head. A helicopter approached.
As the sound approached from the north-west, Captain Connor ordered his men to grab their kits and equipment and half carry, half drag Marshal back to the cover of the canopy.
Unwilling to be discovered in case the chopper turned out to be an unfriendly, the party awaited in silence, straining their eyes in hope of seeing a royal air force sigil on the crafts underbelly.
Though even that would not offer the security it usually supplied.
The canopy in its density, mixed with the failing light offered sparse insight as to the intentions of the incoming craft.
The helicopter came to a hover over the clearing next to the river bank, no longer following its original course. Unwilling to believe their position compromised they awaited with uncertainty.
Eric prayed that it would simply pass by, with his team at present they would be no match for a well armored, fully manned personnel transporter.
Their S.A. 80 rounds could well bounce off the reinforced underbelly and sides. Eric didn’t want to rely on a lucky shot while his men would be taking fire.
Even the most absorbed gamblers would stray from such odds.
A voice from a speaker resounded through the air in to the clearing below. At first the blood ran from their faces, only after it finished did any relief show.
“Don’t shoot Captain Connor, we’re coming in to land, unarmed!”
Richard Bowman’s face surged with the hope of rescue, Eric cut his joy short with a hand to the shoulder. After what happened to Marshal Jones he would be taking no chances.
The helicopter devoid of the RAF’s motif dropped to the soft bank with pin point accuracy. The dual engines dropped to a slow purr as the accelerators were withdrawn.
The side hatch slid open.
Corporal Bane exited the Viper carrier first. He pulled back the latch at the Ranger’s request before jumping to the muddy earth. The best landing yet, he mused dryly.
The captain and his motley command approached from the tree line as the Cleric Michael Wong and Ranger Marc’s joined him shortly after from the rear cabin.
When the captain recognized him, Eric ordered his men to lower their arms. ‘So that’s why Marc’s wanted him out first.’ Bane found a new respect for the canny Ranger.
“Hello Captain.” Bane greeted his commanding officer as if his return announced the end of a holiday.
“Where the bloody hell have you been?” demanded the Sergeant cutting off Eric’s reply.
As if to recount his ordeal, then think the better of it, he pointed to the ranger at his side. “I think sir, that he will be able to answer better than I.”
The captain cut his sergeant short before he could hijack the initiative. Turning towards the slightly taller ranger he made to question him when Marc’s raised a hand.
“I’ll fill you all in on what I know, there are things going on that are bigger than all of us.” Before the ranger could commence, Marshal Jones picked the moment to slump to the ground.
More from his weakened state than from choice by all accounts.
The captain followed his lead and sat as well, the others sighed with relief as they slumped with out grace to the river bank.
Ending up in a rough semi-circle with the ranger, cleric and corporal at the front. Eugene Marc’s started to fill them in on the experiment that extended from the underground base known as ‘Operation Adversity.’
Marc’s started with the staged helicopter attacks, moving on to the elaborate crash sites, where he told them of the foot steps he left outside one of the hatches for them to find.
He told them of how his General, General Matthew's, and how he ordered him to sabotage Arrington’s plans, explaining that if Eric’s team found the hatch from the outset it would have thrown a spanner in the works for any other schemes Arrington may be planning.
The ranger went on to explain about the bodies Marshal Jones buried at crash site two and how Arrington choose two mangled bodies of dead men from Iraq to make the crash site more authentic.
When he mentioned the sedation of Eric’s men, the captain turned red to burst, he managed to refrain from an out burst, barely allowing the ranger to finish his narration.
Marc’s shared all he knew, including Corporal Bane’s liberation and the Viper helicopter General Matthew’s secretly chartered for their escape.
Showing the document to the captain as a form of proof, it clearly showed their three names.
Eric stood and stretched his legs and aching back.
“What you say ranger explains many questions that have been plaguing me for some time.” Started Eric looking directly in to Marc’s eyes. “It does not however explain why Marshal was shot at, nor does it explain how you found us.” He concluded.
“Your second question I can answer.” Marc’s replied. “If you check the inside of your belt buckle you will find a small transmitter General Matthews ordered me to plant while you were unconscious.”
Eric did as bid, pulling what looked like a small microchip from behind the leather clasp he threw it to the floor.
“The question of why Marshal came under attack is slightly more complicated.” The ranger pondered on how much information he could share with the party.
“What I am about to tell you, is strictly confidential. Which means any orders you receive in the future will come from General Matthews and he alone.”
The ranger turned to Michael Wong, “That means you as well Michael.” The cleric nodded unable to think of anything to say.
“Five weeks ago General Matthew’s people intercepted a mobile phone conversation of General Arrington’s. His teams were doing a random sweep of the radio waves over Adversity’s domain, when they heard Arrington speaking to a Chinese woman in what sounded like a Chinese restaurant.
Something about the conversation seemed suspicious to General Matthew’s and he traced the call to a warehouse north of ‘Adversity’ to a small town called ‘Gin Ta.’
A week later and we were alerted to the disappearance of two of our agents. A fortnight before we intercepted Arrington’s phone conversation the men disappeared without trace.
Unable to send any more of our agents in to the area for fear of them being found and tortured, we lost intelligence for the entire region.
Eric’s men listened to the ranger intently trying to follow the events leading to their stranded situation.
Marc’s continued. “As if that were not bad enough, when General Arrington submitted his reports to the general’s committee he reported all was well in ‘Gin Ta’ and that his agents reported no unusual activity.”
Michael Wong interrupted the rangers narrative. “I am General Arrington’s aid.” He paused to rephrase. “I was General Arrington’s aid for the last two years. Theirs been a notable change in the way he’s been acting.”
He paused as he gathered his thoughts.
“It was first perceivable at the time when the Chinese defense secretary, General Majin Lao met with Arrington to discuss possibilities between our two nations.
The two parties finally agreed on ‘Adversity’s’ construction after Arrington lent weight to the project. Staking his personal reputation on it.
The agreement stated that the British would cover the bill of men and equipment, offering their skills in training. While the Chinese afforded the building materials and the architects.
Adversity’s one concept was to help build relations between the British and China, subsequently with Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well.”
Eric looked surprised. “Britain and China?”
Michael Wong nodded. “Indeed captain, once sufficient work has been recorded the committee want to show their efforts to the politicians to make the alliance official.
Your group captain, are, or perhaps were. Considering Marshal here…to be the first of many such experiments. Next month would be a Chinese team and so on.”
Captain Connor’s questions were cut short before they could start. A few hundred meters back under the canopy a large flock of birds took to flight.
The ranger shot to his feet. “Everyone in to the Viper Now!” he half shouted it with urgency.
Eugene should have expected Arrington would send his own men after Captain Connor and his team.
Their would be no way on earth the general would allow Eric to compromise the base he struggled so hard to have constructed.
To allow a band of weary armed British soldiers to reach a Chinese settlement would not be on his agenda.
Marc’s ran off to start the twin engines, leaving the captain to organize his troop.
As Marshal Jones, the last of the party received help to board. Unseen men started firing from the tree line.
Chapter Six – “The Gun for Hire & The Hidden General”
“It would be known that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space.
I would have it known Yuri Gagarin was the first man to survive in space.”
At twenty four years of age, Rachael Chan stood as captain for a well trained, fully motivated and disciplined organization.
Having originally joined the band all those years ago, they grew from a pack of nomadic mercenaries to a respected group of contractors. At age twelve; thinking it the better alternative to starvation, disease, prostitution and begging, Rachael held some innate attitude for betterment to her future.
She soon progressed as promotion stalked her from the shadows.
Her tale began on a day out of the ordinary, as many tales do.
A stolen pistol from a drunken soldier on a cold winters day acting as a catalyst, sparking the drastic change to her future life style.
Three days after her twelfth birthday, as the mid-day sun arose through the sky to it zenith, her cold and hunger reached a point unknown to her in the four years since her parent’s deaths.
Not unusual in such hard times, as China faced starvation and disease, fire wood remained a sort after commodity, food even more so. Yet that one day changed her irreversibly.
From the moment she awoke that morning, clarity seemed to settle over her brow.
The only catalyst needed to seal her future pact would be a moment, a window of opportunity, a moment that displayed itself at the appointed hour in the means of a drunken mercenary.
After a cold morning sitting alone at the edges of her village Rachael walked along the main street of the settlement, which passed as home.
While she wondered the dry and frozen packed earth, pondering on her coming fate, a dirt engrained and intoxicated soldier of fortune, staggered from one of the many huts that adorned market row.
Drunker than a Viking on his wedding night, the man howled at the sky.
With a sea dogs gate he ambled aimlessly along the cause way before gravity claimed him, slumping to the concrete pact earth at Rachael’s feet before vomiting noisily then passing out face down in to the excrement.
As she looked down upon his unconscious form, she noticed a dark tarnished pistol, having slipped from the mans belt it now lay next to her bare and calloused toes.
The small .38 revolver looked as if a large hunk of metal compared with her little malnourished feet.
Bending down before retrieving it by the hilt, she held it up before her face with both hands. Unknown to her the revolver held only two unspent cartridge in its revolving chambers, a factor that did not go unnoticed by the days end.
The last ingredient required for Rachael’s transition from the path of starvation and hopelessness she walked, came with the stimuli’ poverty breeds in abundance; abuse & violence.
With her head pounding and a knotted stomach she stood looking down at the gun in her dainty fingers. Staring at it as if holding a doll or a child’s toy, feeling an inner sensation of warmth and security flow through her body.
If it were not for an older girl; Xiang Li, a bully three years her senior.
She likely would have tossed down the gun there and then, or perhaps sold it to buy some rice and a loaf of bread. But she did not.
It offered her reassurance. A security long denied after the death of her parents, their loving care cut short by the wasting disease that tortured its suffers for so long before claiming them.
A plague on the land brought in by foreign mercenaries, who still now wondered the vast country after a decade.
As the older Xiang Li turned a corner next to a weathered and torn tent, she noticed Rachael looking into her hands. Turning from her immediate path she walked towards the little girl with the revolver.
Continuing her approach, another man stumbled from the hut from whence the first drunk originated.
This man though intoxicated maintained his faculty’s. Looking down on her he looked to her hands before looking down at his comrade.
Puzzlement displayed innocently on his face.
As Xiang Li grew ever closer, Rachael realized in a split second that the man puzzling over her in the door way, having seen the pistol in her hands would likely think her the cause of his friends collapse.
Most girls her age would have dropped the pistol, screamed or simply ran off, perhaps both. Indeed only the day before Rachael would likely have done the same. But today, something stopped her.
Pointing the gun at Xiang Li she held it by the butt with both hands. Today she decided there would be no beating.
The older girl stopped seemingly startled but uncaring. Crossing her arms she pointed at Rachael. “Put it down Rat, even better, give it to me!”.
Rachael stood her ground. Now oblivious to the man standing in the doorway, (a smirk upon his face), she held the older girls gaze.
If Xiang Li voiced even one more word to the girl she would have handed the weapon over within five minutes.
Yet no words came, didn’t even form.
Standing statue still, her arms holding as still as a becalmed sea, she stood and continued looking the girl in her dark brown eyes.
A wiser teenager would have recognized the return look, not so Xiang Li, after all the years of her bullying and taxations, her ego and pride blinded her better senses.
As she took her last step forward Rachael squeezed the trigger.
The shot sounded deafening to her ears and mind, the recoil almost smashing the firing pin back in to her face.
As the cordite cleared the air, she looked on towards the girl now lying on her back, a single red hole seeming to spread and pool over the girls dirt encrusted blouse.
Her face however made clear she lay dead.
Lifeless eyes started at the crystal clear sky, as if seeing past it in to a far depth of the universe.
As Rachael looked on with regret, the mercenary standing in the doorway watching the exchange called out several names in to the tent’s confines. As his voice boomed Rachael’s mind cleared from her transfixed state.
Still holding the pistol in her hands she pointed at the tall bearded commander. With a smile two of his comrades materialized in the door way. One standing squat, an ugly man with an imp like face. The other tall with greasy hair and sideburns.
The imp eyed her with menace, and something more, perversion.
Rachael boldly marched up to the acting captain, a shrewd man who she would find would be named Xao Liun, she lifted the pistol once more.
The imp liked pervert, two upper teeth protruding through his lower lip, squealed as he mimicked a pinching action with grimy fingers.
Ignoring the other men's laughter she walked within five feet of the men and her future captain.
The laughter of the imp finally abated as Rachael waved her hand to the side and pulled the trigger once more, this time more aware of the guns recoil and bright blue smoke she braced for the miniature explosion.
The shot tore in to the imp’s face at eye level.
As the other man, having just arrived looked on in bewilderment, Captain Xao Liun smiled and walked over before kneeling down before the smoking barrel. Rachael lowered the pistol from his face.
She offered it to him with limp fingers, he closed his hands around hers before looking her in the eyes then smiling.
After that day, Xao Liun treated her like the daughter he would never have. Nor did future attempts to touch her malnourished but maturing body come forth.
More hard times followed her leaving of the village though.
Xao’s mercenary company consisting mostly of under nourished boys and old men, often relied upon surprise and trickery to win the day, rather than hand to hand fighting skills or tactics other superior groups used as a matter of course.
Always Rachael would be sent to the back of the lines, allowing the veterans to do the grizzliest of the fighting, using her keen child’s eyesight to pick off the unaware, a half serviceable carbine rifle rarely missing its target.
By her sixteenth birthday after four years of skirmishing and camping, all that changed.
Having been sent to scout for signs of the Chinese military with a half dozen men from the company, the small group suffered a devastating ambush by double their number from an opposing mercenary force.
By the time Captain Xao arrived with aid, her companions along with the attacking soldiers lay dead upon the furrow-fare.
Several weeks later with grievous wounds healing, news arrived by way of runner from captain Xao, a simple letter detailing her for promotion to sergeant in his absence, the small sheet included orders for a new tent and a more light weight rifle.
Further prosperity followed her new role, the captain using her fighting experience and unique insight to complete new and ever more riskier contracts. Their Success paying for fitter men, better weapons, ammunition and intelligence reports.
By age twenty the size of Xao’s band stood at fifty, double its previous size with a purpose of family and trust, such aspirations would show as a double edged sword though.
One night in the dead of winter a year and a half later, a rival mercenary group crept in to their camp, having silently dispatched the sentries they set about slitting sleeping throats.
Before a scream rent the night, many of Xao’s men lay dead.
Wounded, naked and without supplies Rachael ran in to the cold night, leaving all she gained in sacrifice for her life.
Though the Captain and a dozen men survived that bloody night, most lay slain under sleeping blankets never to awake again. By the following morning their rivals would be eating their provisions before sharing out their plunder.
Only due to the Captains foresight did the mercenary group survive at all.
A buried cache of arms and money bought them food for the winter and offered them a chance to recruit to their ranks once more come spring.
It would be a further six months before a line of half drilled recruits taken from the starving country side showed sign of becoming a disciplined body. A further month passed before Captain Xao ordered Rachael to wipe out the mercenary group that attacked their camp the previous winter.
A now skilled markswoman with an eye for tactics and skills honed from combat, Rachael led a surprise ambush against the opposing force, crushing them without mercy.
Captain Xao so pleased with the lack of casualties inflicted in the conflict, awarded her with the appointment of second in command. A notion of respect shared by all the men and the several women that fought in Xao’s regiment.
It would not be long before they coined her the name 'Lucky Diamond'.
On her eighteenth birthday the men bought her a gift of simple but sturdy body amour, a rare import at a time when the populace starved in the streets.
This precious gift eventually paved the way to her rise to Captain, her only moment of true regret in her life. After walking in to a town apparently loyal to Xao and his band of men, Xao’s small retinue were cut down.
Old flash pan muskets lit the early morning up with bright flashes as metal sparked gun powder, clouds of cordite exploding from windows around the village square.
Three of her companions fell on the first volley.
The captain one of the number.
By the time Rachael limped from the village with two of the original nine men, her ribs bruised from multiple strikes to her amour, a fire burned inside her, this one incident would drop a responsibility on her that she did not want.
Returning to her camp by late evening that day, she limped to her tent as the men gathered around her. As she cut the straps from the armor over her shoulders, the flattened lead pellets dropped to the dirt.
One of the older veterans stood forward before kneeling down in front of her pallet bed. “They are dead?”, Rachael looked up from the ground, a slight nod the best she could offer.
“You look all out girl, get some sleep we will talk later this evening.” The older mercenary smiled at his own impertinence, before leaning her head back then covering her with a light quilt.
As the troop shuffled off to the centre fire, Rachael fell in to a deep slumber.
The next day as the sun arose, she bandaged her ribs before walking out in to the camp half naked. The men refrained from there usual comments this morning.
She explained the news of the treachery,
A voice broke the silence; the old veteran from the previous night.
“I know Rachael this is hard for you, but we need you now. Be our leader Xao would have wanted it that way.”
Voices rose up from the back of the crowd shouting “Hear, hear.” a man at the front she knew for some time walked forward before kneeling in the mud, holding is bolt action rifle in front of her he offered. “My loyalty to you.”
Before the shock could register, everyone surged forward. Kneeling and repeating similar promises of obedience.
Rachael looked on. Her eyes narrowed.
“I will lead you from now on; you are all my family now.”
Steel touched her voice. “Orders!” The men stood to attention. “Pack up, we move out in fifteen minutes.” Everyone ran to obey.
Returning to her tent she covered herself in a simple woolen jumper before replacing the straps on her body amour then donning it once more. As she left her tent to check on the troops progress, a woman walked over to fold up her sleeping pallet and pack her belongings away.
Walking around the camp she appointed her deputies. As everyone rushed to file in for the march, a growing anger smoldered in her heart.
Reaching the outskirts of the small town, she commanded her men to surround the small open village and fire upon everything that moved.
By the evening as bodies criss-crossed the village square, Rachael held full command over her new position in the troop.
Three hours later she stormed the last of the buildings, dragging the village leader and his aids in to the court yard.
Non were spared.
Now at age twenty four, Rachael held command of a garrison two hundred strong, owning enough wealth to allow freedom of choice in the missions she and her men undertook.
A month earlier, when an English General made contact with one of her agents in a local village, she dismissed the idea of working for a foreigner out of hand.
Only after the price offered relayed itself through her intelligence network, did she sit up in her chair and call for her first in command. Sergeant Xiuan Liu.
The amount of money Arrington offered for one night's work dwarfed all the accumulated wealth of her band so far. The requirements of her team in return were minimal.
A week later her agent dropped in to the temporary camp stationed in 'Gin Ta', with his other reports he brought a laptop and a small rucksack, containing several RAF uniforms and documentation signed by Arrington.
A letter handed directly from agent to Captain confirmed details of an account in Switzerland where the down payment from Arrington awaited.
Opening the laptop before booting it up, she found plans and instructions as to her mission on its specified date. The plans contained both blue prints and documentation ordering her to contact the South China News.
Preparing them so they could send a live camera crew and helicopter to be on stand by in a local village to the north of Adversity. All that remained would be the task at hand.
Feeling lucky that the contract reached her first, if all went to plan, and it usually did. Then she would not loose a single man this night.
After setting off by truck from her temporary command post in Xin Tao; a small settlement with a low populace. They traveled down broken roads and natural paths to reach the most northern hatch of the underground base known as Adversity.
At 18:45 with thirty of her best men she opened the laptop.
Looking once more at the blue prints on the screen to confirm her position, she nodded to her sergeant, holding his usual stoic demeanor he raised a hand in the air to signal the men forward.
Twenty six of the thirty strong squad broke off in to pairs, heading towards their pre appointed hatches spread throughout the forestry floor.
Her sergeant wearing an RAF uniform unlocked the hatch before climbing down the ladder to the awaiting sentries below. Looking upwards to the dimly lit canopy once more, he awaited his corporal to descend with two heavy packs.
Showing the two sentries the signed paperwork from General Arrington, the two men simply nodded and returned to chatting amongst themselves. Out here they expected neither unauthorized personnel nor intruders.
Making their way along the wide corridor heading south west, the sergeant and his subordinate soon arrived at a large sturdy steel door labeled 'Ventilation'. Entering the two men worked quickly emptying their packs of the high explosives around the three giant machines.
Setting the timers on each device to fifteen minutes, the men hurriedly closed the door then made their way back to the ladder and its two awaiting sentries.
With a polite smile and a farewell nod to the two sentries, Sergeant Xiuan Liu and his Corporal climbed the ladder to the jungle floor and back to their Captain.
Aware that their packs were missing, Rachael nodded to the corporal before moving back in to the jungle with her Sergeant.
Now that all her plans were set in motion, all that remained to do would be to sit back and await the explosions as the hatches caved in before the ventilation systems snuffed out.
Once the smoke drifted through the trees, the South China News would not be far off. The rest as the British say 'would be history.'
General Majin Lao sat in a soft leather studied swivel chair in front of his high quality oak desk. With head tilted back on the soft leather, he nursed a steaming cup of vanilla sweetened coffee.
Intermittently taking long slow tokes of his Columbian cigar.
At fifty seven he still retained most of his youth in his ever passive visage, a well decorated general with wealth and power, only dulled by the apathy of peace time. Anathema to any good serving General.
Not for long, he mused.
Gone were the days of chasing rebels through the varying terrains of his home country, gone were the days of putting down self proclaimed political uprisings.
This meant more, a modern China, a new China. A vast enterprising nation in an industrial revolution of their own, where progress erected a fossil fueled power-station every week.
His country now transformed from a land of starvation and strife to a new super power in less than a single generation. Already his fellows turned their gazes upwards towards the stars.
Dreaming of the greatest space explorations the world would ever know.
Finally the Chinese banded together, realizing they could one day be the greatest nation to ever grace the earth.
Majin Lao cast his mind from his musings back to the business at hand. Within the hour Rachael Chan and her 'lucky Diamond Squad.' would be planting the explosives in the ventilation systems, followed by the preparation of the detonators to seal the hatches of the under ground base.
Within two hours 'Operation Adversity' would be circulating through the media.
As soon as the South China News cast the report he would wait thirty minutes then send three thousand troops to secure the area.
Come the following morning he world address the media directly, informing them in a conference that not only has he found an unauthorized base in Chinese Territory, but one thousand dead British soldiers as well.
Over the last two years General Arrington played a key role in ensuring his goals could be achieved. In the days to come Lao believed he would simply be a risk, a loose end.
Perhaps if the English man were born Chinese, then just maybe Majin Lao would let him live. Unfortunately not everyone could be blessed as he.
Expecting Arrington to arrive in the small village of Gin Ta to meet with Rachael Chan within the next few hours, General Lao lifted the telephone to his lips before pressing the speed dial button at the top of the receiver.
"Send Fifty men to the town of Gin Ta in the south of the country. Tell them to secure an English General that will be there and hold him indefinitely.
Any other English men that accompany him are to be killed outright. That is all."
Hanging up without the need of confirmation from the captain on the other end of the phone, Majin Lao lent back once more in his plush Leather swivel chair.
Spinning around he looked outwards over the ocean, the re-enforced bullet proof glass reflecting the suns dying light around his study.
So peaceful he smiled.
Chapter Seven – “The Un-Foreseen Factor”.
“As Great As A Scientist is, he/she can not always account for the speck of dust lodging in the apparatus.”
Lenny known in the local circuit as “Magic Lenny” would be best described in a hand-full of ways. “Dodgy” would be a polite understatement. “Shady” would be accurate but still lacking.
Having just traveled from Birmingham but a few weeks earlier, in the midlands of England, he now found himself in a small town (A sleepy Hollow) in the south west of the country.
After hitchhiking to the outskirts of the town he strolled along the village lanes, heading towards the centre of the town and its local public house. There he would meet the woman who arranged his new contract.
As the evening drew in, Lenny lit another smoke as he followed the cats eyes. He did enjoy the fresh air after his recent incarceration, but he would rather be back home, clubbing it with the usual life in Birmingham City Centre.
Needs must he grinned slyly to himself. After this quick job he would be set, no more selling ‘coke’ to the ‘trendies’. He would buy a stash for himself and live off room service for a while.
Closing on the centre of the hamlet, he dimped out the cigarette upon the floor, then returned the stump to his jacket pocket. Entering the pub facing the village green he scanned the interior.
The woman, who made contact with him, back when he got released from Birmingham Prison, said he would find her wearing a fur lined long coat. Just such a person sat in the far corner of the room.
Ignoring her he walked to the bar, with his last £10 note he ordered a Pint of Larger. Gasping with his first mouth full, his thirst from the road dissolving away he smiled at the bar made offering her a tip.
Strolling over to the woman, he admired her coat and fine jewelry. Back in Birmingham he would have brushed in to such a woman and palmed a bracelet. Not so with this woman.
Keen eyes held his stare as he gauged her from toe to tip.
“Alright Darling, fancy some company?” He smirked, putting on his gangster act.
She smiled. “Sit down hansom stranger. This seat has been waiting for you all day.”
Lenny’s smile broadened. “Good things take time pet, better to wait five minutes and pick a winner, than a donkey.”
The tall woman though sitting, tapped the seat next to her. Lenny obliged, dropping his pint to the table he sat next to her at what most people would call a complete breech of private space.
“So what’s this all about and how much?” Lenny jumped straight into it. Though he enjoyed playing around with anyone, he wanted to get the price right before he did anything for this mysterious woman.
“There is a house not far from here, its off a dark lane, security is high but no one is there at the moment. I want you to acquire two things for me.”
Lenny raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”
“They are both DVD’s. One is in a safe upstairs to the rear of the house. Another is in the study downstairs. Both will have multiple alarms monitoring them. Do you think you can acquire them for me?”
Lenny grinned to show a gold tooth. “Yeah, I think that can be arranged.” He hefted his back pack clanging his tools together. “What’s the name of the films and how much you paying?”
Again a grin. “They said you had tact. In the study, there’s ‘Snow White and the seven dwarves’ and in the Vault there’s ‘Nostradamus’. The price is fifty thousand. Non-negotiable.”
Leaning forward Lenny picked up his pint. Downing it in one, he slammed it down, just enough so the waitress at the bar could hear. “Cash on delivery. Also non-negotiable. The address…”
Reaching in to her purse she withdrew a folded piece of purple paper. “Be here tomorrow evening. Six o’clock.”
Nodding he left the pub, walking to the local bus stop he studied the map for several minutes. Finding the turn off to the address on the purple slip, he moved off in to the night.
Ranger Marc's tilted the Viper's nose to the north.
A narrow escape from the landing at the river bank reminded him of how close General Arrington's men really came to finishing off Eric’s small platoon. The only reason they still lived came from the fact the soldiers carried small arms, their velocities unable to penetrate the armored exterior of the viper.
If they were equipped with surface to air missiles before leaving for the hunt, Captain Connor and his men would be burning bodies in a flaming wreck.
Now their only chance would be General Matthews and his agents dotted around the countryside. With luck they could ditch the Viper on the out skirts of a town and contact an Agent before the Chinese authorities were tipped off.
Ignoring the troubles to come, he breathed a sigh of relief, so far no one lay dead in a body bag at the Captain’s feet in the rear cabin.
Marc’s thought back over his conversation with General Matthews the previous morning, having met in a quiet corridor in the early hours they swapped information.
For several weeks leading up to the test date they watched and studied Arrington, eaves dropping on his mobile phone calls, intercepting his emails. By the time Captain Connor’s men were in the field, Matthews knew that Arrington planed for another agenda.
Without proof the pair were left with reasonable suspicion, even then that wouldn’t hold up with the general’s committee. When offering an accusation against a general the evidence to date must have the firmest bases.
An overheard mobile call and reports of suspicious behavior stood as an accusation built upon a foundation of feathers.
Knowing all this General Matthews devised a different tactic.
If he hindered this first test then little would come of it, the test would be rescheduled with other participants a month hence from, life would go on as usual.
On the other hand if Arrington held other motives than to serve his country, then foiling his test could well bring to light to a dark conspiracy, or in the least Arrington would be forced to converse further with his accomplices.
Further allowing Matthews another chance to intercept Leonard’s communications.
Searching the horizon for air traffic, Marc’s reduced the throttle and leveled the helicopter in to a hover. Over the western horizon multiple plumes of smoke wafted through the canopy.
The density of the smoke offered little in the way of promising news. All along the horizon plume after plume drifted in to the air; the tendrils slowly mingling together to form a dense smog.
He pointed the cloud out to the men sitting behind him in the rear cabin, shouting as to project his voice over the dual engines above. Offering no room for objection, Captain Connor ordered the ranger to alter course accordingly.
Expecting the worse while hoping for the best they drew nearer. In a freak gust of wind the damage below became apparent. Craters of mud and concrete rubble surrounded blown apart trees.
Hovering out of range of the black oily smoke rising through the trees, they remained speechless for long minutes. Words were unable to describe the destruction.
The chance of any of the stationed airmen reaching the surface were near non existent, it would take hours with industrial equipment to clear the collapsed tunnels.
Preparing to fly north once more, Marc's caught sight of a helicopter through a brief moment of clear sky before the pollution encompassed the area once more. Unwilling to take a chance encounter with an armed assault helicopter he swiftly maneuvered to the west.
After half an hour he turned north once more, satisfied that no one followed. Minutes later Captain Connor appeared over his left shoulder. "Plant this bird down."
Descending, the ranger landed the Viper in a field of naturally growing corn.
Taking off his headset he turned towards the rear cabin.
Marshal Jones' face held an ashen pallor, dark rings underlining half closed blood shot eyes. Barry Scott and Richard Bowmen looked little better, the stress of their prolonged journeys beckoning them to slumber.
Even Sergeant Gavin's ever present grin disappeared to be replaced by a tired grimace of a mortal, revealing the middle aged man as a tired soldiers, drained from bush bashing through thickets and jungle.
Meanwhile the fate of there comrades lay in the balance back at 'Adversity', demoralized they sat quietly trying to rest. All knew a true safe haven lay far away to the west.
Stumbling from the rear cabin, like drunks leaving a taxi after a night out, the troop dropped to the ground. Eric didn't have time to order them to sit before their backsides squashed the knee high reeds.
Looking at their disheveled faces his next words came to him even harder. "Look I know you’re all tired.
But we need to act now, a thousand men could be dead for all we know, that Bastard Arrington needs to be held accountable for what he’s done. He's betrayed his country and committed black murder and treason.
We may not know his motives lads, but rest assured there isn’t reason enough in the world to sacrifice a thousand of our men."
He cast his eyes downwards, unable to meet their eyes.
"We’re far from home and with too few we can trust" Light flashed across his eyes. Looking at Marc's directly he asked "What was the name of that settlement where General Matthew's agents disappeared?"
The Ranger rubbed his temple. "It's a relatively small village about an hour and a half’s flight north from here, 'Gin Ta' I think it was called.”
Reports say there’s a small textile district to the west with basic housing to the north. General Matthews traced the call Arrington made to a land line in the warehouse district to the south."
Captain Connor nodded. "Then that’s where we'll find him. I think we’d better expect company though, it would take a lot of men to attack a base the size of ‘Adversity’, even with inside help.
Barry looked from the reeds to his Captain. “If we use the M60’s wisely we may have a chance at pulling off a rolling retreat. I can’t see any other way we can take out forty or fifty men in our current state.”
Corporal Bane nodded his agreement, “If we fly in low to the villages outskirts, we can find somewhere to land and formulate our snatch and grab operation.”
Captain Connor looked to Marc’s “Do we know who is helping him and how many are operating in the area?”
Marc's smiled. "Who? Is likely to be mercenaries, how many? that’s anyone’s guess."
"We'll soon find both out" muttered Richard.
Chapter Eight – “A Genius! But a Patriot?”
“The Mind Set Of A Person Will Be Dictated Through The Previous Interactions Of Others or The Subconscious Of The One.”
In General Arrington's eyes there could be no doubt he stood as the greatest patriot to ever live. The short term meant nothing to men of his great fore sight and vision.
If the cost of his country's survival meant the sacrifice of a thousand men, then it would be a small price to pay. Indeed he would sacrifice double that without thought.
Three years ago, having first approached the Chinese General Majin Lao, he quietly listened to the man's visions of the future. A future where the greatest and most densely populated nation on the planet, would seek to expand her never ending hunger and need to consume the quantities of resources needed to function.
Arrington at the time sat transfixed following the logic of the Chinese general, a chilling sense of foreboding veiling his mind like a the weave of a spiders web. For many years the Chinese lay dormant in military campaigns’.
A sleeping Dragon growing larger as she slept, gathering momentum like an oversized snowball.
Where other countries warred upon each other frequently, China lay as a sleeping giant. Building factories, arming and training there soldiers, creating an army unparallel in history.
The grandest of scales for logistics and supply the world soon would come to know.
The only problem with such beasts is their nature, a destiny of necessity or in this case for the greater cause. Inevitability waking and spewing forth devastation, before rebuilding and repopulating conquered lands.
Only when Lao offered sanctuary to the British, did Arrington finally prick up his attention.
As Majin Lao lazed in a wide leather arm chair, Arrington displayed his agreement through body language, mulling over a fine glass of Brandy and smoking a fine Cuban Cigar, he pacified Lao with nods and odd murmurs of agreement.
This could well be the one lucky break that Britain would have in the coming days. Lao reminded him of China's development and how it would not cease when its resources dried up within its boundaries.
When their current raw materials diminished, there would be no sating the Chinese people’s needs. The luxuries inherited from the west after so many years of base living were a thing to clutch on to, they would not be so easily relinquished.
With almost a third of the world’s population united against the return to poverty and suffering, who would be able to oppose their expansion? With arms so surmountable and man power enough to wield every weapon. The advance would be a blitz Krieg.
No opposition could appose such a torrent.
A speed of growth unparalleled throughout history.
China became ever more accustomed to automotives, dependencies of meat to nourish their diets; microwaves, fridges and a thousand other amenities.
Arrington thought long and hard on what the nation would do when exhaustion of those raw materials to create such consumables, dried up.
When China developed advanced technologies of their own, automated ploughs turning the fields day and night, refueling themselves in specified dockets; mining machinery running in unison, churning out coal to fire the furnaces.
What would happen when coal mines operating under robotically programmed machinery ran out of places to dig?
Would they the Chinese people, take it in stride and return to simpler living? No! No they would not! They would look to the west and its accumulation of plunder from the middle-east.
On Arrington’s first visit with the heavy set narrowed eyed easterner, Lao cut to the chase and delivered over his true intentions. What Lao saw in Leonard, Arrington couldn’t say, perhaps a like mindedness for grandeur, a like mindedness for change and advancement.
Arrington really didn’t know. He remembered his meeting in Lao’s study two years previously:
“You get me wrong” Commented Lao, entering his urbanized study with Leonard.
“It is about limits General.” He pronounced the English word for General with a ‘W’ rather than an ‘R’.
Leonard smiled reflecting upon his own ambitions.
“At the moment my nation works ceaselessly, it all works because of its fine weave.” Lao walked over to his desk as he spoke, beckoning he waved a hand to Leonard and a leather bound divan to its side.
Leaning over the desk Lao opened a small wooden box containing the finest Cuban Cigars. Selecting two before closing the lid, he drew the cigar cutter from a draw. Smartening the edges he passed one to Leonard who leaned forward and accepted gracefully.
Sloshing his drink as he leaned back into his leather swivel chair, Lao continued.
“It’s a matrix you see, one tier of industry supporting another tier, all the way from the restaurants supplying well cooked meals, up to the offices managing Logistics and taxations, from the universities and their students, to the scientists in their laboratories. To the dock hands onloading and offloading imports, to the police force subduing the masses.
But most of all general, the laboratories, dabbling with whatever they dabble with to get results that can be used, they’re the key Leonard.”
Arrington nodded as to say ‘Yes, I’m aware of the current genetic progress’ medicine and its next wave of advancements stunned all those privy to such restricted secrets.
The stimulus from using advanced computers after the genome project continued exponentially.
The mapping of the human body led to far more than anyone’s previous expectations could have dreamed. Extended life by hundreds of years just there, just like that, handed over as a gift on a platter.
“Leonard, if I can seize the western scientists and focus them on creating the medicines, we will see longevity in our lifetimes! Offer me the British scientists and I will ensure your country is occupied but left un-molested.”
Arrington mused for a moment longer, hoping an alternate plan would form as to avoid the coming conflict that now stood inevitable.
He resigned himself to patriotism, the greater good. A greater portion of his subconscious yelled for him to take up the mantle for his kindred and the greater good of the British people.
Yet the niggling in his mind that came from the thought of longevity, he couldn’t refute. One thing for sure, when these new medical miracles came along, they wouldn’t come cheap. The wealthy and powerful would inherit this earth.
The ministry of defense’s pension wouldn’t fund that type of treatment. Majin Lao would be the door in to that possibility. Leonard could only dream as to what could be accomplished with two…perhaps three hundreds years of expected life.
He would see his great, great, great, great grandchildren grow, and then some.
“Lao you stick to your word.” He eyed the man steely. “And we will make this happen. My country and my longevity, and for you, the world and immortality!”
After a fine night of mulling over quality brandy’s and cognacs, Arrington returned home to ponder on his future course at his country home in the south of England.
At first no ideas came. As he thought previously, how could Britain and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization hold against such an overwhelming foe. When the Chinese marched over Europe, Britain would be stripped bare like a field after a plague of locust, without the Chinese hand to stay its beast she would be doomed.
Arrington could not allow such a thing; indeed he would not allow such an outcome! In that moment the basic concept of ‘Operation Adversity’ arose from the depths of his sub-conscious.
Only by striking a deal for Britain's safety could he ensure that the future generations of his countrymen would have the same chance to live in the beautiful land of his birth.
Indeed! Arrington believed to his core then and now that he alone held the greatest patriotism the world would ever know. It mattered little that he would be unable to take the credit for his foresights.
Putting forward the idea of “Adversity” to Majin Lao some weeks later, the Chinese general sat transfixed at the sheer brilliance of the man.
Back in Lao’s study once more, Arrington sipped the fine Brandy he provided from his own cellars from back home in England.
As Lao gazed with twinkling eyes, he listened to Leonard explain the key factors needed to justify such actions by the Chinese Dragon to the international community, a clarity seemed to sparkle in Lao’s mind.
With just cause, a planned attack could cripple the west before her allies could prepare for war. With swift actions Europe would be occupied before planning for such a counter measure could be put in to place.
This would be no dream; it would be do-able.
If China could conclude and prove without doubt Britain secretly infringed on their lands, then arms could be put to use and the spine of the world dividing the west and the east would be broken.
Not only would China have just cause to invade and occupy Britain, but her neighbors to the east and west, the American’s and the Europeans would take time to plan and react.
That’s if they didn’t leave Britain in the Styx in favor of choosing the alternative, proposing a deal of tribute with China instead. Perhaps they would offer materials and man power as a way to maintain a status quo.
All knew if Britain could be captured then the road lay open to Europe and the West.
Russia would have no choice but to back the claim as a legitimate one to make war, their lack of love for the west would only sway the vote further. The great nation would be nullified from entering the conflict
America and NATO would be reduced to attacking from a far. Using air superiority and missile applications.
The new arsenal of anti aircraft and missile stingers, Majin Lao ordered mass produced some years back would resolve that problem speedily.
The use of Nuclear weapons would be void. Any nuclear strike would cause retaliation, the consequent cumulative outfalls destroying all life on the planet.
A prospect that the other countries around the world would never allow at all costs.
It would be veto.
China would be in full rights due to international law to man an offensive.
All that would remain would be for Arrington to sell the idea to the B.G.C. (British General's Committee). Not a problem when sold on the principles that a top secret base with China, could only strengthen relations between the two governments.
Offering both countries an arms alliance that would tie the east to the west.
Eventually after long debate and many days in board meetings, after speaking to colleagues from numerous fields, the Generals’ committee agreed with all but few objections.
The chance to ally with such an upcoming super power such as China would be too great an opportunity to miss.
Arrington would have sold his soul to have been able to reveal his true plans to the council, such risks he would never be able to take though. If he stood tall against the burdens he would have to carry alone, then so be it.
When the entire survival of his country remained on the line he would not falter.
Now he proved that. They were dead.
Adversity’s martyrs, first casualties of an upcoming war that would change the balance of the world forever.
Rallying his thoughts Arrington looked to his escorts sitting next to him on either side of the bench in the rear cabin of the Viper helicopter. The reduction in altitude offered indication to their arrival at the village of 'Gin Ta'.
By now in the south, the South China News would be flying over the smog of 'Adversity' like flies on a dead antelope. Majin Lao would soon be sending in his troops to secure the area, after giving the global media time to circulate the incident of course.
Come the morning, Britain would be announced as the invader from across the seas. Within hours the rumor mongers and propagandists would spread the word of the British actions and their despicable acts of cowardice
Within a few weeks the country would be prepping for war.
Rachael Chan would live up to her reputation with precise accuracy, following his instructions to the letter.
As soon as she made her way back to the village, she would call back the South China News, informing them that the assault on the foreign base derived from a Chinese movement to rid their country of ‘unwelcome saboteurs’.
Arrington's time table moved as clock work.
Finally landing with a bump. the side hatch slid open to allow the last of the suns rays in to the stuffy confines. Ordering his men to carry the mercenaries’ final payment to the warehouse, which Rachael used as her temporary head quarters.
He led the way to the half rotted front double doors.
In his haste to reach a TV set to check on the S.C.N broadcast, he failed to notice the eyes watching from the rafters above.
Lenny through his tool kit over the outer wall of the country cottage. Scanning around the wall, he found a stout branch lying under a tree ten paces in to the woods adorning the narrow country road.
Lodging the block of wood in to the ground, he perched the other end against the wall a few bricks from its base. Placing his left foot on to the mock up post, he vaulted to the top of the balustrade.
Feeling his fingers hold, he dangled for a moment before shimmying up using his elbows, swinging a leg over its top, he lay prone while he surveyed the grounds below.
Across a stretch of lawn forty feet long, motion detectors rotated from left to right on the southern wall of the cottage. Jumping down Lenny held himself close to the wall as he walked over to retrieve his back pack.
Reaching in to a side pocket he produced a roll of tin foil. Though looking ludicrous as he rolled the foil around his legs and arms, he smirked despite himself. The promise of high class living for a while made all his efforts worth while.
Finishing the roll as he wrapped the last stretch around his chest and back, he practiced a few stretches and star jumps. Sated that no holes would leak his body heat, he moved to retrieve his sun glasses and his gloves before donning the pack once more.
Boistously strolling up to the motion detectors, he stood for a few moments to await any alarm, just incase his stealth didn’t hold up. With no sound coming and a limited likelihood that no silent alarms now sounded.
He moved around the side porch to the closest window.
As he surmised; the glass panel, the hinges and the contacts were all wired. Factors Lenny knew would be impossible to re-route successfully. Looking in to the room with a torch he produced from his rucksack, he eyed the walls to the left and right.
A spot to the left along the side wall offered a blind spot from a sensor across the room mounted upon the far wall. As he looked to his right he noticed a wall stack containing a plethora of DVD titles.
Returning around the corner of the outside wall once more, he delved in to his pack to pull forth a hammer and a chisel. Choosing his first brick carefully, he commenced tapping around its surface at the cement between.
Content no one would over hear his work, he stepped up the pace. Within forty minutes he penetrated the first course of brick. After an hour he pulled the last four bricks from inside the room.
All four came away covered in residual wall paper and plaster.
With just enough room to squeeze his bag and himself through, Lenny pulled himself on to the lush carpet. Still wrapped in tin foil cowl, and now hidden by a side draw, the motion detectors failed to pickup his body signature.
Scoping around once more, he looked to the far wall and it’s built in DVD rack that stowed hundreds of movies and documentaries. Lying flat once more he hooked a loop of his back pack around his left foot.
Slowly dragging himself along with his elbows, he made his slow progress around the study’s far wall. After nearly knocking a precious vase to the floor, before catching it mid air with open hands, he finally reached the stack.
Cupping his hand over his torch he studied the titles with a single beam of light. Luckily at the far bottom of the third column from the left, he found the box labeled ‘Snow White and the seven dwarves’.
Stowing it away without looking at its contents, he pulled himself along once more by his elbows towards the wall adjacent to the inner atrium next to a locked door.
Pulling his hammer and chisel clear once more, he began to chip in to the plaster with light taps. More careful this time incase audio devices triggered the household alarm.
Studying the inner brick for a moment he returned a hand to the sack containing his equipment. Pulling clear a thin but wide chisel from its contents he also drew clear a cloth which he wrapped around the pointed end.
Tapping quietly in a rhythm, he maintained it for over an hour and a half, removing each brick as it rocked or dislodged ready to fall loose.
Once more with a hole large enough to allow his pack and himself to fit through comfortably, he passed in to the hub of the building. As he lay flat on the ground, he marked out the hallway’s layout and the various sensor points in his mind.
Content his home made cowl would fool the ‘pirs’. He moved up the stairs looking more like a wounded seal clambering over slick rocks, rather than a masterful thief stealthily sneaking up a flight of stairs.
At the top of the uncomfortable climb came a landing that split off in to a ‘T’ junction. Following his earlier instructions from the upper class bitch he met back in the sleepy hollow tavern, at the village green. He took a right then ‘seal’ mimed his way along the skirting board of the corridor.
Knowing from the layout of the house so far and the expensive electronic tamper proof contacts around the outer windows of the study, Lenny knew he wouldn’t be able to simply drill through the lock of the door, or jig-saw a hole out of its bottom.
A means he would rather have used.
Instead he repeated the process as earlier. Nibbling through the wall with hammer and chisel in slow but silent progress.
Far better to work a long shift, rather than an even longer sentence.
Breaching the last of the bricks he opened his bag wide and pulled out the bulkiest of his kit, that he carried to break a safe.
The custom built drill Lenny designed and built himself, looked as if made by a child, gluing together a house hold drill and a plunger gun used to apply bathroom sealant.
Plugging one end in to a plug socket next to a bed side cabinet, Lenny scanned the room for the location of the safe. Eventually finding it in a wardrobe next to a window, he pulled wide the double doors.
Lifting his drill to position its end magnet next to the combination lock mechanism behind the sheet metal, he flicked a switch and the drill suddenly magnetized and clamped to the metal.
Checking the speed of the drill to make sure it would provide the slowest of rotations per minute; Lenny pulled the trigger to set it spinning.
Strapping the trigger in its running position with its metal drill piece spinning at full torque, Lenny leaned in to the spring magnet holding the rig on to the metal. As drill bit turned metal, Lenny used his other hand to squeeze the plunger gun.
Clear gel jettisoned on to the steel around the drill hole, after a few seconds as the heat from the drill warmed the gel; the steel began to fizz and bubble. Slowly Lenny could feel the pressure on the drill reduce as the chemicals did their work.
With a satisfying ‘ding’ the spring bolt on the inside gave way.
Un-strapping the twine around the drill’s trigger, the drill piece fell completely silent. Flipping the switch to break the circuit to the magnet at the end of the drill, he unplugged the drill at the wall before stowing it away.
Returning again to the safe, ensuring his movements were slow and smooth, to further reduce the chance of the PIR triggering, he turned the handle and opened the door.
Grinning like a Cheshire cat having found the mother load of all stashes of cream, Lenny scooped out the contents in to the bag hardly looking at his catch.
He did notice the DVD ‘Nostradamus’ and he did notice the four bundles of twenty pound and fifty pound notes.
Yet more fell in to his oversized purse; Documents, a little black box, several photographs and a cell phone.
Lenny loved his job sometimes. Such as these moments he could find nothing to match the elation. Much as children love unwrapping presents, Lenny loved to unwrap Safes.
Leaving the safe door hanging open, he dropped to the floor once more.
Eager to be on his way, yet unwilling to let his eagerness give the game away.
He slithered around to the wall with its hole next to the door frame, before making his tin foil seal dance back in to the corridor. Continuing to the stairs and back down in to the study and through its second hole he couldn’t repress his grin.
Spent a few minutes maneuvering his pack through the outer wall before finally materializing himself he stood before stretching in front of the wall mounts.
Looking up to the sky he judged dawn to be an hour away. The entire operation totaled around five and a half hours.
In normal circumstances Lenny would have stayed for a while, entering the kitchen to raid its fridge and its cupboards. This time however he headed straight back across the lawn to the perimeter wall.
Launching his pack back over the its top, he found a rake to jam in to the brickwork to provide a leverage to gain a finger hold.
Once back over, Lenny retrieved his backpack and strolled casually off down the track leading back to the main road and the village beyond.
All the while striping away the tin jump suit, while patting away the dust and plaster from his nightly exploits.
Rolling the metal in to a ball he launched it in to a small thicket before removing his gloves and his sun glasses.
Lighting a cigarette he yawned, tired from his traveling and nightly work.
Lao clapped gleefully as his eyes fixed to the TV set as the South China News halted their scheduled programming to broad cast their breaking story.
Knowing it would not be long before other stations sent helicopters of their own to fly over the carnage, he listened intently to the reporters accounting of what lay below.
Over the next twenty five minutes, the general hopped through the channels programmed on the TV set. On several channels breaking news reports filled the allocated slots.
Picking up the telephone handset, he ordered fifteen of his Lieutenants to make preparations to secure the scene and to move out as soon as possible.
Already aware that the media held enough footage to justify their claims in the future, he added additional helicopters and planes to seal off the area in preparations for his arrival.
The highlight of his evening came only minutes later when the main reporter at the South China News informed that a phone call from a radical Chinese movement group, admitted to the attack on 'the base of the foreign invader.'
Already he knew that the populace’s resolve would take heart in the actions of their fellow country men. Repulsing an enemy from penetrating their sacred homeland.
Preparing his speech that would follow by the morning, he wrote with language that would inspire disgust against the deceit of a nation, who only recently extended trust and the hand of friendship to foreigners.
By the time he reached the press conference, he would be parading a half charred Union Jack taken from some poor soldier at Adversity; in front of the world as a rallying banner and a call to arms.
With the slow coaxing of conflict over the coming days, it would not take long before a full blown war broke out.
After Britain and her closest ally America, were conquered and occupied. He would transfer there medical and technological advancements to the Chinese counterparts.
By 2025 his nation would run alongside Russia mining the moon for the illustrious Hydrogen Three, a new security for China’s future energy need.
With liberated blue prints and scientists from NASA. Combined with the various laboratories developing new propulsion systems and Medical Data on Nano-technology, the Chinese people would live twice perhaps three times there current life’s expectancy’s.
It would be slow progress at first, the initial defense that Britain would offer funded by short term supplies from America’s air force would cost many lives, but once that initial wall caved, he would storm forward with his troops and tanks.
With the momentum of half a billion foot soldiers storming across the countryside, it would soon be a matter of moving on to the planning of America’s downfall. Her air force depleted from the initial aid in defense on the British front would leave her vulnerable.
The might of a super nation would shatter like ice; crumble as rock to the sea.
Chapter Nine - 'Gin Ta'
“The outcome of the past, depicts the justifications as to the few changing the many.”
Ranger Eugene Marc's landed the viper five miles south of the small village of ‘Gin Ta’. His chosen landing site a hundred paces south of a dense forest offering cover from spying eyes.
As the men lined up, Captain Connor surveyed their surroundings before looking them all in the eyes. "Right gentlemen this is our last job, as soon as we procure Arrington, were out of here, flying home to satellite T.V. and complaining about the economy.
Our first task will be to secure our escape route, for once we have the General in custody pursuit is sure to follow.
Michael I want you and Marshal here, to dig in and guard this spot. If the Viper is captured or destroyed it will be a very long walk home in what is soon to be a very hostile land."
Michael opened his mouth to voice his objections. Eric cut him short with a look.
"I need everyman on this one Michael, Marshal is too injured to come with me and even though you have no field experience I need you here with him. Marshal will direct you, just follow what he says."
Looking to the wounded scout, Marshal could do little more than offer a weak smile.
Turning to his Sergeant, he looked over his shoulder in to the cabin of the helicopter. "Leave them one of the M60's and a case of ammunition."
Jumping in to the rear of the helicopter Sergeant Gavin started to sort out the equipment.
Looking at Richard and Barry "You two gentlemen are going to secure our retreat." Shouting over their shoulders to his sergeant he called for Barry to receive the last of the M60's and its ammunition.
"With pleasure sir!" The sergeants voice boomed accompanied with a small mustering of mirth.
Finally Eric looked the ranger Eugene Marc's squarely in the face. "Will you accompany me and the sergeant on a little walk?"
Nodding the ranger offered a smile "Perhaps an easy going jog?"
"Just so." Eric parried, returning the smile. Looking between Terry Jewels and Corporal Bane he pointed to the north where the trees met the clearing.
"Find positions in the trees on the edge of the field line. Make sure you’re able to get down speedily when necessary. You two will provide cover for our rolling retreat. When we come running past make sure your firing and moving, when you break for the chopper make sure you stay our of Michael’s way."
Saluting in place of a "Yes sir" The duo ran off to get in to position.
Looking at the half dead Marshal his words softened. "Marshal I need you to direct Michael here. Try to keep incoming fire away from this bird. If she won’t fly when we get back I doubt any of us will enjoy a pint in the local again."
Marshal's half smile told it all.
"Barry, Richard, I want you two following us.” He turned to his old friend Gavin, “its time to go for a short jog Sergeant."
Richard Bowman helped Barry Scott setup the belt fed M60. On reaching the outskirts of the town to the south, Captain Connor ordered the pair to dig in and set the long range machine gun to overlook the field leading north to the warehouse district.
Their job would be a simple one, once the trio returned with the disgraced General in tow; they would provide burst cover against any pursuing force.
Their position on the northern edge of the forest offered at least a small amount of natural cover against return fire. The only real threat came from a road leading in to the settlement to their right, a hundred paces away.
Three hundred meters to the north where Eric and his two companions headed, stood a giant half dilapidated warehouse. The expanse between tree line and the crumbling mortar of the warehouse lay covered in grown wild grass, that stood at waist height.
Looking at the huge structure of the warehouse, Richard mused that it would once have been a key building to this entire area. Likely holding the grain and supplies for the winter for hundreds of miles around.
Now however its rear side collapsed, its mortar missing from the sides of the walls with its roof beams displaying to the star lit sky, he couldn’t help but think that both the village and himself shared a mutual connection.
Focusing down the sight of the 7.62 machine gun, he lay for long silent minutes on his stomach before turning to Barry.
Lying on his back smoking a cigarette, Barry looked up at the night sky, his gaze jumping from one constellation to another. Richard chuckled; the older man didn’t seem to have a care in the world.
"Do you think the Captain will be able to get the General out of there without being noticed?" Richard chanced hoping for some reassurance.
Taking another puff on the English cigarette, Barry pondered the question for a few seconds.
"Maybe. That ranger moves like a jaguar stalking its prey. Still, if there’re too many guards they may choose to use a surprise attack. Either way I think its going to be a long night."
Trying to change the subject to quell his rising panic, Richard turned slightly and smiled. "Why did you join the RAF Barry? You don’t seem the adventurous type and I've never took you for the patriot."
Allowing himself a genuine smile for the first time in days, he reached up and took a final drag of his cigarette before stumping it out in the mud next to him.
"I don't really know in truth. When I started I needed the money to live. As I don’t have any family I'm free to travel and live life as best I can. Their wasn't much in the north for a man like me without qualifications, so I took a chance and signed up.”
“Are you here for queen and country?" he asked Richard with a smile.
Richard frowned. "In part perhaps. I love England, it’s a beautiful place, but realistically it was mainly due to my farther. For some reason which he's never shared he wanted me to become a service man.
Personally I would have been happy just to be a handy man, or a painter and decorator at a local school or college."
Barry couldn't help but laugh. "Not so different."
Richard frowned once more. "You have a strange sense of humor Barry."
The older man smiled earnestly. "That’s just because I’m a cynic my friend, all my family were criminals, so it doesn’t leave much to surprise."
Genuinely surprised Richard stuttered "I never knew that!"
"That’s because it’s not something one mentions too often, if you’re the son of a murder, you’re likely to be viewed with a little suspicion."
Richard nodded. "We didn’t speak much before this mission, but I’d say your one of the most decent men I've ever met, you have looked after me so far."
"Don't get me wrong I'm no crook your right there, but I have a temper that chills my blood sometimes. I come from a long lineage of crooks and killers so I imagine it’s in the blood by now."
Richard looked back along the sight of the machine gun as he continued to talk "I like my farther even though he can be too strict sometimes. He always looked after us when we were children.
It was only a few years ago, he started to become bad tempered and demanding, thus duressing me in to enrolling."
Unable to offer the younger man comfort, probably due to the lack of practice, he thought bitterly, he could only jest. "Ah well, what’s done is done. When this is all over I'll buy you a beer and we can talk of better times."
Richard turned in appreciation to offer a nod before sighting his eye back down the cross hair and sight, swiveling it from one side to another across the expanse.
Ranger Marc's led the captain and his sergeant across the field from the woods to the south-side of ‘Gin Ta’ in a half crouch, heading towards the rear side of the falling down warehouse they made good time.
Upon close inspection a clear indicator that the General stayed in residence came from the parked Viper off to the front of the old store house. Four Chinese soldiers patrolled the perimeter with slow steady strides, remaining alert incase of unseen foes.
Glancing over his shoulder, Marc's caught sight of the half crouched men a few feet behind. Moving on light feet their stealth surpassed the normal requirements for their stations.
Reaching the western side of the warehouse where the timbers and mortar crumbled under the weather and the neglect or repair. He held a hand up before peering inside.
If the warehouse seemed massive on the outside, the inside looked colossal. Barrels and debris littered the compacted dust covered floor between crumbling columns.
About half way along its length, a flight of rotted stairs indicated an upper floor. Signaling the two men to follow, Marc’s made his way inside holding tight to the edges and its shadows.
Slowly but surely they darted from one obstacle to another, their only cover in the abandoned chamber. Running on tip toes to avoid echoes they progressed along the deserted interior.
Veering towards the foot of the stairs, movement ahead became apparent. Four men sitting around a table top propped up on a crate, played cards while laughing at the odd jests, clearly unaware of the intrusion.
Behind them slightly to the right, a heavy set man sat strapped to a chair, two guards standing behind him looking attent towards the double doors at the front entrance.
Not one of the men showed signs of a high ranking position, these men were simple guards. Picketed to watch a beaten and bound fat foreigner.
Captain Connor leant over Marc's shoulder, whispering in his ear: "Take the stairs and see if you can get in to position to neutralize those guards facing the double doors.
When you hear our shots make your move, we'll wait a minute or two until you make ready."
Nodding Marc's stood, with the stealth of movement honed from years of practice, he made his silent way up the rotting boards to the second level, avoiding wholes in the floor where beams lay collapsed.
Reaching the top he made his way along the timbers in shadow, passing five still figures that were laid out under RAF jackets, Arrington’s guards no doubt.
A ledge overlooking the double doors and the guards below, offered a perfect ambush point, he could only pray that the captain and his sergeant would neutralize the men playing cards.
If they failed, a volley of fire would tear through the weakened boards and reduce the ranger to Swiss cheese.
Originally the overhang would have been used to lower stores to the ground below through a chute, a feature long since rotted away. The only evidence of its existence showing as two wooden pegs half eaten by wood louse.
Taking aim with his pistol, using one of the stumps as a lean, he lay in the gloom awaiting the shots to come.
Captain Connor signaled to his sergeant, pointing to himself and then at two of the men. He would take the pair on the left of the table. Pointing to his sergeant he pointed at the other two to the right.
Both held their standard S.A. 80 Mk2 rifles at the ready. Closing the gap between the card players in a slow half crouch they drew reign. Holding three fingers up to the sergeant, Eric closed them one at a time.
As the fingers receded they both rose to a standing position, pulling the triggers simultaneously, a volley of fire from each man dropped the gamers where they sat.
A moment later and two more shots sounded followed by the crumpling of the two sentries over looking the doorway.
Marcs’ two shots landed true.
The captain and his sergeant were already moving. Close up the General looked bruised and battered but apart from that seemed fine, apparently the man didn't appreciate capture lightly.
Cutting his bonds clear, they hefted the semi conscious man to his feet, his mind clearly muddled from his beating could only produce mumblings from his dry cracked and bloody lips.
His feet moved of their own accord.
Leading the dazed man back to the stairs half way along the warehouses length, they met the ranger at the foot of the stairs.
Before word could pass between the three men, two more soldiers entered from the front double doors seventy paces away.
Marc's took aim with his pistol and sent several shots their way. More to make them dive for cover, rather than actually hitting them. A lucky shot caught one of the men in the shoulder spinning him to the ground.
Before he could shout warning to the fleeing men, that only two of the four patrol men were accounted for, several gun shots rang at the rear of the warehouse.
Darting after the three men he came to the torn timbers where they originally made their entrance. The two missing scouts were dead upon the floor.
Looking to the south he could see the two men half carrying, half dragging the still dazed general across the field.
Catching up to them quickly, he relieved the captain of his burden.
The fugitives made their way to the tree line where the awaiting Richard Bowman and Barry Scott would lay down fire on any pursuit.
At ten feet front the tree line they heard the cracks of rifles firing, followed by the whistle of bullets as they hit the earth around their feet.
Barry watched as the four fleeing men passed not ten feet away from their position, neither hesitating nor looking at their station.
Before the chance to return his gaze to the field offered itself, the belt of cartridges flashed through his fingers as Richard opened fire on the pursuing men gathering ready to head in to the field.
Several went down before they could take cover in the over grown vegetation, but still more rounded the corner, warily they came on. Continuing to fire Richard found it increasingly harder to target in on the increasingly spread attacking line.
Return fire came with the shredding of wood, as the rounds dug in to the trees at the backs of the two men; bullets ripped large chunks from the fallen log that served the two as cover and the rest for the large recoil of the machine gun.
Richard continued to buy them time however. Forcing the enemy to hit the deck every time they raised their heads to sight upon the two men.
Within a few minutes their ranks and their return fire thinned. What incoming fire did come at the two men became ever closer as the distance reduced.
Barry felt his hand empty as the last of the ribbon disappeared from his fingers, looking in to the ammo case he found one last belt half the size of the first.
"Last one!" he shouted to Richard as he opened the breech and placed the first cartridge in to the chamber, before slamming the breech closed once more.
Richard opened up on three men flanking them from the left, trying to take advantage of their reloading, To focused to confirm whether Richard heard or not he lowered his head as more incoming rounds slashed around their heads.
Richard hit them all, dropping them to the ground in silent heaps, the sound of the M60 deafening all other sound.
Barry chuckled to himself. Richard may have wanted to be a handy man, but he could handle a machine gun.
From the corner of his eye to the right, Barry noticed movement on the road to the east. Several trucks pulled up on the border of the slightly raised surface.
As Barry turned to shout to Richard of their impending doom, the shots to his left fell silent.
Looking to his friend he found the man dead. A hole in his right temple showing Barry the cause of the young mans demise.
With six bullets left on the M60's ribbon Barry made a grab for one of the man's dog collars before bolting for the undergrowth behind.
The last thing he saw before the forest swallowed his vision, came of a woman standing on the back of a truck in the middle of the road shouting and pointing towards him.
Rachael jumped from the back of the troop carrier following her men towards the southern forest on the outskirts of the village.
After carrying out the attack on the underground base she trekked back to the awaiting transport before ringing the South China News to claim responsibility for the attack in the name of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Front.
The name of a fictional group General Arrington supplied on the laptop that arrived weeks before. After all freedom fighters didn't get paid did they?
What Rachael could not expect however, would be the fire fight on the out skirts of the village of 'Gin Ta' on her return.
Noting that a hand full of Chinese soldiers were withdrawing from the field to give way for her mercenaries, that out numbered their ranks ten to one, she ordered her sergeant to call them back and fall in to place at her side.
Un-slinging her AK47 from her shoulder, she ran across the field in a half crouch in the case of enemy fire, passing a dead English soldier at the tree line, she continued at a full run determined to capture the invaders yonder.
Chapter Ten - 'The Last, Stand'
Michael Wong wiped his forehead with sweaty palms and clammy cuffs.
After walking twenty paces from the Viper, towards the tree line to the north, Marshal handed him a short handled shovel and sagged his head. “Dig”.
The work though not particularly hard as the earth in the field remained soft at this time of year, quickly tired him. The cleric unused to manual labor couldn’t find the oxygen to feed his muscles, the efforts after a foot in depth left the cleric pouring with sweat and arms burning with the toll on unused muscles.
By the time the small trench reached a depth of three feet the clerics arms felt leaded, while sweat dripped profusely in to his eyes.
Marshal Jones instructed on how to compact the soil to create a small earth works, as his head swayed from the symptoms of exsanguination, loss of blood. Marshal held eye contact with Michael.
Pointing to the M60 and its folded tripod legs, he explained how to lock the rests in to place.
Once the M60 lay pointing north to the forest’s borders, Marshal explained how to clip the cartridge belt in to place in the breech, by this time Marshal couldn’t help squat as exhaustion drained his strength.
With a worsening complexion and a slurred husky voice Marshal whispered 'You've done fine Michael, just fine.'
Looking in to the mans splintered face, he couldn't help but wonder if he would be able to stand once the Captain and the Ranger returned.
"Are you going to be alright?" The question left his mouth before he could stop himself.
The injured man chuckled. "Aye my little clerical friend." He breathed deeply and went on to explain. "The bullet passed straight through. Depending on how the tip of the bullet is shaped dictates the damage.
If the bullet head were to be filed flat, its called a ‘wad cutter’, a hollow point however will shatter in to peaces, subsequently creating more damage and a higher risk of infection.
Luckily or perhaps unluckily, this round.” He pointed a weak arm to his shoulder, “This one was left untouched, it probably hit because it was flying faster through the air, but the damage was reduced as well.
As long as the packing is changed regularly, and I find some proper medical attention, I should recover."
Michael felt a spark of interest. "I saw the Sergeant change the packing in the helicopter before we landed here. I must admit it confused me."
Marshal nodded. "Years ago they just bandaged the wound and changed it every other day. The skin would eventually heal but the tissue underneath would go septic
By packing the wound with soft wool, and letting it heal from the bottom upwards, the wound usually heals cleanly."
"Usually?" Michael pointed out.
Marshal made a tight smile. "There’re other factors involved." About to question the injured man further, gun fire drew Michael’s attentions to the north, off to the other side of the trees.
"Listen Michael." Marshal managed. "When the time comes hold the machine gun tight against your shoulder, when you pull the trigger shoot in a rhythm. Ta,ta,ta. Hold the belt lightly with the left hand; it will help to avoid jamming"
Michael repeated the Onomatopoeia "Ta,ta,ta" a pause, "Ta,ta,ta"
"Very good" Marshal complemented the young assistant. "Remember the captain should be coming out of the trees first, followed by Terry Jewels and Corporal Bane try not to shoot them by mistake."
Michael gulped before nodding. After a brief lull the gun fire drew nearer.
Barry Scott caught up with a stumbling Eric, looking on another twenty paces to see his Sergeant and the ranger known as Marc’s carrying the liberated general, both men struggled to support a half dazed and clearly overweight Arrington.
All in the space of three minutes, after leaving Richard Bowman where he died, he guessed the mercenaries could be no further behind than six, perhaps ten minutes.
Eric held the van guard as Barry came in to view, his sergeant and the ranger neither slowed down nor looked back.
"Richard?" The Captain asked looking strained and gaunt. Barry could only shake his head, reaching in to his pocket he pulled clear Richard Bowman's dog tag.
"Hold on to it for me." Eric struggled to match stride.
Gun fire suddenly came from the rear, splinters of wood from the wide trunks either side of the fleeing duo sprayed the air with needles.
Returning blind fire to slow their pursuers, they increased pace in a desperate attempt to catch up to their comrades.
Finally running in to view of Terry Jewels and Corporal Bane’s position, the ranger and Sergeant Gavin swung wide to the south west, looping round to the south to avoid the arc of fire from Michael.
As soon as Eric and Barry crested the trees, they spotted Michael supporting the large caliber machine gun. With Marshal just over his left shoulder the aid lay down cover fire.
Eric approached Michael from the side, half falling in to the ditch he pushed the other man out before taking up the heavy metal, he shouted to the two men to head for the awaiting Viper.
Marc's already gunned the engines to life, clearly pumping the throttle, Barry ran towards the semi conscious Marshal, half dragging him towards the rear of the cabin.
As Michael, the last of the three made his way across the short distance he saw Eric open up fire following Michael’s earlier rhythm of “Ta, Ta, Ta.”, return fire greeted his symphony.
When shots sprang in to the mock up earth works, the sparks from the burning powder in the tree line gave Eric better targets, the cracks of the machine gun now melded with each other to sound a continual din.
Barry touched a hand to the side rails of the Viper, he opened his mouth and shouted something. The words seemed muted below the noise, as if he were miming underwater.
Letting go of the rail to return for his commander, a hand clamped on to his wrist with a vice like grip. His eyes met Sergeant Gavin’s, Gavin seemed to shudder under Barry’s stare.
But the hand held tight, the sergeant shook his head with true regret. The chopper lifted in to the sky, Barry lost his footing on the turf leaving himself momentarily suspended by the muscled Sergeant.
A.K. rounds ricochet off the surrounding steel plating, as the sergeant pulled Barry in, Barry cast a last look to the golden field below. Eric’s small ditch lay silent.
Rachael lent her back against a well established forest pine. Lighting a cigarette she pondered on the stationary machine gun that for over ten minutes held her forces at bay.
Whoever controlled it maintained pin point accuracy, the smallest amount of movement would spark a tight volley flying their way. A point that several of her men would not be able to ponder upon come day break.
After the companies’ small arms fire failed to penetrate the helicopter, the only option would to advance and loose men, or retreat and leave the gunner to his fate.
Without rocket propelled grenades or G2G (Ground to Ground) missiles, the open knee high corn field would be a death sentence for the first five, perhaps ten men to venture out.
Taking another drag of her American imported cigarette, she pondered on the nobility of the last mans act to sacrifice himself for his comrades and their mission. True altruism is a rare commodity, she thought.
Taking a deep breath she slid her head around the trunk of the tree slightly.
"Your bravery is applaudable, but I fear you have lost today." She shouted in the best English she could muster.
A brief pause and the gunner shouted his reply. "Lady you need to work on your accent."
Rachael chuckled with genuine humor. "Can I approach?"
"Just you lady." Eric shouted back in a heavily labored voice.
Stepping out in to the field she returned the A.K.47 to her shoulder, striding in to the open she smirked to herself and grimaced knowing what her sergeant would say about her foolishness later on.
Eric lay slouched in the small ditch; his stillness as he lay there told her his fight lay over.
"You look tired Captain." She commented seeing his stripes and rank on his shoulder blades.
"It's been a long day." He admitted with a weak smile.
"We should get you looked at, can't have people saying I'm cruel to my prisoners."
Eric smiled lifting his bloody hand from his stomach, the wound gushed in a pulse proving a mortal one. "Thank you for the offer lady, I think I’ll just rest here a little while though."
Rachael could only return him a sad smile. They both knew nothing would save him now; moments of such inevitability always leave an impression on the livings sub-conscious.
"You should be proud, you may have saved your country this day." she offered trying to console the man.
Eric nodded. "And you should stop working for monsters who care little about whom or how many they kill."
Rachael shrugged as if to say, if not me then someone else.
"It's a fine morning." Eric finally managed before slumping forward.
Rachael nodded, a tear dripping to her cheek, "A fine morning to retire captain."
Turning around she beckoned her sergeant forward.
Barry sat in the rear of the Viper, no one spoke. All unwilling to shout over the twin engines powering the rotor’s above.
Sergeant Gavin sat opposite staring at the floor and the sleeping Marshal Jones lay upon it, likely mulling over the last moments of the battle.
Their eyes cast down in remembrance of their noble Captain as he pointed at them and then to the sky above. Resignation and determination on his face showing as he returned fire on an enemy he could not defeat.
To Barry the flight seemed muted to his previous experiences in the personnel carrier. Looking to his hands and to Richards’s steel dog tag he felt his first ever feeling of regret.
He gave no thought to their next destination as he thought back to Richard's final moments and Eric's brave act of altruism.
All in the cabin thought about those that would not return home, even General Arrington remained quiet as clarity returned to his beaten body and mind.
As for Ranger Marc's, he found it hard enough just to focus on the instruments in front of him, catching himself several times as he fell asleep at the controls.
Originally he planned to take them to a small village to the west where he knew General Matthews held agents and safe havens for any of his people in need.
Only to find himself changing course towards the Pakistan border, if they could ditch the Viper on a quiet part of the border, they would be able to travel south-west in to the wild lands.
If any country could offer them escape it would be the Pakistani’s.
If Marc’s could reach a laptop he would be able to find a contact of General Matthews and they would smuggle the troop back to England. Too many ‘ifs’ for his liking but at the moment he could think of no other option.
Lenny woke with the sound of his Casio wrist watch flashing his alarm set for six p.m.
Having dozed off under an old oak tree in a field just on the outskirts of the town, he avoided being seen by any of the local inhabitants. So far only the waitress at the village green, and the snotty nosed bitch who planned the job knew his location.
Neither knew his real name, it would likely be a day or two before one of the local wildlife entered through the hole Lenny left back at the country estate. By that time he would be long gone.
Reaching into his pack he emptied the loot from the vault on to the root littered ground. Leaving the bundles of cash to one side, he first picked up a plastic sleeve with the name “Adversity” in its top left corner.
Pulling the papers clear he flipped through blue-prints and schematics for the large facility planned for China. Arial photographs fell through his hands to land on his lap with a photo of a construction site which looked to be a huge gold fish bowl.
Further to the back he found access codes to various military facilities located around the U.K.
Lenny sat back to rub his eyes. Robbing a few discs, regardless of what those two discs may contain would be one thing. Stealing military secrets were another altogether.
Most fools would read the papers and blackmail the client for more money and status. Lenny knew better. This fell in to the worst band of contraband. Angering the military would only bring destruction.
More than once Lenny heard on the grape vine of people going missing. Black suits knocking on their door’s only to usher them in to a car never to be seen again. All were mixed up in military and governmental issues.
He needed more information. He needed leverage.
Pulling free a plastic bag he used to house his soaps on his travels, he delved around to feel for one of the three chisels he carried. Covering the papers and the mobile phone with the plastic carrier bag, he started digging a hole between his legs with the chisel.
After ten minutes he covered the earth extricated from the hole back over the bag and patted it down.
Replacing the other items back in to his pack, he stood and donned the rucksack.
Heading towards the village green once more using a hardly used ring road, he made his way to the pub.
Lighting another cigarette he strolled through the front door and onwards to the bar with its few inhabitants.
“Alright lovely. Didn’t know they let angels poor a pint, drinking’s a sin ya know.”
The woman automatically started to play with her hair. “Back again hansom stranger. Meeting your lady friend eh?” She feigned a dramatic visage.
“Just business me pretty.” Lenny gave her his winning smile. “Poor me a pint of that lovely Carling you got there, and I’ll go conclude my dealings. Then my darling perhaps we can talk about that pretty smile of yours.”
She giggled at that. Pouring the pint she looked around to see the regular punters grinning back at her. Meanwhile Lenny surveyed the mock tavern. In the corner with her wide brimmed hat sat his employer.
Now he knew where that attitude came from. The powerful getting their way without thought. Only because Lenny acted as he did, did she expect to compensate for him.
After all, her face couldn’t betray her disgust. Her sweet smile felt calculating and cold. Of course Lenny wouldn’t display his discomfort; he would act uncaring or unregistering.
It was his way.
Brushing his hand across the bar maids while accepting the pint, he passed her his last five pound note from his change the previous day. “One for yourself sweetness.”
With a giggle from the young bar woman, Lenny set off in to the back of the establishment.
Holding the sack to support it on his shoulder with one hand, he held his pint with the other. “All right sweet pea. Nice night don’t ya think.”
She looked at him straight faced, her award winning smile vanished from her face.
“There’s nothing pleasant about it, you have what I want?”
Lenny sat down opposite her, keeping his distance this time. Dropping his pack to the floor he felt around inside for the disks. Placing them on the table next to his pint of Carling he leaned forward.
“And mine?” She produced a brown parcel envelope. Lenny hefted it before peering inside. Lowering his nose to it he sniffed loudly. “That’s the smell of freedom fair enough.”
“Are we concluded then?” Hard faced asked.
“Sure are love, pleasure doin’ business with ya.” Lenny smirked as she stood to leave. “Until we meet again…” he chuckled.
“I think not.” With that she turned her back on him and walked away.
Stashing the parcel with the rest of his belongings he downed his pint in one, strolling to the bar he produced a fifty pound note, he palmed from the stash he took from the house job.
“Drinks on me sweat pea.” The bar maid giggled and while the regulars cheered.