Captain John Reed motioned for the rest of the team behind him to approach. Seven men, plus himself, made up the Special Air Service team, the elite special forces of the British Commonwealth. They had been selected for this mission from among hundreds of operatives within the Commonwealth’s combined military forces. In the coming days, their success would save the lives of millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions. Failure was not an option.
“Jonesy, Kimbo, you take the sentries at the gate, the rest of you follow me straight up the road,” Reed said quietly, careful not to whisper.
On the open plains of Nebraska, sound carried easily and whispers tended to travel further than a lowered voice. The two men he had indicated for sentry removal sprinted up ahead, carefully keeping in a crouched position as they approached the facility’s outer perimeter.
“Right, the rest of you lads listen up,” Reed said. “When we get through the first checkpoint, we blow the lights and power. Night-vision on or you’ll trip up the rest of us, clear?”
Silent stares were the only reply he received and he took that as understanding. Several of the men were on their first mission with Reed, but Jonesy, Kimbo and a few others had served with him before. He could rely on those veterans to keep the others going. Reed returned his attention to the sentry guard station. Only a few minutes passed before the three rapid clicks from the laser pointer Kimbo carried alerted them that the sentries were down. Reed waved the others forward, electing to bring up the rear. Six pairs of feet pounded rhythmically down the paved road and were quickly joined by the other two.
Reed reflected for a moment on their surroundings and understood why the Americans had elected to put their bases out here, among the rolling, endless plains. There was virtually no cover and the base was nearly twenty kilometers from the nearest town. His team had only managed to get close by moving slowly at night over the past 48 hours. They had watched throughout the day earlier as several trucks packed with who-knew-what entered and exited the base.
We’re bloody well about to find out what was in those flatbeds, Reed thought to himself as they approached the bunker.
The concrete building was two stories tall and was the only permanent structure on the base. The rest of the buildings were temporary wood constructions, meant to house the real purpose of the base and what lay beneath its foundations. Reed didn’t need to hand out instructions this time. Everyone knew what to do from this point on. Two of the men, Jenkins and Rogers, peeled off and sprinted ahead. They had their pistols out, silences attached as they approached the guards on duty at the entrance to the bunker. Five silent shots later and the team was rushing past the limp forms of four guards. Reed wondered why it had taken five short until he passed the last guard. The first round had hit his shoulder, probably because he had the most notice of the stealthy attack. The second round, though, had left a small red stain over his heart. Reed felt slightly sick, a feeling he did not often feel on missions, but one he knew would likely return in the coming months.
Past the dead guards the team found their first objective. Reed pushed his way to the front of the group. He drew out the Mobile Electromagnetic Pulse Generator, MPG as the gearheads back at MI6 called it, a joke referring to the American usages of miles as opposed to kilometers.
“Not much of a bloody joke when you tell it at the end of a gun,” Reed grumbled.
Kimbo, the nearest member of the squad to the him, grunted agreement. He was familiar with the turn of phrase and had served alongside Americans enough times in the past to have a bitter taste in his mouth about this mission as well.
“Not our place to say, though, sir,” Kimbo reminded him, almost like his nanny had done when he was a child. Reed graced Kimbo with a rueful smile.
“Well then you get to be the first one through, Sergeant,” Reed said with an almost cruel grin on his face. Kimbo only nodded as he raised his silenced MP5X submachine gun to his shoulder. “Breach in 3… 2… 1…”
The door slid open smoothly. Kimbo stealthily jogged into the first hallway, the rest of the team following him. Reed brought up the rear once again, making sure they hadn’t been seen entering the complex.
“Alright, boyos, the grid is all the way off. When we take the control room, we’ll jump the backups generators and be on our way back home,” Reed said quietly. “Let’s get this over with.”
The team moved swiftly through several sets of hallways. There didn’t seem to be anyone on the first floor of the complex. That made sense. In the event of a blackout, all the generator systems would be running the bottom level of the base, where all the valuable hardware and computer systems were actually located.
Ten minutes after they had first breached the outer perimeter of the complex, Kimbo held up his hand, fist closed. The team dropped to their knees and froze. Reed listened, but couldn’t hear anything. He tapped the shoulder of the man in front of him, indicating he was moving to the front. As he approached the front of the line, crouched and hugging the wall opposite Kimbo, he gave the lead sergeant a questioning look.
Four men, armed, next room, negative on nightvision, Kimbo told him, using silent hand signals. The team couldn’t risk being discovered. One wrong move could spell disaster. They needed to take the complex by the time the rest of the ground forces arrived. Trying to force their way down to the control center would be bloody. That’s why His Majesty had elected to send in the SAS.
Locations? he signed back to Kimbo.
All four facing us, replied his second in command.
With all four guards arranged looking at them, there would be no way to divide and conquer. That left only one option. Reed handed his primary weapon to the man behind Kimbo and withdrew his Carleton P45 semi-automatic pistol. He slipped the silencer from its secure fastening on his vest and attached it to the end of the pistol. Kimbo mimicked his movements with precision only learned after years of service together. Reed nodded once to his sergeant, before dropping down to a prone position on the floor. The cold, dry concrete sapped the heat from his body, even through his body armor, but he shrugged it off as he dragged himself out into the corridor.
Reed chanced a peek at Kimbo. The other man was mimicking his own slow, deliberate crawl. Rounding the corner, Reed could now see for himself the obstacle. The four men stood with weapons raised, aimed down the corridor at Reed and Kimbo. Through his night vision goggles, Reed could also see the mean were indeed unequipped with any means of seeing in the dark. There were a few fluorescent green glow sticks scattered in front of them, about halfway down the hall toward Reed’s team.
All this peace has made you Yanks lax in your security countermeasures, Reed thought distastefully. For an installment that housed the kind of weaponry it did, four guards at an elevator shaft seemed hardly enough. The again, the last time anyone had really invaded the United States of America had passed over a couple of hundred years ago. What did they really have to fear?
Me, Reed said to himself silently.
Me, Reed said to himself silently.
Pfft! Pfft! Pfft! Pfft!
Reed and Kimbo each fired two precisely aimed shots. The small caliber rounds would have been no match for the body armor the guards wore. Unfortunately for them, their armor didn’t extend all the way up to their necks. Reed caught site of a gush of blood, colored black in the night vision signature. He didn’t wait for the bodies to hit the floor. He jumped to his feet, sprinting down the hallway, pistol at the ready. The four guards looks thoroughly dead, though Reed had the steady himself as he felt his feet slipping on the bloodied floor. The rest of the team was at his side in seconds. Three men and Kimbo dragged the bodies to the side of the hallway and stacked them, not unlike logs being prepared to feed a fire.
“Get the can opener going,” Reed said tersely. “I want to be down that shoot and into the control room before they check on these chaps.”
Two men rushed forward. Each slapped a metal plate about the size of the soup bowl onto the doors of the elevator. Then each placed two similar plates onto the concrete walls to either side of the door. Cords were connected from the door plates to the wall plates. The nodded to each other as one. Each gave a quick ‘OK’ sign to Reed, who nodded to Kimbo.
“Crank it, Kimbo,” he said.
Kimbo typed in a command to the control panel on the side of his primary weapon. There was a grinding sound and a series of crunching noises from behind the elevator doors. The can opener, as Reed fondly referred to it, used heavily charged magnetism as a vehicle for opening even the strongest doors. The plates on the doors themselves were charged positively, the plates on the walls, negatively. The forces were two fold. While the plates on the doors repelled from each other, their counterparts on the walls pulled them in, gradually forcing open the secure steel doors of the elevator. As the doors ground open wide enough for one man to fit through, Kimbo punched in another command and the grinding ceased.
“No reason to help anyone who tries to come down after us, right?” he chuckled darkly.
“No reason at all,” Reed replied. “Let’s go.”
The trip down the shaft was long but uneventful. Well, long in terms of this type of operation, Reed through mirthfully. For most people, the idea of rappelling down a defunct elevator shaft was crazy. But doing it in just under a minute, twelve stories down, and thinking that was a long time, bordered on insanity. Every second counted and Reed let out a slight sigh of relief as his boots finally touched the bottom of the shaft. The cramped dimensions of the shaft made large jumps during rappelling dangerous, but at last his team was assembled.
While entry into the elevator shaft had required advanced technology, it took a simple anti-lock C4 charge to blast open the service door that led into the subterranean tunnels of the complex. The team filed through, Kimbo once again in the lead as he crept through the pitch black darkness. Reed kept to the back of the pack. As he passed into the next hallway, he spared a moment to close the door. A small plastic packet appears from a cargo pocket and from within it, Reed produced a small ball of what looked like grey clay. He pushed the doughy substance into the hinge of the door where the now-destroyed lock had once been. Then his pulled out his canteen and poured water over the door. A slight bubbling sound whispered down the corridor, a necessary risk to protect their rear. Satisfied that the door would stay locked, Reed moved to follow his team.
Bloody ingenious, that. Like something out of an Ian Fleming novel, Reed thought to himself with satisfaction. The clay was a compound containing a variety of metals and chemicals, including a heavy dose of potassium. When it became wet, the potassium would react and literally melt the metal particles within the clay into whatever substance the clay had been molded to. The alloy had been developed specifically to allow for the highest tensile strength without weighing down the man who carried it onto the battlefield. It would take another heavy dose of explosives to bust through that solid amalgamation.
Reed followed the man in front of him, a Private from Gloucester named Ripley, careful to keep enough distance between them to maneuver if things went poorly. The team was moving slowly but purposefully towards their object. The room at the end of the hall, and the systems in it, could be the difference between life and death for millions across the globe. Kimbo motioned for another hall, then waved Reed forward to the front of the column. Reed moved up past his men, giving each man’s shoulder a slight squeeze of encouragement. All nodded to their leader, absolutely confident of him in his role.
“What’s the situation, Sergeant,” Reed said quietly, almost under his breath, still careful not to drop into a whisper. The only place more dangerous to use whispers than out on the plains or in the woods was in a tunnel. Any sound carried in the confines of the corridor and they had avoided detection thus far.
“We’re here, sir,” Kimbo replied simply. “Life sign sensors are not picking up any pulses ahead, looks like we are alone.” By the tone of his voice, Reed could tell his Sergeant felt otherwise.
Blinding lights suddenly flashed above them along the ceiling of the hallway. Reed ripped off his night vision goggles before the blinding light could affect his sight too seriously. Several curses behind him informed Reed that a few of the newer recruits hadn’t been so quick. Bright lights and night vision didn’t mix particularly well.
Reed squinted as he tried to adjust his eyes to the new lighting. The EMP was supposed to knock out power for the entire bunker, but it seemed the Yanks had been smart enough to reinforce their lowest level with hardening against the pulse’s detrimental effect on circuitry. But if the hallway was dark when they got here, then that meant only one thing.
“Back men, they knew we were coming!” Reed shouted as any notion of stealth evaporated under the harsh lights. The men turned as one to sprint back towards the elevator shaft, only to be confronted by swinging robotic turrets that emerged from their hidden compartments in the walls.
Kimbo was the first to act. He sprinted for the nearest arm, jumping past the swiveling gun at the end of its arm. Flying through mid air, Reed was amazed as he watched Kimbo activate a semtex grenade and plant it at the base of the turret’s weapon. He let the force of his leap carry him past the drone as it sought to readjust its aiming to follow its newly acquire, flying target.
The force of the blast knocked Reed from his feet. He watched in horror as the second turret swiveled toward Kimbo, its threat activation software diagnosing the large Sergeant as the primary threat.
The force of the blast knocked Reed from his feet. He watched in horror as the second turret swiveled toward Kimbo, its threat activation software diagnosing the large Sergeant as the primary threat.
The turret let off a stuttering stream of bullets. A trail of impacts traced the walls near Kimbo before six of the round slammed him. Kimbo let out a surprised grunt as he was slammed against the concrete walls by the force of the impacts. The turret swiveled to its right, satisfied that the primary threat had been neutralized.
Rogers, Jonesy, McDonough, Buckingham. Four bodies hit the floor as his men were cut down like wheat before a farmer’s scythe. The remaining two men besides himself, Ripley and Remington, had been at the back of the column. They now hugged the wall around the corner from the turrets near the sealed service door they had just entered from. The turret seemed to sense them hiding behind the corner, likely triggered by internal heartbeat sensors. It tried to extend further towards the corner, vainly attempting to reach the two remaining targets.
Idiots, Reed thought. Not his men, but whoever had programmed the turrets. Threat assessment software was still relatively new, but even the greenest of soldiers would say that a man in the open is the obvious target compared to two behind cover. Less of a threat, maybe, but an easier target between the two. Your loss, you metalic bastard.
Reed charged the turret, keeping close to the wall as he sprinted down the hallway. The sounds of his boots echoes through the tunnel, alerting the turret to his approach. It reversed orientation startlingly quickly, but it was too late. Reed launched himself in similar fashion to Kimbo’s first attack. But Kimbo had been stronger, younger, and a better jumper to boot. Reed left his semtex on his harness, not wanting to risk damaging any of the computer equipment in the neighboring room. Instead, he slammed his titanium knife deep into the receiver of the turret’s gun. The turret jerked sideways in alarm before Reed had a chance to release his grip on the knife. The momentum flipped him backwards and he felt a faint pop in his right shoulder. The ground rushed up to meet him, before the world went dark again.
Some time later, Reed sputtered awake. Someone had drenched his face in water. He spit and shook his head. He started to reach for his face to wipe his eyes, but someone gently, but firmly, held his right arm still. He felt pain shoot through his shoulder and remembered the fall and the fight with the security turret. He nodded to whoever was holding his arm and instead wiped his eyes clear with his left hand.
Opening his eyes, light momentarily blinded him again, but his vision quickly focused. He looked up and gaped, something he was not accustomed to doing. Kimbo squatted near him, an apologetic smile on his face. Then Reed felt a sickening pop as Kimbo slammed his superior officer’s shoulder back into place.
“Thanks, mate,” Reed managed to mumble after a few minutes of heavy breathing. “But was it really necessary. If you’re sitting here, I must be dead already.”
“Sorry to disappoint, Captain, but we still have a mission to complete,” Kimbo grinned. He opened his battle harness and jacket. Six tightly placed holes dotted his chest, across his reinforced battle armor.
“Right, right,” Reed said as Kimbo hoisted him up to his feet. Every joint and muscle screamed in protest as he stood. Reed ignored the pain. After Kimbo had finally lifted him fully to his feet, Reed gazed down at the bodies littering the floor. Half his team was dead, cut down like cattle in a slaughterhouse. No doubt that was what the designers of the defensive systems had had in mind. Reed shook his head. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen men die, he’d seen hundreds of men die. It wasn’t even that he hated losing men on his missions, though he did. It was that they had been killed by a machine, no chance to run, penned up like animals in the tiny hallway.
“They knew the risks, John,” Kimbo said, unceremoniously using Reed’s first name. “Best thing we can do to honor them is to finish what we came here to do, and go home to tell their families.”
“We won’t be going home, Kimbo,” Reed said quietly. “Not after this. Not until I kill every man responsible for this crime.”
The men who lay on the floor were none of them more than 30 years of age, young men who had had full and promising careers ahead of them. He felt a sudden vibration on his right thigh and looked down at the satellite phone strapped to his leg. It had been EMP hardened to allow them communication with Command once they had control of the facility.
“Speak of the Devil himself,” Kimbo said quietly, only loud enough for Reed to hear. Reed snickered without humor. He tapped the answer button, the feed piped into his headset.
“This is Captain Reed, over,” Reed said crisply.
“Captain Reed, it is good to hear you alive and well,” General de la Cruz said cheerily, his voice thick with static from a signal struggling through hundreds of feet of dirt and concrete. “I trust you answering this call insures the mission was successful.” Reed motioned for Kimbo, Ripley, and Remington to move on, casting one final look at the dead soldiers on the floor. That image would stay with him, he was sure, to the last of his days. However long that may be, he chuckled to himself grimly.
“If you’ll hold a moment, General, my men are hacking into the communications systems as we speak,” Reed replied finally to the Spanish General. “I lost half my team getting in here, so you’ll pardon me if our results arrive a bit slower than was scheduled.”
“Men die in war, Captain,” de la Cruz replied, his voice completely cold, neutral, unfeeling. “It is the price we all pay for freedom.”
Reed shivered at the Spaniard’s response. He considered himself a cold man, brutal even at times, when necessary. But de la Cruz was something else entirely. He was a man concerned only with the mission, whatever the cost. A true European leader, a man who plays chess with real pieces on boards populated by civilians, Reed thought, confirming his original assessment of de la Cruz.
Doesn’t even blink that we lost half an SAS team to take one missile silo.
“We’re in, Captain,” Ripley said from the other end of the control room. The room was laid out in a large circular fashion, with computer consoles scattered at various parts of the room, interspersed with maps and other equipment whose purposes escape Reed’s notice. “General de la Cruz’s team should be receiving the connection right…. about…. now!”
“We’re in, General, standing by for your next orders,” Reed replied. He could hear excited chatter in the background, likely whoever was in charge of running network interference for the General.
“We have secured the airfield in Oklahoma City, Captain,” de la Cruz said triumphantly. “Soon our tanks and soldiers will take control of the city completely. I’ve also just heard from General Henri that Omaha has fallen. You and your men are to wait for the team that will take over custody of the American nuclear devices. If anyone should try to dislodge you, take whatever steps necessary to stop them until our team arrives. It is imperative we have this bargaining chip. If it becomes necessary that we launch a device, and our team has not arrived, your team will carry out the launch measures. de la Cruz out.”
Reed stood for a long moment, staring at the illuminated digital map of the United States of America. He watched for a long while, staring at nothing in particular. Then he looked at Ripley, who stood at attention by the security console he had hacked.
“Can you hack into the systems General de la Cruz is using to monitor the Americans, Ripley?” Reed asked. The younger man nodded, a small smile on his face. “Do it. If they are going to tell me to stay cooped up in here with four of my men dead in the hallway, and if they are going to tell me I will be ordered to carry out nuclear strikes against civilian populations, I want to make damn sure I’m not being played.”
He looked around at the other men in the room. Remington moved with deadly purpose back into the hallway and began retrieving equipment, weapons, and ammunition from the bodies of the fallen. Kimbo had already started moving furniture to create a barricade at the junction of the hallway and the control center. Reed put down his rifle and slumped into a chair. He kicked his feet up onto the nearest console.
“Wake me when you have something, Ripley,” he said. Sleep reached out for Reed, but he was pulled away by a long string of curses muttered across the room. “Ripley, what are you on about?”
“You’d better come see, Captain,” Reed stood resignedly and moved over to stand behind Ripley. Kimbo and Remington also stopped their preparations. Four faces stared up at the screen mounted to the wall.
“Dear Lord,” Remington said quietly, crossing himself silently.
“So much for ‘Hearts and Minds’,” Kimbo muttered.
“What city is this we are looking at, Ripley,” Reed asked, shock showing through plainly on his face.
“San Francisco, sir,” Ripley said, his voice tight. “Or, what’s left of it.”
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