James braced behind the bucker to watch Jager disposing of the bomb. The German covered the module in a bomb suppression blanket and put it into an isolation bag, before continuing defusing. However, a severely injured but not dead terrorist struggled to crawl toward him and the bomb.
To the disposal team who was well-armed and in the whole, it was easy to disarm him just by kicking his hands.
They didn’t have room for any more captive as well, so it was reasonable to end the pain for the unfortunately fallen guy as soon as possible, and forever. James raised his shotgun to handle the task, and his head immediately burst out into a mess of blood.
The tacit understanding urged his teammates to do the same job to penetrate the poor man’s corpse mercilessly like a stuffed toy. More blood ran out from the bullet holes and formed a red pool, then seeped into the crack between floor tiles through his hand. The dimming light made the blood look somewhat blackish and dazzling with the reflection.
Jäger only got distracted for a second before went back working on the remaining wires of the bomb, then finally, a raised big thumb expressed the sure sign – cleared!
Other teammates cleaned the site briefly. The bomb was successfully disposed of, the hostiles here were all eliminated, but they had the intuition that it wouldn’t end so quickly. Something wasn’t right.
They took off the thick and heavy hazard suit before evaluating the situation. It should be no one in the stronghold anymore, but the number they had killed was lower than the estimated number provided by the intel.
“Hey babe, there’s 12 fewer than the estimation. Are you sure you have the correct number?” James contacted his defender teammate, who lived in the adjacent room and always got into the same team in training. If there were not an emergency, Smoke would be the first one in priority to communicate with Mute. As a man with a potty mouth, his behaviour in the field didn’t moderate at all.
There were only two technicians on the field. Jäger came with the stronghold team for bomb disposal, which wasn’t his specialisation, but he still amazed others with a clean and flawless result. Another was Mute, who stayed overground with Bandit. On their task, Bandit would call it “some nasty things,” while it named “sabotage” in Mute’s acute word. The detail was just sabotaging the energy, network and any communication in the building. Bandit dealt with electric wires, and Mute concentrated on the phone lines, broadcast and comm devices. With the counting “three, two, one” and it got the entire blackout. Then the bomb disposal team assaulted the underground fortress, terminated the threats, everything was nice and smooth. Except for the wrong number of hostiles.
Mute was responsible for the intelligence in operation, so James was all ready for scoffing the little genius. It was particularly rare to catch him making mistakes, he could never miss the chance.
However, there wasn’t any answer from his headset.
No voice from Mark.
“Mute? Babe?” An ominous suspicion crept over James, “Reply!”
No response. Only white noise. James tried to capture anything useful from the hissing sound, but no result.
“The blocking of other channels is off,” Vigil also tried to figure out the issue, so he adjusted the communicator and shifted the channel for several times.
“I can’t get Bandit, either. The relay isn’t working.” Jäger followed. His speculation could be correct if Bandit lost the connection at the same time as Mute. They discussed in a low voice immediately, the staggering sights were like sharing the same idea. James felt his heart dropping heavily like a stone.
Mute disrupted the radio channels frequently used as soon as they started the action, and only remained a few ones for team communication. He also prepared the relay to maintain the connection between the underground team and overground one. However, the effort seemed like totally vanished as they couldn’t call anyone above despite there was no longer disruption.
Had Mute turned it off on purpose? Or he was forced to do so? Or the device was destroyed? Was Mute beside?
James predicted the worst situation. Because Bandit was working on another route in the facility, he could barely support Mute if there was conflict happened to him.
Lion gazed at Smoke for a while before launched his EE-ONE-D. The once blown-up relationship in private between Lion and other SAS operators didn’t prevent him from ending up well among others in the team.
The time was before dawn, and it provided another convenience for the EE-ONE-D as there wouldn’t be any others scanned. All the citizens left in the depressed small town were all sleeping still in their houses.
The result showed up on everyone’s device almost real time. The 3D diagram constructed of the contours of human and green perspective lines made them anxious.
There displayed approximately a dozen of persons approaching the corner of a building in the complex. And another a lone silhouette rushing in a hurry toward the same direction from another side.
At that moment, the explosive sound shocked from overground, likely from C4. The stronghold echoed with the vibration wave and shook fiercely, dust blew up, and bricks fell. The temporally turned on electronic system got utterly blacked out, too. Every light bulb extinguished in the same second, and some of them even dropped to the ground and became scattered fragments of glass. The disaster of the shock flying small debris in the damaged building mess of small debris forced all the operators dispersed to brace themselves at the corners of the building until the shaking stopped.
Lion relaunched his drone, but no detection of any human activity this time, but a bunch of messy noise. “It doesn’t look right. There’s probably fire on site.”
They deduced the situation was one of the two teammates was going to support another, who was likely hiding from the hostile encirclement. Then following the explosion, all their tracks were gone.
The worst situation had probably happened.
They believed Mute was the one in distress, and Bandit was the one reaching him to help from the dramatic speed of the lone silhouettes. Bandit was a talented sprinter and one of the best in the team in the running. Mute was not slow but lacks the explosive speed in dashing. Or the rushing figure was another fleet-footed terrorist? Or in fact, they were all wrong, all the people detected were not enemies at all?
James got restless.
He remembered a few years ago, when the boy named Mark R. Chandar joined SAS, they had some faint conflicts. However, Mute had kept a perfect record without any principle mistake afterwards. Ironically, James now felt so fragile and uncontrolled deep in his mind, just like every word he jeered at Mark was showing up on him.
He wished the explosion was caused by either Mark or Dominic – the two maniacs always had a nitro cell in their pack for either work or battle purpose – but not caused by an enemy.
Thinking of Mark might be injured or worse, James almost felt he lost his soul.
The group moved toward the entrance and were ready for rescue. However, Jäger, the one stayed inside for watching, called them to stop.
“There's something unusual. I’m checking.”
Jäger moved back to the abused corpse of the earlier terrorist. The floor tile in front of him had collapsed. He checked it with a flashlight and revealed a deep tunnel which turned horizontal at the bottom toward a direction.
So, it was where the poor guy’s blood went to. Not just the crack of the tiles, but the hidden way to escape. And the truth behind the lone but stubborn guy crawling toward Jäger during the bomb disposal was probably not for stopping him but trying to catch up his merciless companions who left him alone and escaped.
James reached the tunnel and gazed at the darkness and turned to the corpse, then felt like he had made a horrible mistake. If he didn’t kill him in the first place, he might end up helping to reveal the way far earlier!
In such the irony situation, Jäger still looked optimistic and calm with quick thinking. He took off the glove from his right hand and stretched to inside the tunnel, “there’s air circulation, so it was an exit at the end. If those people were hostile, they should go for this way. I’ll go down to see.” He then leapt in the tunnel.
“Alright. Team Bravo and Charlie still move out as planned, and Team Alpha follow Jäger.” After a brief instruction, James threw some glow sticks inside the tunnel and jumped down in a hurry.
The underground passage with half of the human height looked rough but stable could be the escape route those terrorists made on purpose. Based on Lion’s detection result, the people went to this way earlier should all reach the surface at now. They moved faster with a specific speculation that Mute was nearby the exit.
The overall situation now appeared clear: the assault with electronic and communication disrupt was successful in stunning the enemy, but they overlooked the structure of the stronghold and gave a small group of terrorists a chance to escape before then.
And they found Mute, who was guarding the facilities nearby the exit.
They couldn’t ensure the acute location of the exit until they reached the ground. Whatever it should be out of the planned combat zone. They would never leave Bandit and Mute alone if they knew there was a hidden route at the start.
James couldn’t hold his worrying. He even pushed Jäger aside to go ahead of him.
“Smoke, be cautious. There may be hostiles guarding the exit.” Jäger reminded, but he found the Englishman ignored his advice and increased his speed.
Jäger felt surprised at Smoke’s strange behaviour like he cared of nothing but saving his English teammate. Naturally, it was understandable that Jäger would also do everything he could for keeping every single teammate from distress. But Smoke looked desperate and lost composure which shouldn’t appear on anyone who went to rescue.
Was Mark so crucial to James that made him lose his head over him? Jäger remembered James complained to him about Mark was disgusted with him on the last Christmas party. How did the English defenders develop into like this just for three months?
It was out of Jäger’s grasp.