Unto the breach pos 4, p.43

Unto the Breach pos-4, page 43

 part  #4 of  Paladin of Shadows Series

 

Unto the Breach pos-4
 



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  “Yes,” Yosif replied, then keyed his throat mike. “Kildar? I think you need to see this.”

  * * *

  “Bearer bonds,” Mike said, squatting down and picking up one of the bundles. “Ten thousand euro bearer bonds. Deutsch issue. Each of these sheets of paper is worth ten thousand euros.” He riffled one of the bundles. “Half a million euros, right here. I’d been told that the price for what we captured was sixty million euros. I hadn’t expected the money to be on delivery.”

  “There are four bags, Kildar,” Edvin said. He’d gotten up to check one of the others. “There are more of those… bonds in here. And some euros as well.”

  “Break it up among the Keldara,” Mike said. “Give the gems to Vanner. If the money weighs us down too much, we’ll dump the cash and burn it.”

  “Burn it?” Yosif asked. “But Kildar… there is very much money here.”

  “Do you fight for money, Yosif?” Mike asked, straightening up with a grimace. The weather was being hell on his knees. “I don’t. Oh, I like it. Just about anyone does. And it has certainly helped the Keldara, yes? But the reason we’re here, the reason that I am here, is in that tent over there. And I would not have come if it weren’t for that shit. Not for a billion euros. We’re getting paid for this op, paid well. This is just more weight to carry. If we have to run, on foot, then we’ll have the entire Chechen force on our ass. We may end up in a battle with ten, twenty, forty times our number. Now, which would you rather have if that happens, another two hundred rounds or a half a million euros?”

  “Two hundred rounds,” Yosif admitted. He didn’t even have to think about it.

  “Just so. But I can actually think of something very important to do with it. Distribute it among the teams when they get back. Make up bundles of appropriate size. But tell them to put it somewhere they can dump it. Because if it comes down to ammo or money, we’re going for ammo. And hurry. As soon as Dr. Arensky is done, we are out of here.”

  * * *

  “Now that we have containment,” Dr. Arensky said, his voice muffled by the gas mask, “we pour the material into the beaker. Normally, it is best to pour the acid into a material. But in this case, it risks explosive exgassing. That would not be good.”

  “I understand,” Padrek replied, calmly. “Whatever this is, it is very bad, no?”

  “Very bad,” Dr. Arensky admitted. “If any gets on us, I have asked your boss, Mr. Jenkins, to just shoot us through the tent and then pour all the acid on the result.”

  “That’s bad,” Padrek admitted. The Keldara team leader was the best of the Keldara when it came to mechanisms and, as the Kildar put it, “fiddly stuff.” Which he supposed was why he was in this tent, breathing through a gas mask, covered in a rubber suit and helping this Russian destroy this white powder. Mostly he was holding the flashlight. Occasionally he poured some of the acid, what the Russian called “high molar sulfuric”, into one of the beakers or test-tubes.

  The Russian had poured some of the acid into a flask, several of which the Keldara had packed in carefully wrapped in wooden boxes. Then he had wrapped a plastic bag around one of the test tubes in the strange metal containers. The bag had been taped to the flask top with the test tube contained in the whole arrangement. Only then did he remove the screw-stopper, working from the outside of the bag, and carefully pour the white powder into the flask. As it fell it the stuff melted, releasing gases that puffed up the bag like a balloon. But well before it was ready to burst all the powder except a very small dusting was gone.

  “Now it’s done?” Padrek asked.

  “No,” the Russian said. “That dusting could kill the world, young man. Now it gets tricky.”

  The Russian carefully raised the flask and, with Padrek holding the plastic out of the way, poured some of the liquid into the test tube. This time the effect was almost impossible to notice. Last, he swirled the liquid around, poured it back into the flask, back again, getting every trace of the white powder.

  “Now we are done,” the Russian said. “How many flasks do we have?”

  “Seven,” Padrek said, pointing to the pile of wooden boxes in the corner of the tent.

  “Good, then we don’t have to disassemble this and risk contamination,” the Russian said.

  “Dr. Arenky?” the Kildar called from outside the tent. Well outside from the sound of it.

  “Yes?”

  “How’s it coming?”

  “We have successfully neutralized one of the samples. There are four.”

  “Oh. Thought you should know. We’ve got most of the Chechen army bearing down on us. They’re really pissed about something or another. Just an FYI.”

  “Then I shall endeavor to hurry,” the Russian said. “Mr. Padrek, if you could get me another flask, please?”

  “Just Padrek,” Padrek corrected. “Padrek Ferani. But Mr. Ferani doesn’t work either so… Just Padrek.”

  “Then if you could please give me a flask, Padrek,” Dr. Arensky said. “And you may call me Victor since we’re such good friends.”

  * * *

  SEAL shit. SEAL shit. SEEEAL shit.

  Adams was blanked. All he could do was look down the road towards the town. He’d pulled the teams down about a klick from the intersection, dispersed them on both sides of the road and at that point his mind had just gone fucking blank.

  “Do some SEAL shit,” he muttered. Oh, fuck, he was starting to think like a fucking officer, or worse a trainer, but it just might work.

  “Oleg!”

  “Master Chief!” the team leader called from the side of the road.

  “We got about five hundred Chechens approaching this position,” Adams said as the sound of vehicles started to penetrate through the rain. “You are required to delay them for twenty minutes and then retreat, preferably without any engagement. What is your answer to this test question?”

  * * *

  Mike looked over his shoulder at a series of cracks. But the sound of trees falling indicated that Adams was just putting in a roadblock. Good old Adams, he always came through.

  “Is it well, Mr. Jenkins?” Dr. Arensky called from in the tent.

  “Yeah, no problem,” Mike yelled. “Just putting in a roadblock to slow the Chechens down. Where we at?”

  “Down to the last sample,” Dr. Arensky called back, cheerfully. “Padrek has been most helpful.”

  “He’s a helpful lad,” Mike replied. “What are we going to do when you’re done? Anything else?”

  “I would suggest burning this tent and our containment gear. Most thoroughly.”

  “Antoniya… ” Mike said to Padrek’s assistant team leader. He was personally blanking on starting a fire in the pouring rain.

  “I’ll go find some gas cans,” the Keldara said. “Diesel rather. We have thermite grenades to start them. That should work even in this mess.”

  “Exactly,” Mike said. “Vanner?” he said, touching his throat mike.

  “Right here, sir,” Vanner said from behind him.

  “Jesus!” Mike said as he jumped. “I think that’s the first time in fifteen years someone’s snuck up behind me.”

  “I didn’t exactly sneak, sir,” Vanner replied. “I’ve been standing here for ten minutes.”

  “What’s the update?”

  “According to the girls,” Vanner said, referring to the intel section back at the caravanserai, “there is one Chechen battalion moving in from the north. That’s one of their heavier batts, about four to five hundred. They are assembling vehicles and sending forward groups as they get transportation. In addition, we’re getting heavy signal traffic across the area. They know the op went down, we’ve been ID’d as Spetznaz, Delta and, worst, Keldara. General concensus is coming down on Keldara and they seriously want our ass. There are indications that a blocking force is going in on the road to Georgia. We can make it part of the way, but I’m not sure we’ll have the correlation of forces to force our way through. Right now it’s a small force,
but there’s a short battalion, about a hundred, making their way to the blocking point.”

  He’d pulled out a large pad with a plasma screen and now cycled it on. The screen was about the size of a sheet of 8x11 paper and had a map of the area. On it the friendly units were designated by blue icons and enemies were marked with red. Where either were off the screen their direction and distance was marked with karats pointed to the sides. Mike took the pad, scrolled out for a look around and shook his head. Red icons were piping up all over the map. Most of them were already showing movement symbols towards their position. The main threat, though, was the Chechen battalion approaching from the north. However, the defenses to the south showed heavy weapons capability and dug in defenses. Then he noted the symbol at the opening of the Guerrmo Pass.

  And none of that covered units that signal intercept hadn’t picked up. Some units could have been contacted and told to move but didn’t respond. The girls might have missed an intercept.

  Mike hadn’t planned on the destruction of the smallpox taking so long and he’d always known the mission was on a knife-edge. Currently, the situation was headed towards true military FUBAR. Fucked up beyond all recognition.

  “How very good,” Mike said. “We still in contact with higher?”

  “Affirmative,” Vanner replied. “There’s a Predator up, not that it can see or do anything. But we’re looking at clearing in about six hours. I got a note that there was a satellite pass but I don’t have that, yet.”

  “I’d like to be out of here in six hours,” Mike pointed out.

  “Unlikely, sir,” Vanner pointed out. “The blocking force is heavy weapons heavy. We’d be trying to fight our way past bunkers blocking the road. And, sir, we have very limited heavy weapons, no air support… ”

  “I’m aware of the issues, Vanner,” Mike said. “Okay, what’s our secondary?”

  “Guerrmo Pass,” Vanner said. “We take the road up about five klicks then unass and head up through the hills. Unfortunately, we have recent reports from the Rangers that the Chechens also have a heavy weapons position, three bunkers ID’d, in the pass. On the backside, admittedly, oriented to prevent entry from the Georgian side. But there are forces there.”

  “Saw that,” Mike said as sporadic firing started to the north. “Cross that pass when we come to it. Dr. Arensky?”

  “Just done,” Arensky replied. “Preparing to come out. I would suggest that you set two more sets of environment suits outside the tent. We will exit and change into those. Then we will torch the entire assembly, after breaking the flasks through the tent fabric. Padrek and I will remain in the suits for a few days as quarantine in case we have not been as successful in containment as I have hoped.”

  “Sucks to be you,” Mike muttered. “Works. We’ve got cans of diesel and thermite grenades on the ground outside the tent. We’ll just back off, shall we?”

  “Please.”

  “Right, Vanner, call in the dogs. By the time they get here, it’ll be time to run.”

  * * *

  “Hold your fire,” Adams said.

  The Chechens had apparently sent out vehicles as fast as they could find them. Given that Adams had stolen most of their dedicated trucks, the lead group was one Toyota pickup, the mujaheddin vehicle of choice, and a motley collection of Ladas, Paykans and various other small sedans. The Toyota was in the lead and one of the mujaheddin in the bed had a light machine-gun across the top of the truck.

  That would have been a bright move if the driver had actually seen the first tree in time.

  The Toyota slammed on its brakes but it was far too close to do anything other than cause it to slew sideways. Before it could start to roll from the turn, the right front wheel hit the poplar in the road. The vehicle launched upwards and over, doing a flip in the air before landing amongst the larger trees that made up the bulk of the roadblock.

  “Now open fire,” Adams said as the mujaheddin who had been standing up holding the machine gun slammed across one of the trees with an audible “crack” as his back broke. It really didn’t matter since his head hit another log at the same time, splashing brains and blood across the road in a spray.

  The teams had loaded fairly light for this mission so most of the machine-gun teams, who usually carried NATO 7.62 M240s, were armed with M249 Squad Automatic Weapons which fired the lighter 5.56 round.

  That didn’t help the Chechens much. Before they could even begin to bail out of their vehicles the four teams opened up with a whithering storm of gunfire, stitching the vehicles with fire. The rifle Keldara fired in controlled three round bursts, aiming for the shadows of men in the vehicles, the rounds cracking through windscreens and doors. The SAWs sounded very much like chainsaws, ripping off five round bursts that stitched the vehicles with small, neat, lines of bullet holes.

  Two of the Chechens made it out into that hail of lead, trying to reach the cover of the nearby stream, but they didn’t even make it three steps before falling into the road. The movement had attracted several of the Keldara’s fire and the two did a dance as the dozens of rounds stitched them.

  “Check fire,” Adams said over the team circuit. “Snipers. If you see anyone moving, finish them off.”

  “Master Chief. Vanner. Kildar says pull in the dogs.”

  “Belay that,” Adams said. “Everyone get to the trucks. We’re out of here. Oleg, arm the claymores. Sawn, drop a marker.”

  * * *

  “Slow down,” Commander Bukara said as the first vehicle came in sight. “Stop! Everyone out!”

  Mikhail Ashenov had been a lieutenant in the Red Army when the Soviet Union broke up. But though he had a Russianized name, he had been raised a devoted Muslim. The Prophet had decreed it permissible, indeed recommended, that the faithful lie to the unbelievers. And under Communism, being an Islamic made it impossible to have a decent life. So the Ashenov family had worshipped in secret and held true to the ideal that, some day, Chechnya would return to the umah.

  But even with the breakup of the Soviet Union, the fucking Russians had held tight to Chechnya. Chechnya with its oil fields and mines. Chechnya with its forests and powerful rivers supplying hydroelectric power.

  Mikhail Ashenov had been one of the first recruits of the burgeoning Chechen resistance. At first distrusted he had rapidly proven to be an able fighter, combining the methods of the guerilla with his professional training. For the last ten years he had gathered more and more fighters to him until he was a notable “battalion” commander with five hundred trained mujaheddin under his command.

  Make that about four hundred and seventy, now.

  The Chechens had been fighting the Russians for a long time so they knew the drill well. The fighters piled out of the vehicles fast, some of them moving up the sides of the road and others fading into the trees.

  “Damn them,” Bukara said, walking forward. He’d hoped to catch this team before they faded away and were picked up by their helicopters. He assumed that it must be Spetznaz. As he walked up the line of stitched vehicles, bodies tumbled out on the ground he shook his head. He had gathered together as many men as he had vehicles for and thrown them ahead, hoping to pin the Spetznaz before they could escape. This was the result.

  “They were slaughtered.” Sayeed was his long-term driver and bodyguard. But Bukara could hear the tone in his voice. It was a very unhappy tone.

  A Chechen “commander” could only command as long as he had the respect of his men. Although there was discipline in the army, any army had to have laws, fighters could desert to other commanders. The quickest way to become an ex battalion commander was to lose his men’s trust and respect. And having a slaughter like this on his books was a way to lose that respect fast. This was a disaster.

  Suddenly there was a massive crash from the front and he dove behind one of the vehicles as the air seemed to fill with bees.

  “Directional mines,” Saayeed said.

  “Fuckers,” Bukara replied. The blast had come from up
by the trees that blocked the road. The fucking Spetznaz had assumed whoever came next would start to clear the trees. And they’d laid in mines to make that more dangerous. If the whole blockade was laced with explosives this could take hours to clear.

  “Commander!” one of the fighters called, holding something up in his hand. It looked like a piece of cloth.

  Bukara strode forward as men gathered around the wounded, pulling them back to the motley collection of vehicles he’d managed to gather in Gamasoara.

  The fighter was holding what looked like some sort of patch. Bukara took it and shown his flashlight on it.

  “Blood of the Prophet.”

  Bukara had fought his former Russian masters for over ten years. They came in several forms, the half-trained conscripts that were so easy to kill it was almost a crime, the better trained “elite” units that some of the divisions now sported and, worst of all, the Spetznaz, those cold-eyed killers who slaughtered and then faded into the night and shadows. But though the Russians were powerful, they were not feared. Hated, yes, but not feared.

  This enemy, though. They had been interfering with convoys for quite some time now and the one concerted effort to destroy them had been a disaster; the battalion of two hundred sent against them had been utterly destroyed. And the word that they got from several sources was that it had been by less than thirty of the pagans.

  And their reputation went back further than that. The Chechens had sparred with them for generations and of all groups in Georgia they were the most feared. Ancient and powerful fighters, wielders of broad axes which could cleave a man to the waist. Warriors and reavers who masked as simple farmers. Pagans that hid their faith and played at being Christians. Drinkers of blood in secret rights under the mountains, they were rumored to sacrifice their captives to their black gods.

  Now they had a new lord, a mercenary from distant lands as had always been the case. And fucking American spec-ops of all things. Americans were feared among the mujaheddin as perhaps the greatest threat to the umah since the Byzantines. And their spec-ops, from what Bukara had heard, made the Spetznaz seem like child conscripts.

 
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