Chapter 2: Eleven Snipers Sniping
The whole world stood still, for a moment. I heard my own voice shout “Get to cover!”, and then the whole courtyard exploded in a sequence of shots. We ran for the far alcove, dragging Pearson, and huddled under it while the last echoes of the shots dies away in the wind.
Freals coughed, sat up, and looked at me. “By my count, sir, we’ve got two snipers… at least… in every one of those towers.”
I nodded. “I think that you’re correct, Mr. Freals,” I said, “If we’re going to move through this building, we’re going to need to flush them out. Likely as not, they’ll be waiting where we least expect to see them.”
I looked around. There was a metal door behind us with a heavy lock, and another set of doors on either wing of the building facing the courtyard.
“Thyger, we need that lock gone. Got a charge small enough?”
He smiled. “I do indeed, sir. One lockpick, coming up.”
I turned to face the other men. “Alright, gentlemen, here’s the plan. I’m going to toss out my flash-bang on a short fuse. They’ve probably seen one before, but the fact that they kept firing once we had already ducked out of the way tells me that they’re inexperienced as snipers. With any luck, they’ll look at that thing right through the sight and half-blind themselves. Four men each, scatter to those doors. Then, two apiece, take the towers. That silent alarm means that we need to finish this operation quickly, so you won’t have an advantage in numbers. Play it cautious instead, and throw a regular grenade in if you have to.” There was a soft thump behind me, and a creak. The door swung open, revealing a cavernous abyss of blackness beyond.
“Locht, Graile, you’re with me. We’re going to see if we can find an alternate route through the building. Call on the radio once you’ve got your tower cleared. The one on the left bottom side of the U shape is 1, the one on the right is 4. I’ll call back and tell you if we scout out a route. Everyone got it?”
“OK, gentlemen, then get ready.”
I reached behind me, undid the Velcro on the flash-bang holster, pulled the pin, and hefted it.
* * *
The whole area became awash in frantic shots the moment the flash-bang went
off, but none of them even came close. Everyone made it to the doors in time. I carefully propped up Pearson, and signaled for the other two to follow me. As I stepped through the door, I turned the volume down on my radio. If there was anyone hiding out in here, the last thing I needed to do was an open broadcast of our position.
The room was dark, much larger then it originally seemed, and very drafty.
No use using night vision goggles in here. Not enough ambient light for that. The flashlights were a chance, but we didn’t have much choice.
The room smelled funny. One of the things that you learn early on, if you plan to continue surviving, is to learn how to follow your nose literally, which was currently telling me that something was wrong.
Graile noticed too.
“Frankly, sir, that smell is familiar.” He whispered, pointing the flashlight at one of the crates lining the path.
“Hold on a moment.” I walked over to a lone crate on the ground and brought my rifle stock against it, in order to dislodge the lid. It came off without too much trouble.
It was what was inside that caused me trouble.
The whole crate was filled with explosives. C4 blocks neatly attached to timers, binary liquid bombs, and all manner of bullets, eclectically but squarely compartmentalized. If the whole warehouse was holding this stuff, then it could have removed the entire pole when detonated.
“Well, one thing’s for certain, if things get rough down here, we won’t run out of ammo. Let’s keep moving. And be careful not to jostle these things, or they’ll find our remains in San Franc…” The radio cut me off.
“Captain Mesner, come in.”
I adjusted the microphone. “Read you loud and clear, over”.
“Captain, tower 3 secured. The snipers have been turned off.” The phrase caught me oddly. It didn’t sound quite right.
“What do you mean by “Turned off” precisely?”
“It’s seems to be an automated system, sir.” The radio buzzed, “I think you’d better see this yourself, sir. I think they expected us, and we’ve got some movement outside the compound. But, sir, I don’t recommend coming up via the courtyard. There’s one on each of the walls.”
“Acknowledged. We’ll try to get up another way.”
I switched out. This place looked like it was supplying the base, which meant that it was a reasonable guess that the ammo dump had quick access to the towers, somewhere. It was awfully strange for a place so dedicated to munitions storage to have observation towers and seemingly useless wings. It was almost as though the ammo dump had had everything else appended on around it, after it was constructed. I moved us down a left turn, towards tower through.
Sure enough, there in the flashlights, was a cargo elevator. I considered informing the other units that we had found a route, but since they hadn’t reported in yet, I didn’t want to interrupt them. Besides, it was never a good idea to say more on the radio then necessary, since you never knew who was listening in.
I turned to the other two. “Locht, stay here. If the situation changes, call me, otherwise, leave off the radio. Graile, come with me. That movement outside might be your silent alarm.”
And the two of us stepped into the waiting elevator.
* * *
By the time I got to the top, towers 1 and 4 had called in, and I had sent 1 to support 2, which wasn’t responding. When the doors opened, it became clear that we were seeing the fruits of the silent alarm.
Tower 3 was a wreck. There was a bunch of electronic equipment on every surface, and two auto turrets of some kind hastily installed in both windows.
They had definitely seen us coming. It made sense. This was the only place we could find with recon because it was the only place they’d let us see. They’d probably had a munitions dump here for some time, and with some basic security, it could pass for a real compound. Since they couldn’t be sure when they’d be attacked, they’d simply alarmed it, and waited to trap whoever got lured in.
We had walked right into it.
Advancing over the landscape in a wave was a set of green and red tanks, each with a cannon made to look like a candy cane stick through a gumdrop. I wasn’t sure whether to be sickened, or angry. I gauged their ETA as being maybe a minute.
On the other hand, that meant that a base WAS nearby, and that there was a high chance the munitions dump was also connected to it, albeit underground. Of course, it would be flooded with troops.
I pulled out my radio.
“Attention, all towers. Abort prior mission immediately, make your way to tower 4, double-time.” I turned the auto-gun turret, and ripped off the motor. It was a relatively weak motor, which explained why it had missed; of course, it only had to slow us down. But there was a fairly high quality sniper rifle beneath all the glittery green electronics. I sighted it out the window, and held up my radio to my mouth.
“ And keep cool, gentlemen, because it looks like it’s about to get very hot where we are.”